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ELECTIONS / L.A. CITY COUNCIL : Flores and Svorinich Both Glad He Did Well : 15th District: The incumbent is delighted that the San Pedro hardware store owner upset better-known candidates, but he says voters have had it with career politicians and the June runoff will prove him right.

April 22, 1993|LISA RICHARDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That incumbent Joan Milke Flores failed to win enough votes Tuesday to avoid a runoff was no surprise. The shocker was that her runoff opponent in Los Angeles' 15th City Council District will be Rudy Svorinich.

Svorinich, a 32-year-old San Pedro hardware store owner, took second place in Tuesday's balloting by beating better-known rivals Janice Hahn, the daughter of former County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and Los Angeles Unified School District board member Warren Furutani.

Flores, 57, seemed thrilled by the result, asserting that Svorinich's appeal is limited to San Pedro, while an opponent like Hahn would have challenged her districtwide.

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" the three-term incumbent said as the final numbers rolled in Tuesday, her hands raised in gratitude. "This is just great for us. . . . If I had my druthers I'd much rather run against Rudy than Janice Hahn."

Svorinich, however, says Flores has a surprise in store in the June 8 runoff in the 15th District, which stretches from San Pedro to Watts.

"That is Joan trying to put a positive spin on a very poor showing on her part," he said. "You have to look at the figures: almost 20,000 people voted against Joan Milke Flores, and I do not think the majority are going to go back to her for the June general election.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Flores took 28% of the vote to Svorinich's 23%. Hahn garnered 19%, San Pedro attorney Diane Middleton had 13% and Furutani 11%. Louis Dominguez, director of computer operations in Mayor Tom Bradley's office, trailed with 4% and San Pedro attorney James Thompson finished with 2%.

Svorinich said his success Tuesday was no fluke. He points to his community activism and family roots in the harbor area that stretch back 70 years.

Svorinich is a former president of the Yugoslavian American Club--now called the Dalmatian American Club--in heavily Slavic San Pedro. He is a member of the San Pedro Elks Lodge and the Harbor Masonic Lodge 332. His father, Rudy Sr., is a retired fisherman and longshoreman and a member of the same longshoremen's union in which Svorinich's grandfather and great-grandfather were charter members.

"This race was about a businessman and civic leader running against a 38-year career politician," Svorinich said. "People no longer wanted to be represented by career politicians or folks who have no investment in the 15th Council District. To people here it's a question of family and friends and of someone with a genuine concern for the district."

Svorinich said he beat Hahn because people are tired of political dynasties. Furutani, he said, was hurt by voter dissatisfaction with the troubled school district.

Furutani concedes that baggage from the school board may have been a problem, but basically, his campaign strategy--to woo voters throughout the district rather than focusing on one community--did not work.

Many of the people he courted, particularly in Wilmington and Watts, felt too disenfranchised to vote, he said.

"I was out there all day yesterday and that's what I heard time and time again: 'Why should I vote? My vote doesn't matter,' " he said.

Also, Furutani said he had hoped that Flores and Svorinich, who both had strong San Pedro bases, would cancel each other out. Instead, the more liberal of the candidates, Furutani, Hahn and Middleton, vied for Watts, Wilmington and the liberal San Pedro vote, splitting the anti-Flores vote three ways.

"But the original assessment on our part that Joan was vulnerable was obviously true," Furutani said. "Joan ended up with 28% of the vote, and for an incumbent that's a poor showing. Rudy ended up with 23%. Those are not outrageous or resounding mandates from the electorate."

Furutani said his campaign did not completely recover from the damage done last month when the city clerk announced that he had not submitted enough valid voter signatures to qualify for Tuesday's ballot. Furutani later qualified for the race after a judge agreed that he had collected enough signatures, but the confusion cost his campaign 10 precious days.

"We think it hurt us," Furutani said. "It sort of took us out of the running and it put us out of people's minds for a while."

Hahn, on the other hand, said she did not know what to make of Tuesday's election results. Convinced that most of the people in the district do not want Flores to represent them anymore, she agonized Wednesday as to why more people did not vote in areas she was counting on, such as Wilmington and Watts.

"It's just a huge disappointment," Hahn said. "In an election where for the first time in 20 years we were going to elect a new mayor, I thought people would surely turn out."

She added: "But this is my first attempt. My father told me I did well and that he's proud of me. . . . I still want to go into public service here in the 15th District."

City Council

District 15

100% Precincts Reporting

Votes % Joan Milke Flores* 6,882 28 Rudolph Svorinich 5,621 23 Janice Hahn 4,644 19 Diane Middleton 3,250 13 Warren Furutani 2,682 11 Louis Dominguez 1,018 4 James Thompson 456 2

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