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Democrats Say GOP Suffered Backlash in Nonpartisan Races

March 07, 1991|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PASADENA — The city's Republicans, who mounted a concentrated effort to recruit, finance and work for candidates in traditionally nonpartisan school board and city director races, were trounced in Tuesday's elections.

None of the Republican-supported candidates won, even in city director District 6, which has a Republican majority. Only one Republican will be in a runoff, in the school board race.

Citywide, Pasadena is 50% Democratic and 40% Republican.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Bill Ukropina, president of the Pasadena Republican Club and chairman of the Pasadena Chapter of the California Lincoln Club, a political action committee.

But Ukropina said the Republicans will continue their efforts. Four years ago, no Republican candidates ran in local races. This year, Republican candidates were in every contested race. And in two years, Republicans will be better funded, more organized and have a bigger impact, he said.

"It's a crawl, walk, run kind of thing," Ukropina said.

Even now, he said, Republicans may consider backing candidates in the April 16 District 1 city director runoff between Isaac Richard and Nicholas Conway and in the school board runoff between Elbie Hickambottom and E. Clark Coberly. Richard, Conway and Hickambottom are Democrats. Coberly is a Republican. District 1 voters are 65% Democratic and 27% Republican.

The Republicans began two years ago to find candidates for nonpartisan school and city board races, Ukropina said, because they were tired of getting beaten by Democrats and liberal activists.

Pasadena Foothills Democratic Club President-elect Kitty McKnight said Democrats have traditionally supported Democratic candidates. But they have not recruited nor been able to provide much money.

"We're Democrats; we're grass roots," McKnight said. Democrats usually provide volunteer labor and use of the Democratic headquarters office to Democratic candidates.

Republican-supported city director candidates in the election included District 1 candidate Sally Mosher, District 2 candidate Ed Bryant and District 6 candidate Paul Hrabal, who headed the Pasadena Republican headquarters office last year. All are Republicans and each received a $1,000 contribution from the Lincoln Club, Ukropina said.

District 6 voters are 51% Republican and 38% Democratic; District 2 is 63% Democratic and 25% Republican.

In the citywide school board races, the Republicans supported Republican Chris Cofer and Dan Wimberly, a former Democrat who changed his party affiliation in November. Lincoln Club contributions totaled about $1,600 in those races, Ukropina said.

Another $1,500 was provided the candidates, in cash and in-kind help with mailers. Individual Republicans provided campaign donations amounting to another $5,000, Ukropina said.

The Republican mailers identified the Republican candidates as "fiscal conservatives." But the underlying message was one of partisanship, said incumbent Rick Cole, who beat Bryant. Both Cole and City Director Kathryn Nack, who won against Hrabal, said Pasadena voters rejected the partisan message and instead concentrated on specific issues in each district and specific candidates.

"I think there was a backlash," Nack said. "Making an issue of partisanship was a wrong move, particularly in Pasadena."

But Hrabal said his campaign would have succeeded if the voter turnout had not been unexpectedly high in Nack's district. Republicans usually make up 60% of the voters who turn out for District 6 elections, but Nack managed to drum up more voters and overturn his strategy, Hrabal said.

Ted Jones, one of Bryant's campaign coordinators, said Bryant was disappointed that the Republican support did not translate into more votes. Bryant received 32.2% of the District 2 votes cast. Jones said the Bryant supporters are trying to determine if Republicans failed to support Bryant because he is black. "The feedback we're getting is that there were strong Republican objections to Cole but it just didn't translate into votes for (Bryant)," Jones said.

Mosher said she didn't know if the Republican effort hurt or helped her campaign. She said a lot of conservative Republicans live in her district and, although she is Republican, she is not conservative.

Ukropina stressed that the Republican effort was not so much a partisan effort as a push to find conservative candidates to challenge the liberal drift of the city's political base. "I think it's good for the city to have competitive elections and more debate on the issues," he said.

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