San Gabriel Valley voters ousted 18 incumbent council members, including all those running in La Puente, Monterey Park and Temple City, and rejected two tax measures Tuesday.
In La Puente, where no incumbent has been defeated since 1968, voters made up for lost time. For the first time in city history, three veteran councilmen were swept from office in a dramatic upset fueled by the highest voter turnout in 14 years.
In Temple City, three candidates who said it was time for new ideas and leadership swept three incumbents aside.
And in Monterey Park, newcomers scored decisive victories over two council incumbents, including Barry L. Hatch, the outspoken former mayor who alienated some residents with his complaints about illegal immigration.
Incumbents also were turned out of office in Arcadia, Azusa, Covina, El Monte, Glendora, Irwindale, San Gabriel, South El Monte and West Covina.
In addition to the city votes, special elections were held Tuesday to fill two vacant state Senate seats. Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) won a runoff to succeed William Campbell of Hacienda Heights, who resigned to become president of the California Manufacturers Assn., in the 31st Senate District.
Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) was an easy winner in the 26th District, which was represented by Whittier Democrat Joseph B. Montoya until he resigned in February after being convicted of political corruption charges.
Voters in La Puente elected Manuel J. Garcia, 52, chairman of the city's Planning Commission, Edward L. Chavez, 26, a substitute teacher and school board member, and Louis R. Perez, 52, a sales engineer for a diesel company.
They ousted incumbents Francis M. Palacio, 62, and Max E. Ragland, 70--both of whom were vying for their seventh four-year terms on the council--and Louis F. Guzman, 70, a council member since 1979.
"It's time for the changing of the guard," said Garcia, who led the field of eight candidates with 632 votes. "I think the people sensed that."
Palacio, who served 24 years on the council, said he was pleased that the three victors were all Latino. "I helped pave the road for these people," he said, noting that few Latinos held municipal office in Los Angeles County two decades ago.
No one characterized the spirit of the election better than Chavez, who was only 2 years old when Palacio was first elected to the council. Chavez, who has a political science degree from UCLA, said he even has photos of himself as an infant posing with the councilmen he helped defeat.
"It was kind of hard to run against them, you know, just out of respect," said Chavez, who still lives at home with his parents. "But obviously I think the community wanted to move forward. I'll never say I was better than these councilmen, though. I'll never gloat."
In a hotly contested race in Monterey Park, incumbents Pat Reichenberger and Hatch lost to challengers Sam Kiang, an attorney and engineer; Marie T. Purvis, a businesswoman, and Fred Balderrama, automotive shop owner.
Hatch said he had no regrets. "I did it my way," he said.
In Temple City, Mary Lou Swain, running for her third term, and Ken Gillanders and Tom Atkins, both running for their fourth terms, were defeated.
Challenger Bobbie McGowan was the top vote-getter with 1,764 votes, followed by Cathe Wilson and Mary Louise Manning. "I'm absolutely elated," said McGowan, who said she ran because she felt the council was not listening to residents. Voters "have spoken again," she said. "but this time at the ballot box."
In Azusa, council members Bruce Latta and Jennie Avila took unexpected tumbles, losing to John Dangleis and Stephen Alexander. Councilman Tony Naranjo, who had aligned himself with Latta and Avila in a bid to oust Mayor Eugene Moses, saw his hopes for higher office dashed.
"I thought we were taking this city in a direction they wanted," Naranjo said. "It's really puzzling to figure out this community, I tell you."
In South El Monte, Raul Pardo, 30, a newcomer to the city's politics, outdrew three other candidates in six of seven precincts. He and incumbent Jim Kelly, who tied Pardo in his home district, won the two seats, beating incumbent Ignacio (Slim) Gracia.
"The community overwhelmingly spoke," said Pardo, celebrating with exuberant campaign volunteers in a storefront after the results were in. "The voters said it was time for a change, and they wanted somebody to bring a new vision."
Gracia, 71, who trailed the field, said that Pardo had "played to my age." But he acknowledged that he had done little campaigning.
"This is a funny city," said Vice Mayor Stan Quintana, who made an appearance at City Hall early in the evening. "People like to see you. Gracia didn't get out and walk."