Voters in Los Angeles were turning out in unusually low numbers Tuesday for elections affecting nearly half the 15-member Los Angeles City Council as well as five of seven city school board seats and four of seven seats on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.
By 4 p.m., fewer than 8% of the city's registered voters had gone to the polls, although the turnout was substantially higher in the two City Council districts where the most hotly contested elections were being held, the City Clerk's office said.
The office reported a 16.3% turnout in the 10th District, where 13 candidates were vying for an open seat, and 15.1% in the 6th District, where City Council President Pat Russell was challenged by five opponents.
No Citywide Contests The 7.8% turnout citywide represents about half the number of people who had cast votes by the same time in 1983, when council elections were last held. As in 1983, there are no citywide elections at stake.
The city clerk's figures were based on a sampling of 75 precincts around the city.
The school board and community college elections were regarded as tests of the strength of the teachers' unions. Both the public school teachers' union and the community college union opposed most of the incumbents seeking reelection.
In the 10th District council race, former State Sen. Nate Holden was expected to be in a tight race with three other contenders. They are Homer Broome Jr., a former city public works commissioner and commander in the Los Angeles Police Department who has the support of Mayor Tom Bradley; Myrlie Evers, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and Kenneth M. Orduna, chief of staff for Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton).
In the 6th District, Russell's opposition was headed by Ruth Galanter, a 45-year-old planning consultant from Venice, and Patrick McCartney, 38, a journalist also from Venice.
Elsewhere in the city, incumbents Richard Alatorre in the 14th District, Hal Bernson in the 12th District, Robert Farrell in the 8th, John Ferraro in the 4th and Joel Wachs in the 2nd were expected to win reelection in races against generally unknown and under-financed challengers.
In the largely black 10th District, where residents have been without a City Council member for six months, the race started with no clear-cut favorite in a field of 13 contenders. As the campaign wound down, it became a contest between the best-known candidate, Holden, and three well-connected challengers--with some potential spoilers in the background.
Holden relied heavily on his identification with and support from county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. Holden is on leave from Hahn's staff. Broome, a former public works commissioner, depended largely on the political backing of Bradley, who once represented the 10th District on the council. Broome was able to raise more money than any of the other candidates.
Evers, another strong candidate during the campaign, depended on the backing of such legislators as State Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). And Orduna had the backing of his old boss, Dymally, in making his first run for elective office.
Links to Machines
But in a campaign where crime and economic revitalization were major issues, Holden and the other leading contenders also had to fend off accusations that they were tied to political machines that only moved into the 10th District when former Councilman David Cunningham resigned last fall.
Holden, Broome, Evers and Orduna moved into the district or re-established residences there last year, and their lesser-known and under-financed rivals hammered away at them at political forums and in a blizzard of last-minute mailings as "carpetbaggers."
Broome made much of his ties to Bradley and emphasized his record as a former police officer who could tackle the crime problem. The 10th stretches southwest of downtown Los Angeles, across the mid-city neighborhoods and into Palms, an area that was added in the recent redistricting.
In the 6th District, running from Westchester to Venice to Crenshaw, the race presented Russell with the toughest political challenge of her 18-year career on the council.
Led by Galanter and McCartney, Russell's opponents also included Rimmon C. Fay, 57, a marine biologist and life guard; Salvatore Grammatico, 34, a real estate agent, and businesswoman Virginia Taylor Hughes, 41.
Focus on Growth Issue
Russell's opposition last year to Proposition U, the popular anti-growth initiative that passed overwhelmingly in her district, gave rise to the belief that she had fallen out of step with her constituents.
Russell, 63, has been the grand dame of the City Council. A confidant of the mayor, twice elected City Council president, mountain climber, marathon runner and grandmother, she went into the race with more money, about $260,000, than all of her opponents combined and a list of political endorsements extending from Bradley to Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.