LONG BEACH — In their bid to represent the 5th District on the City Council, candidates Les Robbins and Tom Stewart have accumulated--and spent--the most money thus far.
Robbins has spent $25,883 and Stewart has spent $18,662, according to campaign finance statements released last week. Robbins had $7,708 in cash and Stewart had $5,525 remaining in his coffers as of Sept. 30.
Both candidates said they are counting on $100-a-person fund-raisers to replenish their war chests, and most of that will go for advertising. Because the candidates have raised few, if any, issues in the Nov. 8 election, name recognition has become all the more vital in the race to fill Mayor Ernie Kell's former council seat.
Five candidates are vying for the spot, which was left vacant when Kell was elected in June as full-time mayor. But the others--health-care executive E. Gerrie Schipske, insurance agent Craig Alan Spongberg and retiree Rolland B. Samuelson--have considerably smaller campaign accounts.
The Leaders in Endorsements
As well as having the most money, Robbins and Stewart are also leading in endorsements. Both are being supported by various unions.
Robbins, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who directs a 5,500-member law enforcement union, received his largest contribution of the reporting period from the United Auto Workers. That union gave him $5,000. Robbins also received $1,000 from a probation officers organization and $1,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. His only other contribution over $1,000 came from Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), who donated $2,500.
Stewart, an insurance agency owner and a former firefighter, got $2,000 from the Long Beach Police Officers Assn. and $2,000 from the Long Beach Firefighters. His only other contribution greater than $1,000 came from the Board of Realtors, which gave him $2,000.
While Stewart and Robbins garnered comparable amounts in donations between July 1 and Sept. 30, Robbins' treasury was bolstered by approximately $13,000 left over from his aborted bid for state office.
Before he dropped out of the 54th District Assembly race a few months ago, Robbins had received donations from various labor groups, law firms, insurance brokers and deputies. His support included $1,500 from Maritime Trades, $1,500 from the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers and $5,000 from Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Panorama City).
During the latest reporting period, Robbins received $13,404 in monetary contributions, including $2,000 of his own money, and a $5,000 loan from a friend, developer Roy Hearrean. Stewart received $13,033 in contributions and a $5,000 loan from his father. In addition, Stewart borrowed $3,000 from his insurance company.
A distant third in raising money is Schipske, who received $3,032 in contributions and $7,695 in loans. She reported having $4,106 in cash. Spongberg reported that he received $3,283 in contributions, plus a $1,500 loan from himself. He had $1,755 on hand by the close of the reporting period. Samuelson reported spending $989 of his own money.
Kell Spent Only $3,000
Robbins and Stewart said they expect to spend between $40,000 and $70,000 to win the seat. Political observers say that is about average for a typical city council campaign.
But for the 5th District in Long Beach, the current race is shaping up to be the most expensive ever, according to Kell. During the last district election, Kell ran unopposed, "so I didn't spend anything." In the two previous races, when he did face opponents, Kell said he spent less than $3,000 each time.
In Stewart's campaign to represent the city's northeastern district, he has emphasized his involvement with the city. He is, among other things, president of the Retired Police and Firemen of America in Long Beach and a board member of the city's Redevelopment Agency.
Robbins has stressed his experience in dealing with legislators and their aides through his job as president of the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.
Kell is backing Robbins. Council members Jan Hall, Tom Clark and Wallace Edgerton are backing Stewart.
Stewart said he was surprised by Kell's endorsement of Robbins.
"I'm impressed that he's (Robbins) a Vietnam veteran, but as far as city involvement, I have 30 organizations that I have chaired, founded or been a part of . . . Ernie's endorsement is for an individual who doesn't have any city involvement. It doesn't make sense."
Stewart said the mayor might have endorsed Robbins because Councilwoman Hall announced her support of Stewart. Hall and Kell ran against each other for mayor. And Stewart's fund-raiser Oct. 17 will donate 25% of the proceeds to Hall's campaign deficit.
'I Need the Money'
But Stewart said the joint fund-raiser for him and Hall was organized by banker Jim Gray and not by his campaign staff. "I'm not going to turn it down for political reasons. I need the money," Stewart said. "He (Kell) thinks I'm supporting Jan Hall. He's wrong. I'm supporting everyone (on the City Council)."
Robbins said he was very pleased with the mayor's endorsement, which he called "extremely important."
"I've felt all along that the way to get his endorsement was to run the kind of campaign he did," Robbins said.
That means knocking on every voter's door, Robbins said. Personal contact is considered particularly important in the 5th District because Kell, a popular councilman of 13 years, was known to walk the entire area before and after elections. With the exception of Samuelson, who has been in a hospital for several weeks, all the candidates said they are campaigning door-to-door--a strategy each believes is crucial in winning the seat.