Voters changed the makeup of city councils throughout Southeast Los Angeles County, ousting 10 incumbents and selecting 24 newcomers Tuesday in 16 cities.
Political representation for Latinos, slow growth and campaign spending were some of the issues that contributed to the defeat of the incumbents.
South Gate will have three new members on its five-person council. The only incumbent who sought reelection was defeated.
Incumbents also lost in Huntington Park, Whittier, Hawaiian Gardens, Pico Rivera, Cudahy, Bellflower, Norwalk, Signal Hill and Paramount.
Only Commerce voters returned all incumbents to office in a contested race. Elections were previously canceled in La Mirada, Maywood and Santa Fe Springs after no candidates emerged to challenge incumbents for council and other elected offices.
The only ballot measure in the Southeast area was defeated. La Habra Heights voters rejected a measure that would have levied a fee to provide 24-hour paramedic service in the city.
Voter turnout was higher than usual in some cities. In Huntington Park, for example, 36% of the voters cast ballots, and Cerritos recorded a 33% turnout. In Lakewood, however, just 11% of the registered voters cast ballots.
Summaries of key election developments, by city:
Veteran incumbent Jim Van Horn was returned to office while Mary Alyce Soares, a savings and loan official who was born in Artesia, was elected for the first time to the five-member City Council.
Voters sent City Hall mixed messages by reelecting two incumbents who say they have run the city well, and electing the candidate who criticized the slow pace of redevelopment, an outdated sewer system and the city's financial condition.
George Bass, 59, a retired fire chief who has criticized Bell leaders for failing to revitalize the downtown, defeated Allen Caddy for one of the three spots on the City Council. Caddy was running on the same slate as incumbent Rolf Janssen, 34, who will begin his second term, and Jay Price, 75, who will begin his ninth consecutive term in office.
Incumbent Ronald Bird and federal employee Douglas O'Leary won an election in which one of the key issues was whether the all-Anglo City Council had been representing the Latino population, which has mushroomed the past few years and now makes up 75% of Bell Gardens' population.
Bird, 46, who was elected to his second term, and O'Leary, who will begin his first, successfully fended off a challenge from Latino candidates Josefina Macias and Rosa Hernandez, who were attempting to become the first Latinos to sit on the council. O'Leary took the seat of Mayor Roger McComas, who retired after 22 years in office.
O'Leary said the results show that a council member does not necessarily have to be Latino to represent Latinos. Both he and Bird said they represent the entire community.
Macias and Hernandez said Latinos are making their presence felt now and that this election helped them realize their potential.
The calm, quiet campaign belied a close race with a nail-biting vote count that at one point had all six candidates virtually even. In the end, the three open City Council seats were won by incumbent John Ansdell, who will be serving his third term; incumbent Bill Pendleton, elected to his second term, and newcomer Bob Stone, 43, an insurance salesman. Stone unseated Ken Cleveland, who has served on the council twice.
Stone attributed his victory in part to the strong support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has been trying to unionize some Bellflower employees for the last few months.
Candidate Charles J. Kim's high-spending campaign turned the election for three City Council seats into a late-night cliffhanger.
Kim, who raised $104,000 for his campaign, more than triple what any other candidate has raised in a Cerritos election, narrowly missed winning one of the seats in an election that featured a significant increase in absentee balloting. Kim received more votes in absentee balloting (1,135) than in the polling booth (802). A total of 2,260 absentee ballots were cast, three times the number in the 1988 council election, city officials said.
Incumbent Councilwoman Ann Joynt, a former teacher, received the most votes in the 13-way race. Her political ally, Planning Commissioner Sherman Kappe, came in second. Third place went to John Crawley, president of the Optimist Club and a senior financial analyst for the Atlantic Richfield Corp.
Kim's campaign left a bitter taste in the mouths of some locals, who had been highly critical of his spending and called him a carpetbagger because he moved to town only last year. His elaborate campaign, which featured a computerized voter registration and absentee ballot drive, cost about $54 for every vote that he received.