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Pat Russell Forced Into a Runoff on Growth Issue

April 15, 1987|FRANK CLIFFORD | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell, one of the city's most durable and influential elected officials, was forced into a runoff Tuesday, as her controversial record on growth and development cost her an election victory for the first time in her career.

Russell was the only one of six incumbent council members up for reelection Tuesday who did not win outright. Instead, she heads for a June 2 confrontation with the closest of her five rivals, planning consultant Ruth Galanter, a political newcomer who rode to prominence much as Russell did 18 years ago--as a darling of middle-class protesters angered by major development in their neighborhoods.

Russell blamed her showing on a false characterization of her record and she vowed to make a strong comeback in the runoff.

"The five people (running against her) had great pleasure bashing me," she said. "We saw the negative energy manifest and grow."

Russell stumbled despite the backing of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who blamed Russell's showing on a hostile press. "Pat Russell is one of the finest elected officials in the country and if we could get the press to carry both sides of the story, not just her opponents' . . . she would win going away in June."

But Bradley's prestige suffered more than one setback. The candidate he backed in the open 10th District council race, Homer Broome Jr., ran second to former State Sen. Nate Holden in a field of 14 candidates. Broome and Holden will fight it out in the runoff.

Bradley praised Broome's showing and vowed that "from now on until election day, you will see a campaign by Homer Broome such as you have never seen before."

Meanwhile, Holden, told his cheering supporters to hang on until June 2 runoff and urged "that we come together in this ball game and win. This is our World Series."

Galanter, 46, who has never run for office before, said she was "very excited about the runoff" in the 6th District. "I 'm looking forward to talking to more voters than I did in this campaign . . . I don't expect to be sleeping late tomorrow."

Galanter, with help from neighborhood and environmental groups in and out of the district, emerged as the challenger with the broadest support. She raised more money than any of the other candidates against Russell, including a contribution from producer and liberal activist Norman Lear.

However, her $32,000 in contributions was but a fraction of Russell's $262,000. Galanter also received help from the League of Conservation Voters, which estimated spending $8,500 on her behalf.

The 15% turnout was typically low for the elections, which affected 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. 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 all were victorious in races against generally unknown and under-financed challengers.

In the 6th District, running from Westchester to Venice to Crenshaw, the race presented Russell with the toughest political challenge of her career on the council.

Led by Galanter and Venice journalist Patrick 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 than all of her opponents combined and a list of political endorsements extending from Bradley to Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.

Nevertheless, Russell was vulnerable. Increasingly identified with a clique of powerful real estate developers and lobbyists, Russell had alienated a number of her constituents and had became a target of the kind of neighborhood-based reform movement that swept her into office in 1969.

But there was more at stake than her career.

Russell was a stalking horse for Bradley, her friend and ally, in an election that tested the popularity of the mayor's policies on the crucial issues of growth and development.

Alliance With Bradley

The contest pitted the Bradley-Russell preference for measured growth against the strength of a movement, manifested by Proposition U, that warns of the city strangling in its own congestion and pollution.

Bradley, squarely behind Russell, campaigned for her in the week before the election.

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