Facing a militant slow growth movement, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was falling short of the majority he needed for victory in his heavily suburban district Tuesday, while his two supervisorial colleagues were easily reelected.
It was a dramatic demonstration of the power of grass-roots groups wanting a slowdown of development.
Lacking money, political experience and the power tool of modern politics, television and radio advertising, Antonovich's foes waged a practically invisible campaign.
But one of the challengers was the well known Baxter Ward, whom Antonovich defeated eight years ago. And another, Los Angeles Fire Capt. Don Wallace, was backed by labor unions and the Democratic organization headed by Reps. Howard L. Berman of Panorama City and Henry A. Waxman of the Westside, which included him in two mailings to Democratic households.
Forming a coalition, the challengers were able to hurt the well-financed incumbent by capitalizing, almost by word of mouth, on hostility to growth that had been growing in communities throughout a district where mountain canyons, fields and the desert are turning into residential subdivisions, shopping centers and industrial parks.
Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner overwhelmed his opposition and won a second term so handily that it is expected to push him along in a race for statewide office, possibly attorney general, in two years.
Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, crippled by a stroke and forced to campaign from a wheelchair, proved again that his brand of old fashion politics--hand-shaking, church-going and filling his district up with public services--works. The predominantly black voters of the 2nd District, reaching from Lynwood to Culver City, overwhelmingly gave their white representative a 10th four-year term.
Supervisor Deane Dana was easily elected to a third term representing the 4th District, which runs along the coast from Long Beach to Malibu.
In judicial contests, meanwhile, two of three Superior Court and eight Municipal Court judges who faced opposition were winning, including the three judges who had been rated "not qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.
Growth was the major issue as Antonovich sought a third term in the most suburban of the five supervisorial districts--the 5th, reaching from the still rustic canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains through the new growth suburbs of the western and northern San Fernando Valley and over the San Gabriel Mountains to Pasadena and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. Nine challengers, including the man Antonovich defeated in 1980, Ward, attacked Antonovich repeatedly for favoring developers and other business interests who had contributed to his campaign.
Antonovich received just 50% of the absentee votes, which are usually dominated by conservative candidates. To win election in the primary, and avoid a November runoff, Antonovich needed more than 50%.
"He is well on his way to a runoff," said Wallace, a homeowners' leader in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The supervisor said many of his Republican supporters had not voted because the GOP presidential race had already been decided. "A small Republican turnout is a factor. . . . I think it would help Republican candidates if we had a contested primary." He added that "none of the polling indicated a problem . . . but if people don't vote, it doesn't help."
As returns mounted, Antonovich said, "I would say the reckless charges that have been made have been harmful . . . traditionally that type of mudslinging is rejected by the voters."
But fellow conservative Dana said he thought Antonovich was hurt by public objections to construction in Agoura, Calabasas and the Santa Clarita Valley. That was "part of it," Dana said. "But a lot of it is Mike's style, his management style in dealing with his constituency."
The judicial races appeared to be something of an embarrassment for the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.'s system of rating judges.
Two of the three Superior Court and all eight Municipal Court judges who faced opposition were winning, including three judges who had been rated "not qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.
Superior Court Judge Henry Patrick Nelson, rated "not qualified," was leading 3 to 1 over attorney Joe Ingber, who had been rated "qualified" by the Bar Assn. Los Angeles Municipal Judge Michael Nash and Southeast Municipal Judge Russell Schooling, both also rated "not qualified," led by 2-1 margins over opponents who had gotten higher ratings.
But Superior Court Judge Roberta Ralph, rated "qualified" by the Bar Assn., was decisively defeated by her opponent, attorney Harvey A. Schneider, who had been rated "well qualified."