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Defeat of Pomona Mayor Called Signal for Change

March 05, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — In a surprising and decisive rejection of Mayor G. Stanton Selby, voters Tuesday sent his challengers, Councilwoman Donna Smith and former Councilman Clarence L. (Clay) Bryant, into a runoff for the city's highest post.

In District 1, where four candidates were vying for the seat being vacated by Councilman Vernon M. Weigand, top vote-getters Nell Soto and Michael R. Lowe also earned spots on the April 21 runoff ballot.

And in District 4, incumbent Councilman Mark A.T. Nymeyer held off a strong challenge by his only opponent, black community activist Willie E. White, to win reelection to a second four-year term.

Civic Leaders Stunned

It was the mayoral race, however, that left stunned civic leaders groping for words and sent what several victorious candidates called a clear message to City Hall that voters are seeking a change.

Smith, who has dissented in many council decisions and been a frequent critic of the city's administration, emerged as the top contender with 2,824 votes, or 37% of the total. Bryant, a virulent opponent of the current government, was second with 2,728 votes or 35.7%. And Selby, who has portrayed himself as a positive candidate symbolizing the city's progress, trailed with 2,081 votes or 27.3%.

It came as no surprise that none of the three candidates received the necessary 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Both Smith and Bryant said they had expected Selby to be one of the contenders. But of the city's 25 precincts, the mayor won only one.

As the vote tallies were posted in the City Council chamber Tuesday night, Smith, the only mayoral candidate present, was jubilant about her first-place showing.

"The people want a change," said Smith, 32, who was elected to the council two years ago. "They're making a statement. They're looking for some energy, enthusiasm, sensitivity, fairness, vigor, vitality, new ideas, open-mindedness and involvement."

Encouraged to Withdraw

Smith, who surprised her opponents by entering the race just hours before the Dec. 26 filing deadlines, said she had been encouraged by some business and civic leaders to withdraw in order not to take votes away from the favored Selby.

"They felt it wasn't my turn," she said. "But they threatened the wrong person. I think I've proven that I'm tough and I'm not afraid to take the heat."

Bryant, 66, who has served two terms on the council and three times has been an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, expressed disappointment that he had not campaigned as effectively as he had hoped.

"Had I been able to get the issues out, I think I could have walked away with it," said Bryant, a retired engineer and consultant on government contracts. "That vote was not really for Donna Smith. It was a vote for change."

Shares No Alliance

A vehement critic of Selby and the city administration, Bryant emphasized that he shares no alliance with Smith and her disaffections.

"At least Selby had the benefit of the city at heart," Bryant said. "I really feel sorry for him. But Donna believes in advancing yourself by stepping on someone else's head. She's working for the benefit of Donna Smith."

Selby, who at 66 was seeking his third two-year term as mayor, said he was surprised and puzzled by his third-place showing. An advocate of the city's aggressive redevelopment efforts, Selby had defeated Bryant by 545 votes in the 1985 race.

"The people have spoken, as they say," said Selby, founder and director of the Pomona Concert Band. "Obviously, I took a pretty good beating."

Tax Increase Blamed

He attributed his loss to last summer's 57% increase in the local utility tax rate, which most council members said was needed to balance the city's already slashed budget.

Bryant has said he would roll back the increase, and Smith, who originally had voted to raise the tax from 7% to 11%, later had her vote of support stricken from the record.

"I was just one vote, but as the mayor they shoot right at you," Selby said. "People figured Selby was the reason for the tax being raised, so they said, 'Get him out of there.' "

Besides the utility tax hike, the three candidates differed on several other issues: police funding, redevelopment and an audit of city finances. Most notably, Selby has been an avid supporter of the $96-million Inland Pacific World Trade Center proposed for downtown Pomona, while Smith has described herself as only a "cautious supporter" and Bryant has termed the project an "albatross."

Selby Ally Dismayed

Councilman E.J. (Jay) Gaulding, who has generally voted with Selby on key issues, expressed dismay as he watched the election returns in the council chambers.

"It's a shock," Gaulding said. "And it's not going to be any fun."

Expressing disenchantment with City Hall, community activist Soto garnered 2,702 votes, or 36.4% of the total, in the District 1 council race. She was followed by businessman Lowe, who received 1,712 votes or 23%.

E.A. (Al) DePaola received 1,589 votes or 21.4%, and Ronald (Ron) Root trailed with 1,431 votes or 19.3%.

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