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Santa Clarita: They Stand United but Run Diversely

October 19, 1987|MAYERENE BARKER | Times Staff Writer

Political newcomer Dennis M. Koontz rode in a bright-red antique fire engine with music from the movie "Rocky" blasting from a loudspeaker. Another political novice, Vernon H. Pera, handed out balloons from a convertible.

Seasoned campaigners H. G. (Gil) Callowhill, Carl Boyer III and Louis E. Brathwaite--whose names are more familiar to Santa Clarita Valley voters--used few gimmicks for attention. They rode together in an old Cadillac, simply waving at spectators at the recent Frontier Days parade in Canyon Country.

When it comes to cityhood issues, the 25 candidates seeking the five at-large seats on the proposed city of Santa Clarita's first city council on Nov. 3 exhibit few differences. All want the area's destiny to be controlled by elected residents instead of by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which they see as a remote entity.

But when it comes to campaigning, the candidates are distinctly individualistic, guided by their experience in politics and the amount of money in their treasuries. The 21 men and four women have a variety of campaigning styles that, by their sheer numbers, are commanding the attention of a community that never before has seen so many clamoring for so few seats.

The candidates are undaunted by the fact that they are seeking offices that don't yet exist. Unless the more than 47,000 registered voters in the proposed 40-square-mile city approve incorporation, the winners never will be seated.

As Pera put it, "The county doesn't care about us. Cityhood is an opportunity for Santa Clarita to become one of the most powerful cities in the state. It's an opportunity to become more than that spot out by Magic Mountain."

A Durable Idea

"The cityhood idea was good in 1962, and it's good now," said candidate Andy Martin, referring to the first of several times that Santa Clarita Valley residents have tried--and failed--to break away from Los Angeles County rule and govern themselves. "With local city council members, the neighbors can go out and throw rocks at them. But what can you do about the supervisors? You can't even get to them."

Candidate Michael D. Lyons said cityhood will provide residents with "real representative government, not just diluted county democracy."

To that end, almost all the candidates have attended fund-raisers and workshops sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita Formation Committee and have appeared on the same platform at three public candidates' forums. By Nov. 3, they will have spoken at three other forums, participated in a candidates' fair and twice helped city formation committee volunteers hand out pro-cityhood literature at shopping centers.

Because they often appear as a group, the candidates, especially those who are unknown to voters, must use their ingenuity to capture voters' attention.

"We have a variety of candidates who have a variety of experience," said Connie Worden, city formation committee spokeswoman. "Those who have been elected to previous offices tend to be more low-key. The less experienced ones have to be more creative and assertive."

Koontz, for example, is quick to make his presence known wherever voters are present, Worden observed. "He introduces himself everywhere."

Linda Hovis Storli, another newcomer to politics, announced two weeks ago that, if elected, she would resign from her job as a government teacher at Canyon High School. That decision "did not come easily," she said. "I hope this shows I'm very sincere."

$600 Per Month

Members of the city council will receive $600 per month, an amount set by state law.

Storli is conducting a high-energy campaign on a shoestring. She said she is "speaking to every single group that will have me and talking to as many people as I can." She also is handing out flyers door-to-door.

Maurice D. Ungar, another political unknown, and his wife, Kathy, are going it alone. Ungar's campaign committee is "just the two of us," his wife said. She designed his flyers and hands them out at candidates' forums and other events.

Ungar is not accepting campaign donations--even small ones--because he said he does not want to be obligated to anyone. "The money for my campaign is coming out of my own pocket," he said.

Most candidates are hoping a mass mailing to voters and public appearances will get their message across. Several, like Storli and Ungar, are walking door-to-door. Some, including Jo Anne Darcy, Ungar, Bill Hilton, Roger A. Meurer, Pera and Janice Heidt, have paid an average of $500 apiece for 6-by-12-foot billboards at strategic locations.

Only a few of the candidates have the name recognition necessary to get elected without too much campaigning. Boyer, Brathwaite, Callowhill, William J. Broyles, Howard P. (Buck) McKeon and Robert Silverstein previously have been elected to local offices in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Callowhill, in his fourth term on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, said he believes he has name recognition and will spend little money campaigning.

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