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City's Survival at Stake, Say Candidates in Mayor's Race : Election: Front-runners step up personal attacks. Police are investigating complaints made by relatives of two contenders.


COMPTON — To hear some of the candidates tell it, nothing less than this community's survival is at stake in Tuesday's mayoral race.

"Vote April 20 to save our city," reads one flyer distributed by candidate Kellie Irving.

"Our city could be lost forever," warns candidate Kenneth Tucker.

"We are losing our community, it is slipping from our fingers and we must save it," says Councilwoman Patricia Moore.

While one leading candidate, Councilman Omar Bradley, dismisses such doom and gloom as campaign rhetoric, five others said that in the last two years the city has been nearly paralyzed by an increasingly arrogant, divisive council. Most candidates say that the council's decision last year to approve a card casino development without first submitting the issue to a vote of the people proved that the council cares little about the community.

And while City Council members have fought among themselves, crime continues to plague the city, graffiti has proliferated in almost every neighborhood, business is in decline, and unemployment has risen to 20%, nearly double the county average, the candidates argue.

Candidates Robert Adams, John Clark, Kellie Irving, Patricia Moore and Kenneth Tucker say that unless someone is elected who will listen to residents and get the job done without petty bickering, the city is headed for disaster. Another candidate on the ballot, Johnny Randle, could not be reached for comment and apparently has done no campaigning.

The mayor's seat became vacant after Walter R. Tucker III was elected to Congress last year. He had won the mayor's office in 1991 shortly after the death of his and Kenneth's father, Walter R. Tucker II, who had held the post for nine years.

Though the mayor has no more voting power than the other four members of the council, the candidates say it is up to the mayor to pull the City Council together and act as the symbolic leader of the community.

Adams, a mortician and former councilman, says he would bring stability and business sense back to the council. Bradley touts a record of community activism and a two-year stint on the council that, he says, is marked by the creation of dozens of new jobs. Clark cites his problem-solving abilities and skills as a business owner.

Irving, the youngest of the candidates, says she alone has the energy, determination and ideas to turn the city around. Moore calls herself a progressive, courageous leader who will not be afraid to fight for the community. Tucker points to his college education, business experience, leadership of a family-run nonprofit corporation, and the fact that his brother, the former mayor, is a congressman.

All candidates have promised to bring new professionalism and vision to the City Council. All are touting plans to create jobs, clean up graffiti and make the streets safer by hiring more police officers.

Apparently, however, the pledges about being professional and getting along with people have been set aside for the duration of the campaign. As election day draws near, the campaign has begun to resemble a giant game of King of the Mountain as the candidates try to scramble to the top of the heap, championing their platforms and increasingly attacking their opponents.

The personal attacks have become particularly fierce among the three candidates considered to have the best chance: Bradley, Moore and Tucker. Each has attacked one another's educational background, work experience and accomplishments.

Moore has accused Kenneth Tucker of being Rep. Walter R. Tucker's puppet, and says that both Tucker and Bradley have threatened her potential campaign contributors. Kenneth Tucker has called Bradley a "dictator" and a "thug."

A candidates' forum in City Council chambers ended in pandemonium Monday after Tucker said Bradley had sold out the community to the gambling interests and then likened the councilman to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver. The remark sparked a shouting match between Tucker and Bradley supporters who swarmed to the back of the chambers, while an astonished Irving tried to finish her closing remarks.

The forum ended abruptly when six police officers rushed in and called for everyone to calm down. As Bradley's entourage hustled him from the building, the furious councilman glared at Tucker, who was being ushered out a separate door, and issued a few parting shots about Tucker's mother.

Since then Bradley's wife, Robin, has filed a police complaint accusing Tucker's brother-in-law, Richard Brown, of shoving her. Brown has filed a lawsuit against Bradley's brother-in-law, Lonnie Howard, saying that Howard had threatened his wife, Keta Brown. The Police Department is investigating the allegations.

On Thursday, a Superior Court commissioner in Compton ordered Bradley, Tucker and their families to stay at least 100 yards from each other.

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