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Election Changed to Statewide Ballot Date : Politics: Shift from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2 means more candidates will have time to file for City Council race, including a member recalled in last month's shake-up. Seventeen are now in race for five seats.


COVINA — Seventeen people, including one councilman who was recalled last month and several leaders of the movement that unseated him, filed paperwork to run for the Covina City Council last week in advance of the original deadline of Thursday afternoon.

As it turned out, there was no hurry; the filing period was extended to Aug. 6 late Thursday afternoon when Gov. Pete Wilson signed legislation enabling Covina to merge its election with the Nov. 2 statewide election. The city had originally set the election for Oct. 5, as required by state law.

The new election date means the 15 people who had requested candidacy application papers as of last week but had not yet filed them, plus any others who want to apply this week, will have until 5 p.m. Friday to file.

All five council members were recalled by an overwhelming margin on July 13 by voters angry over a 6% utility tax it approved last year. Recall proponents argued that the tax would not have been necessary if the council had been more frugal with the city budget. Council members countered that they had cut the budget to the bone and imposed the tax only to preserve critical services such as police and fire protection for the city of 43,000.

City Clerk Joey Southall said Covina will benefit from merging the city election with the Nov. 2 statewide ballot in two ways: There will be more time for potential candidates to file their paperwork and voters will have another month to consider the candidates.

She said it is unclear whether the city will save money now that the county registrar will take over the election. Last month the city council allocated $45,000 to pay for its own balloting.

At the request of a pro-recall group called Covina Citizens for Good Government, the state Legislature passed emergency legislation last month enabling Covina to merge the election with the Nov. 2 ballot.

The recall group's chairman, Bill Mason, who says he will run for council but had not filed his candidacy papers by Thursday, said the goal of merging Covina's election with the Nov. 2 ballot was to try to save the city money and to give voters more time to ponder the qualifications of the candidates.

"To have an election less than a month after school starts is pushing it for most people," Mason said. "Nobody is going to think about an election in August, and they need more than a month after that to think about this, especially when you're dealing with more than 30 candidates."

Mason said he has not filed yet because he wants more time to work on his candidate statement, which costs candidates $450 to have printed in the ballot. The statement is due when candidates file.

Council candidate Linda Sarver, a leader in the recall group called the Stop the Utility Tax Committee, took no chances. A 44-year-old self-employed marketing director, Sarver filed her candidacy application Thursday afternoon.

The first order of business if she is elected, she says, will be to rescind the utility tax. Asked how she proposes that the city balance its budget without the utility tax, which expires Oct. 31, Sarver said she needs more time to review the budget in depth.

As to how the city can save money while maintaining existing service levels, she said, "It will be up to the citizens to make those choices."

Other well-known recall leaders who want to run for council include the following: Cody Cluff, a 34-year-old business retention specialist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.; Hugh S. Jenings, a retired investment banker and outspoken member of the Stop the Utility Tax Committee; Thomas O'Leary, a 35-year-old attorney and former councilman; and Peter K. Douroux, a 30-year-old retired public school administrator.

One of their opponents will be a councilman they were responsible for unseating. Richard Gratton, 64, a retired public accountant who was appointed to the City Council last spring and recalled last month, filed to regain his place on the council. Gratton was not on the council when the utility tax was adopted and the name of his predecessor, Robert Biancardi, appeared on the recall ballot, not his. But the election to recall the council unseated him as well.

"I think it's going to be a battle to come up with a balanced budget without the utility tax," Gratton said. "And I want to be a part of that battle. The recall people would like to see me bounced, but if I go down, I'll go down fighting."

Of the 17 candidates who had filed their candidacy applications last week, most say they want to make the City Council, and city government in general, more open to the public. Many have vowed to be frugal and attempt to avoid raising or creating taxes.

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