LONG BEACH — This week's elections settled surprisingly little, with two City Council contests and the mayor's race forced into June runoffs by a sparse turnout of voters, who failed to give candidates enough support to claim outright victory.
In the District 1 council race, incumbent Evan Anderson Braude will face retired Deputy Police Chief Bill Stovall in June, while in District 3, Planning Commissioner Jim Serles and retired Police Cmdr. Doug Drummond will continue their fight for the seat being vacated by Councilwoman Jan Hall.
Triumph also eluded Mayor Ernie Kell, who emerged the top vote-getter in a crowded mayoral race but fell considerably short of the majority needed to fend off his closest challenger, Councilman Tom Clark, now his opponent in a runoff, which had been expected.
The only decisive council results came in District 5, where incumbent Les Robbins had no trouble beating Max Baxter, a retired police sergeant supported by the police union.
The biggest winners of the election were two ballot measures, one creating a Citizen Police Complaint Commission to review reports of police brutality and the other giving the city water department jurisdiction over sewers.
In school board races, incumbent Jerry L. Shultz lost to challenger Mary Stanton, a retired schoolteacher, while school board Vice President Karin Polacheck trounced challenger Bob McKittrick.
With three opponents banging away at Braude, a runoff had been expected in the downtown District 1, where crime, development and the homeless make for a rich brew of problems.
But the primary season had begun with predictions that Kell and Serles would slide easily to victory. Both had money, name recognition and a strong base of establishment support.
Serles' failure to grab the seat he has tried twice before to win proved especially stunning. Instead of catapulting to the council as the representative of such posh areas of the city as Naples and Belmont Shore, Serles trailed slightly behind Drummond, a political newcomer who came within inches of victory with 49% of the vote.
It was an astounding political showing for Drummond, 52, who was outspent 4 to 1, had not a single endorsement from the city's power structure and ran a grass-roots campaign that kept Serles' paid political consultant on the ropes.
Serles was put on the defensive almost from the start, when Drummond produced documents showing that the Planning Commission chairman had accepted political contributions from businessmen before voting in favor of their projects.
Several of Drummond's charges proved to be based on clerical errors. The city prosecutor cleared Serles of criminal wrongdoing in the rest, saying that the commissioner at least twice voted when he should not have, but that he had not voted "in bad faith."
The mood was subdued at Nino's Italian Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, where Kell supporters gathered near a half-eaten victory cake to watch cable TV returns that by midnight made it clear that outright reelection would not be theirs.
Jeff Adler, Kell's political consultant, blamed the "five dwarfs," the five long-shot candidates who together amassed 16% of the vote. Information for this story was reported by Bettina Boxall, Faye Fiore and Roxana Kopetman.