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ELECTIONS ROUNDUP : Voters' Focus Turned From Trial to Candidates

April 18, 1993|SHARON BERNSTEIN and JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

With the streets free of unrest and residents finally more interested in talking about City Hall than the federal courthouse, candidates for election in San Fernando Valley races spent the last Saturday of the campaign seeking support the old-fashioned way--one vote at a time.

"I'm 77 years old and I'm worried about your generation," Anne Finn, a candidate in the crowded race to replace Ernani Bernardi in the 7th City Council District, told a young voter in Pacoima.

Finn bustled from house to house, handing out campaign literature and tea bags, so residents could "enjoy a cup of tea while reading about me." She was accompanied by Jocelyn Mayer, who Finn introduced as "my daughter, the school psychologist," and herself as "the widow of Councilman Howard Finn--do you remember him?"

A few streets down, 7th District candidate Ray Magana, who has been an aide to Bernardi for the past three years, worked the streets so tenaciously that several voters actually declared--without prompting--that they would take down campaign signs for rival Richard Alarcon, and replace them with Magana signs.

The candidate braved guard dogs and closed gates to get close to the residents he sought.

"Son votantes?" he asked in Spanish as he went from house to house. "Are you voters?"

All told, Valley residents will have to choose candidates in four City Council races--the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 11th--and two school board races--the 4th and 6th--when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

In the 7th District, which stretches across much of the northeast Valley, the field is wide open, with Alarcon, Finn, Magana vying for the seat against Fire Capt. Lyle Hall, businessman Al Dib, teacher Henry Villafana and LeRoy Chase, head of the Boys & Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley.

In the West Valley's 3rd District, four-term incumbent Councilwoman Joy Picus' door-to-door pitching in Canoga Park revealed something potentially unsettling--that her competition is gaining on her and will probably force her into a runoff.

"I hope you voted for me," she said to Ivan Hicks after he said he already had cast his absentee ballot. But there was not a word of reply from Hicks as he peered out his screen door. He just chuckled nervously.

"I'd guess he didn't vote for me," Picus said, pivoting on her pink sneakers and heading for the house next door. "He'd tell me if he did."

Time and again, as Picus asked registered voters if she could count on their support, the reply was noncommittal at best.

"Well, we're considering it," said Robert Wilding, when asked if he and his wife would vote for Picus.

"We'll see," said resident Lilian Busler.

Political pundits, including her top political adviser, have predicted that Picus will probably be forced into a runoff with either homeowner activist Robert J. Gross or her former aide, Laura Chick. Picus also faces challenges from businessman Mort Diamond, Police Sgt. Dennis Zine, and businessman Charles M. Nixon III.

Zine could not campaign Saturday, because as a police officer he was on tactical alert after the verdicts were announced in the trial of four officers accused of beating motorist Rodney G. King.

But the other 3rd District candidates hit the pavements, slamming Picus and telling voters to support their candidacies as a way of voting for change.

Not that every effort was successful.

"Do you know anything about me?" Gross asked Albert Beck Jr. of West Hills. "No, not at all," was the reply.

Chick, who walked precincts in West Hills, told resident Wanda Farrier it was time to "get these entrenched politicians out."

Farrier had a "Vote For Elvis" sign on her front door, meant to indicate her dissatisfaction with the candidates, and Chick pointed it out, using the opportunity to take a swipe at Picus.

"When Joy Picus was first elected," Chick declared, "Elvis was still alive."

Farrier promised to alter the sign so it would include a plug for Chick.

Pavement gave way to linoleum in the case of Eli Brent, a candidate in the race for the 6th District school board seat.

He hunted for Valley voters in shopping malls.

"We chose malls because we've been going door-to-door, and this way the volunteers get a reward--they get to shop," he joked. "I'm fighting for name identification, and this is the way to go."

Brent, 67, a principal from Northridge and president of the administrators union, is one of three candidates challenging two-term incumbent Julie Korenstein in District 6. The others are Lynne Kuznetsky, 47, an elementary school teacher from Encino, and Richard Bieber, 40, a Northridge electrical contractor.

Three candidates are vying for election in school board District 4, which stretches from Westchester near Los Angeles International Airport to Porter Ranch in the northwest corner of the Valley.

In that race, incumbent Mark Slavkin, 31, is challenged by Douglas Lasken, a teacher at Ramona School in Hollywood, who campaigned Saturday at a school carnival, and Judy Solkovits, a former teachers union president who lives in Northridge.

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