Incumbent Alice DeLong was reelected Tuesday to her fourth term as Redondo Beach treasurer by 275 votes, the closest margin of her political career.
DeLong, 52, who also said she spent the most she has ever spent on a campaign--about $7,000--got 2,009 votes, or 53.6% of the total, to defeat William MacAlpin, 50, a corporate treasurer, who received 1,734 votes, or 46.4%.
MacAlpin said he spent $28,000 on the election, and that a political action committee spent another $5,000 on his behalf.
"I really have a bittersweet victory," DeLong said shortly after the final votes were counted. " . . . I'm very disappointed in the election (and) the quality of the campaign literature."
DeLong was particularly upset by a political flyer that arrived at voters' homes over the weekend that said: "Alice DeLong is an embarrassment to the city" because of a drunk driving arrest more than six years ago.
DeLong has denied the details of the arrest alleged in the flyer, and said that although she was arrested on a charge of drunk driving, the subsequent conviction was for reckless driving.
DeLong also was upset by a flyer sent to voters just before the March 3 primary that said MacAlpin was the incumbent. The flyer was put out by Citizens for Open Governmental Services, a political action committee. Councilman Archie Snow, a member of the committee, said MacAlpin was not intentionally listed as the incumbent and blamed an election consulting company for the error.
MacAlpin said he was forced into negative campaigning by DeLong's attacks on him. DeLong circulated a flyer questioning the assets of the auditing firm in which MacAlpin is a partner, and another that he said implied that he had a campaign fund of more than $60,000.
DeLong defended the flyer, saying that it clearly stated that the $60,000 represented the combined, reported total of both her opponents in the March primary.
"I never even mentioned his name on my brochures," she said. "I said 'the candidate.' I think my literature was very clean and exact . . . I felt that he was very damaging to somebody's character, and I wouldn't do that."
Lack of Strong Issues
DeLong and MacAlpin acknowledged that the race had lacked strong issues since Bruce Unruh, a third candidate for the treasurer's office, lost in the March primary.
Both candidates made Unruh's campaign fund of at least $133,000 the major issue before that election, saying that was an excessive amount to spend on a local election.
Unruh, the son of State Treasurer Jesse Unruh, defended his spending and mass mailings of political flyers as necessary to overcome the incumbent's edge and to get his message out.
During the runoff campaign, DeLong also criticized MacAlpin's $28,000 fund--$12,000 spent during the primary and $16,000 during the runoff--as excessive for a local election. DeLong said she won by such a close margin because MacAlpin and Unruh far outspent her during the campaign.
DeLong acknowledged, however, that MacAlpin worked harder on Tuesday's election. He and his supporters went door-to-door to talk to voters and called others on the phone. DeLong said she did not have time to go door-to-door, although some supporters went for her, and did not want to "badger" people on the phone as her two opponents had.
DeLong was first elected city treasurer in 1975, defeating two opponents with 49% of the vote. That victory came before city law required a 50% plus one majority to avoid a runoff. She faced one challenger in 1979 and was re-elected by 63% of the voters.
In 1983, she was easily reelected, getting 57% of the vote, leaving three opponents to divide the remaining 43%.
DeLong was an unsuccessful District 1 council candidate in 1985, losing to John Chapman in the runoff election by a 12% margin. Chapman outspent DeLong $14,513 to $2,296.
DeLong said before the primary that this year's election for city treasurer would determine which factor carried the most weight with voters--Unruh's large campaign fund and state political ties, the City Council's unanimous endorsement of MacAlpin or her edge as the incumbent.
DeLong, who was supported by Mayor Barbara J. Doerr, said her victory shows that the mayor has more political clout in the community than members of the City Council, who are often at odds with Doerr. City Council members and Doerr said the treasurer's race was not an indication of their political weight.
MacAlpin attributed his loss to voter apathy in the city and people's resistance to change. Only 11.7% of the city's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday.