A series of last-minute anti-rent control campaign mailers by a group calling itself Citizens to Preserve Beverly Hills was blamed by a candidate for her failure to win a seat in Tuesday's Beverly Hills City Council election.
As most observers predicted, Planning Commissioner Allan L. Alexander and former school board President Vicki Reynolds easily captured two of the three seats up for election.
The race turned out to be for the third seat, which was won by retired businessman Bernard J. (Bernie) Hecht over environmentalist Ellen Stern Harris by 337 votes.
Political consultant Gloria Grossman, who ran Harris' campaign as a volunteer, said that four mailers during the last week of the campaign accusing Harris and Reynolds of supporting more stringent rent control laws cost Harris the election and cost Reynolds some votes.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 17, 1988 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 2 Column 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
An incorrect figure was given in Thursday's Westside editions for the number of ballots cast in Beverly Hills' City Council election. The correct number of voters casting ballots was 7,252.
"I've been doing this a long time," said Grossman. "I know what impact is. We just didn't have any money to send a mailer to respond."
She said Harris' campaign expenditures were limited to about $25,000. Grossman estimates that Harris lost about 500 votes because of the mailer, nearly all of those going to Hecht.
Reynolds, who sent a mailer in response, downplayed the effect of the accusation. Campaign observers, however, said that it cost Reynolds--whom the other candidates acknowledged as the front-runner--the top spot in the election. She placed second to Alexander by more than 1,100 votes out 19,197 votes cast.
Campaigned for Candidates
Little is known about the Committee to Preserve Beverly Hills, which sent out the mailers and made telephone calls on behalf of Alexander, Hecht and businesswoman Mary Levin Cutler, who finished fifth among 13 candidates.
In campaign statements filed with the city clerk, the committee lists its treasurer as Antoinette Collins of Los Angeles. Telephone calls to a number listed on the statement were not returned.
According to statements filed with the city clerk, the Beverly Hills Property Owners Assn., a landlords group, gave the committee $9,150 and CREPAC/BORPAC, a statewide real estate political action committee, donated $11,500.
Sam Schermer of the landlords group, which also endorsed Alexander, Hecht and Cutler, said the money was donated because of similar concerns over rent control.
He said the outcome of the election "demonstrates that the people of Beverly Hills do not look with favor upon a platform of stringent rent controls."
Herm Shultz, president of Concern for Tenants Rights, a renters group, disagreed.
Supporting Renters' Issues
"We are extremely pleased that two of our three endorsed candidates were elected," he said. The group had endorsed Alexander, Reynolds and Harris. "And Hecht was one of our alternate considerations. What the election proves to me is that these people who have been elected are very supportive of the issues of renters."
Hecht, 65, attributed his victory to a hard-working campaign staff and his nearly full-time campaigning. Even other candidates acknowledged that Hecht's daily door-to-door campaigning--dressed in a coat and tie and running shoes--was effective.
Reynolds, 52, said she was not disappointed that she was not the top vote-getter. Instead, she said she was excited about getting to work as a member of the City Council.
Alexander, 47, a corporate and real estate attorney, said he was pleased that his support was citywide. He placed first in all but one of the city's 18 precincts. In that one--the area bordered by Santa Monica Boulevard and the city's eastern border--he placed second to Reynolds by a single vote.
Alexander had been endorsed by both local weekly newspapers and most other groups endorsing candidates.
Return of Decorum
Throughout the campaign, Alexander said that he could help bring back decorum to the City Council after a stormy year of personal attacks. He took his first step toward that by getting both Hecht and Reynolds to end their victory parties early to join his.
"The community has clearly stated that it wants a City Council that can work together," he said. "I think we can all work together well."
In the city treasurer's race, Benjamin J. Sanford beat Joan Seidel by 88 votes.
The voter turnout was 36.4%, slightly lower than expected by City Clerk Jean Ushijima, who had thought the larger than usual pool of candidates would produce a higher turnout.
There was, however, a higher than usual number of absentee ballots cast. Ushijima said more than 2,000 absentee ballots were mailed out and nearly 1,600 were cast, the highest in city history.
"People are learning that it is easier to vote absentee," Ushijima said. "This may change the way campaigns are run. If candidates want to catch those (absentee) votes, they are going to have to get their materials out earlier."
(Inc.) designates incumbent office holder. Winners are in bold type, runoff candidates italics and the voter turnout will follow the precinct report.
Beverly Hills 18 of 18 precincts 36.4% CITY COUNCIL 3 vacancies
Vote % Allan L. Alexander 4,887 25.3 Vicki Reynolds 3,742 19.4 Bernard J. Hecht 3,226 16.7 Ellen Stern Harris 2,889 14.9 Mary Levin Cutler 1,637 8.5 David L. Brady 1,107 5.7 Steven M. Foonberg 756 3.9 Lillian Worthing Wyshak 295 1.5 Robert M. Magid 190 1.0 Michael J. Garris 168 0.9 Franklin J. Lamm 151 0.8 Cynthia Rose 132 0.7 Alan Schuchman 117 0.6
Vote % Benjamin F. Sanford 2,521 43.9 Joan Seidel 2,433 42.4 Chauncey C. Ferris 784 13.7