TUSTIN — The three candidates elected to the City Council said Wednesday that they hope to end the bitter bickering and courtroom battles that have plagued the city in recent months.
"I think the voters have asked for a return to reason, and I think that's what they're going to get," said Leslie Ann Pontious, who prevailed at the polls along with Charles E. Puckett and Jim Potts.
Since November, when former Councilman Ronald B. Hoesterey resigned, the council has deadlocked on issues ranging from approving minutes of previous meetings to implementing developer fees in a joint-operating agreement with Santa Ana. The city has also recently spent between $50,000 and $100,000 in legal fees on three lawsuits related to last fall's decision to hold municipal elections in April, City Atty. James G. Rourke said.
Tuesday's election winners were endorsed by Tustin Residents Action Committee, a group that campaigned against incumbent John Kelly, claiming that he has abused his power and behaved unprofessionally.
Kelly said his loss was largely due to TRAC's negative campaign against him.
Puckett, the election's top vote-getter, agreed that TRAC played an important role in the election.
"I think that TRAC was very instrumental," Puckett said. "They screened all the candidates very closely and did a lot of very effective campaigning."
TRAC concentrated its campaigning in Tustin Meadows, Peppertree and Laurelwood, which historically have had high voter turnouts. Tuesday's election followed that trend. The three precincts that make up those areas had a combined voter turnout of 36%, while the citywide turnout was 23.3%, election results show.
Puckett and Pontious won by ratios of more than 2 to 1 citywide and more than 7 to 1 in the three targeted precincts. Potts, one of three candidates for a two-year seat, commanded about half the votes citywide but carried 66% of the votes in the three precincts.
Councilman Earl J. Prescott, who, along with Kelly, has fought to return municipal elections to November, said Tuesday's results confirm his arguments that April elections not only cost the city more money but also draw fewer voters.
"It's exclusionary and smacks of elitism and class politics," Prescott said.
According to county Registrar of Voters Donald F. Tanney, 74.4% of the city's registered voters cast ballots in the November, 1988, election. The high voter turnout that year, however, can be attributed in part to the presidential election.
Mayor Richard B. Edgar and Councilwoman Ursula E. Kennedy have argued that campaign costs are lower in April and that citizens who vote then are more concerned about local issues, which are not overshadowed by state and national issues.
"One thing that made our campaign easy in April is we could concentrate on one issue," said TRAC chairman Carl Kasalek. "People weren't inundated with campaigns from congressional or presidential campaigns."