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Disgruntled Democrats Form Club to Challenge Old Guard in Inglewood

August 02, 1987|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | Times Staff Writer

A group of Inglewood political activists and newly elected city and school officials have formed an organization to challenge the powerful Inglewood Democratic Club, which they say is dominated by Mayor Edward Vincent and Juvenile Court Judge Roosevelt Dorn.

The 140-member club, a powerful political force in Inglewood for 10 years, includes most of the prominent Democrats in town (about 80% of Inglewood voters are Democrats).

Vincent and Dorn, a founder of the club, have repeatedly denied charges that they run the organization and use it to field candidates who will let them control the city government and school district.

But the founders of the new club, the United Democratic Club of Inglewood, say Vincent and Dorn railroaded the older club's endorsements in the April primary elections. They say the eventual defeat of two endorsed school board candidates--as well as the rejection of Proposition 1, which would have quadrupled Vincent's salary--show that voters resent Vincent and his club.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 6, 1987 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 4 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in the South Bay section Aug. 2 incorrectly identified former Inglewood school board member William Dorn as the son of Juvenile Court Judge Roosevelt Dorn. He is Judge Dorn's nephew.

"People want to see a Democratic Club that is democratic," said Garland Hardeman, one of the new club's founders. "The process can't work if a few individuals are allowed to impose their viewpoints on the rest. People are concerned about the style of politics, the machine tactics of Ed Vincent. We are interested in a free and democratic society. All he's interested in is supporting machine candidates."

Hardeman, a Los Angeles police officer who narrowly lost a City Council runoff race in June to Democratic Club candidate Ervin (Tony) Thomas, has charged that Vincent and Thomas committed numerous election law violations, including coercing absentee voters and forging absentee ballot signatures.

Vincent and Thomas have denied any wrongdoing.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has said it is investigating the allegations, acting on evidence that Hardeman compiled. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday in a lawsuit Hardeman has filed against Thomas challenging the election.

Vincent called Hardeman a poor loser.

"He's sick," Vincent said in an interview. "He'll say anything."

Vincent insisted that he has "no control over the Inglewood Democratic Club whatsoever.

"In fact, I don't even go to the meetings. I have been damn good as mayor. Of course I'm going to help people attuned to my philosophy. By helping other people, I have been maligned. When I endorse someone, they say it's a machine."

Among founders of the new club is school board member Zyra McCloud, whose runoff victory over incumbent William Dorn, Judge Dorn's son, ended a 3-2 majority of Vincent allies on the school board. Other founders include leaders of the drive to defeat Proposition 1, who said they would back City Council and school board candidates who want "good government."

"The club stands for integrity and honesty," said McCloud, like Hardeman, a disgruntled member of the Inglewood Democratic Club. "We want to reach out to all people."

Dismissing the new club's claim to stand for good government, Vincent said: "How is our government bad? The motivation of these people is to get into office like everybody else."

The new club has been chartered by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, a party spokeswoman said. Club Vice President Sterling Gordon said it has about 50 members.

Among the political figures who told The Times they had joined or planned to join the club were Assemblyman Curtis R. Tucker (D-Inglewood), District 1 Councilman Danny Tabor, newly elected District 3 Councilwoman Anne Wilk and newly elected school board member Lois Hill Hale, who was named president of the board earlier this month.

But Tucker, Tabor and Hill Hale all said they would also remain in the Inglewood Democratic Club and distanced themselves from the confrontational tone of the new club's founders.

"I belong to numerous Democratic clubs," said Tucker, whose differences with Vincent have created periodic splits within the Inglewood Democratic Club. "That's called self-preservation. I don't have an ax to grind with the current club. I hope the new club can come up with something positive and constructive."

As for Hardeman's allegations, Tucker said: "I don't know that the mayor did anything illegal. There are enough people in Inglewood that you can change an election by getting out votes any time you desire. It's not illegal to solicit absentee votes. Garland blew it by not going after absentee votes."

Tucker also said that contrary to widespread speculation, he does not intend to run against Vincent in the 1990 election.

Hill Hale, who defeated a primary candidate endorsed by the Inglewood Democratic Club, said she would belong to both clubs and promote "unity rather than hostile confrontations."

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