COMPTON — A dull race for City Council got a kick in the pants last week when challenger Richard Bonner said he planned to send voters a pair of letters in which Mayor Walter R. Tucker and school board President Manuel (Manny) Correa endorsed him over 11-year incumbent Jane D. Robbins.
The letters were to be timed to arrive this weekend, Bonner said, so they would be fresh in the minds of voters at the polls Tuesday. Bonner, a local businessman, faces Robbins in a runoff is the only contest on the ballot.
"Well, I knew he had Mayor Tucker's signature," Robbins said upon hearing of the endorsement letters. "I'm not sure about Manny Correa's."
Correa, however, confirmed that he is endorsing Bonner.
In the April primary, Bonner finished a distant second in the District 4 council balloting, with 22% of the vote to Robbins' 47%. Correa, a 22-year Compton Unified School District trustee in his first bid for municipal office, finished third, and joined two other losing candidates in scattering the remaining 31%. So Robbins was denied the majority needed to win the nonpartisan post outright.
Low Voter Turnout
Correa said after his council defeat that he would not endorse either runoff candidate. But last week he acknowledged that he agreed to help Bonner do something to spur voters, since only 8.4% of those registered turned out for the primary.
The reason he changed his mind, Correa said, was "because (of) the enthusiasm that Bonner showed. And Jane, unfortunately, has not bothered to say 'hello' or 'go-to-hell'."
Robbins said she was skeptical about Correa's endorsement because one of Bonner's recent campaign flyers stated that the challenger was backed by a number of leading citizens, including Correa, City Treasurer Wesley Sanders and the Rev. Joseph Holmes, a prominent local minister. Robbins said Holmes later told her that the flyer was wrong, that he "would never back anybody but me."
Holmes could not be reached for comment, despite several calls to his church and residence.
But Bonner insisted that he has Holmes' endorsement, noting that for weeks he has used the minister's name in newspaper advertisements. If Holmes hadn't approved it, Bonner said, "I wouldn't use his name."
Posters in Violation
Robbins also charged that Bonner was posting some of his campaign literature on public rights of way in violation of city sign codes.
"Now, if the mayor thinks that's OK to do, and the city treasurer thinks that's OK to do and Bonner thinks that's OK to do," Robbins said, "well they don't belong in office."
Bonner said some of his political signs may, indeed, have been wrongly posted by errant campaign workers, adding: "How do you correct that?" But he said Robbins' signs have also been "up on the telephone poles, too . . . Are there two sets of standards?"
Tucker did not return several calls from The Times about the reasons for his endorsement of Bonner.
Robbins said she and the popular mayor are "not at odds, but I understand that he has decided that Mr. Bonner would be better than me." She said she has not raised the issue with Tucker, and "he's never spoken to me about it."
Robbins Predicts Victory
Despite the opposition from leading politicians, Robbins predicted victory. "I feel very confident from all of the people that are talking to me and those that are working for me," she said. "I think I will probably still remain (the top vote-getter) probably about 2 to 1."
Bonner was also optimistic: "We're going to fare a lot better" than in the primary, he said.
A 45-year-old beauty salon operator and partner in a trade show, Bonner read the text of the endorsement letters to a Times reporter last week.
The letter from Correa declares that Bonner has "demonstrated the ability to address and meet the needs of our community. Therefore, I'm asking that you join in with your support and vote for Richard Bonner . . . "
No Endorsement at First
Noting that Correa initially had said he would not back either candidate, Bonner said, "I just went and talked to him, you know, and expressed my feelings and concerns. And he was in tune after we chit-chatted."
The endorsement from Tucker was even more forceful, calling Bonner a representative of "the new Compton."
"Mr. Bonner has promised to support me on such important issues pertaining to public safety, taxes and charter changes," the mayor's letter said. "Some selfish persons might try to inform you that we want their job. That is not so. We just want them to do their job . . . "
"Mr. Bonner promises to attend your block club meetings, public and private functions, social affairs and churches whenever invited. Your vote is important. Put it to good use. Vote Bonner on June 2nd, a man that cares."
Views on Crime, Drugs
Bonner said he won Tucker's support by outlining his views on fighting "crime, drugs and gang activity," not by agreeing to vote with the mayor on any specific issue. "I was pleased that he thought that much of me, and I don't say that he did this because he was displeased with Jane."
During his campaign for the council job that pays $14,400 a year, Bonner said voters have expressed "a high interest in the crime, drugs and gang activity . . . They want to know how come it hasn't been addressed more aggressively."
Bonner said Robbins, a 67-year-old retired Compton teacher, has failed to be a "grass-roots" representative of Compton residents. "How visible is she in this community? . . . It's OK to represent people, don't get me wrong, but it's better if you come down and meet them."
However, Bonner was unable to cite any specific occasion in which Robbins voted against the will of a majority of her constituents.