COMPTON — Apparent voter discontent with the status quo has given the city a new councilwoman, Patricia A. Moore, a 40-year-old community activist who trounced incumbent Councilman Floyd A. James in Tuesday's municipal election.
In addition, Mayor Walter R. Tucker and Councilman Robert L. Adams Sr. were forced into runoff elections, scheduled June 6, when both failed to garner more than 50% of the vote in their races.
The 64-year-old mayor, who is seeking his third term, will face political newcomer Chuck (E. Boyd) Esters Jr., a 37-year-old businessman who is the son of a prominent Compton clergyman. Esters got 20.6% of the vote, to the mayor's 49.1%.
Adams, who faced seven candidates for his District 3 seat, will have to defeat Compton school Trustee Bernice Woods in June if he is to serve a fourth term. Adams got 30.4% of the vote to Woods' 19%.
For Moore, who will take office July 1, ousting the man who beat her four years ago in a bitter, costly campaign was particularly sweet. Surrounded by her mostly youthful campaign workers at a celebration late Tuesday night, Moore said: "We were hoping to win it without a runoff. I was saying, 'Oh, Lord, don't let me get in a runoff."
Moore won 50.7% of the vote to James' 36.1%.
Moore came close to defeating James in the 1985 primary but lost the runoff. James, who has served three four-year terms, was subsequently indicted on a felony charge of election fraud and accused of illegally trading votes for record albums of a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
In a plea bargain, James pleaded no contest to a less serious charge: that he had sent out a mailer saying Moore was disqualified from running for election. He paid a $15,000 fine, had to perform 80 hours of community service and was placed on three years' probation, which he is still serving.
"The people of Compton had had enough of Floyd James," Moore said.
James blamed a lack of unity among the incumbents for his defeat, saying Adams had openly worked against him while supporting Moore.
"Bob Adams is mad at me because I did not support his son when the city manager fired him," James said the morning after the election, "so they mounted a force against me."
Laurence Adams was ousted in the fall as redevelopment director by City Manager James Goins.
Moore is an outreach specialist for the Census Bureau and a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills. She said the city's inability to stem violent crime is the single most important factor in the anti-incumbent vote.
"You can't say to a mother who has just lost her son or her baby that everything is fine," she said.
The challengers made the election a referendum on the state of the city, assailing the mayor and council for not curbing drug trafficking and gang violence and for not making the Police Department more responsive and effective.
Challengers also criticized the mayor and council on redevelopment issues, saying efforts to revitalize the city's economic base are either misdirected or mismanaged.
Pointing to the still-unfinished Compton Lazben Hotel and the all-but-empty auto plaza, they accused the City Council of repeatedly investing millions of dollars in developers and businesses that are not good risks.
James said the incumbents did not stand together to defend themselves against constant accusations by the other candidates that the council had failed to properly manage redevelopment projects.
Influence of Developers
Councilman Maxcy D. Filer, who was not up for reelection but who is a vocal and constant critic of city redevelopment decisions, said the deciding factor was the perception by voters that developers have too much influence at City Hall.
"I believe that (the voters) thought we were giving away too much, and they said, 'Let's stop it,' " Filer said Tuesday night as he celebrated Moore's victory.
But Woods, 64, agreed with Moore that crime was the overriding issue. "We need more policemen," she said.
Adams, 57, who had predicted at the start of the campaign that he would be in a runoff with Woods, expressed confidence Tuesday night that he can defeat her now that the two are "one on one."
Furthermore, it will be "easy," Adams said.
Tucker, though, was somber, agreeing that the election results show that voters are unhappy with incumbents. "Those that voted said just that. We have to get some more to vote," he said.
About 19% of the city's 40,113 voters went to the polls.
'Vote of Confidence'
Obviously disappointed but trying to put a good face on the situation as he made a hasty exit from City Hall, where he watched the returns, Tucker said of his total, "That's a good vote of confidence, with all those candidates."
Tucker faces a difficult campaign, however, because Esters, who moved back to Compton a few years ago after working in Washington for the Democratic National Committee, enjoys the friendship and backing of Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton), who has been trying for several years to build his political power in the city.