Pro-business candidate Rosa Lee Measures and environmentalist Steve Bennett topped the vote in the Ventura City Council race Tuesday, winning election along with incumbent Councilmen Jim Monahan and Gary Tuttle.
But another incumbent councilman, Todd Collart, ran far behind. Like Tuttle, Collart was a target of pro-business forces throughout the campaign, attacked as an environmentalist who has hurt local business interests in the last four years.
The returns showed mixed results for the negative advertising campaigns launched by critics of several candidates in the race for four council seats. While Collart suffered, Tuttle, Bennett and Monahan, who were also targeted, emerged unhurt.
Measures, 56, who is a former banker and now manages her family's trust, led the field of 14 candidates. Of the winners, only Measures was not the target of negative campaigning. She also disavowed the negative campaigns in her election bid.
"I'm not going to let the grass grow under my feet," Measures said Tuesday night. "I'm just ecstatic about the opportunity we have to help out the residents of Ventura. I think they realize that we needed some change. The economic slump is hurting a lot of people."
Bennett had mixed emotions about the results: "When you see a good public servant like Todd Collart not get reelected, you realize how tenuous political popularity is. Me coming in second place is clearly the voters' rejection of negative campaigning."
One ad campaign, paid for by Ventura businessman Ray Ellison, a political ally of Monahan, featured derogatory cartoons characterizing Bennett, Collart and Tuttle as smelly fish. An ad campaign run by former Mayor Richard Francis, a political enemy of Monahan, played up past police troubles.
"I'm sure it hurt me a little, but people know Richard Francis wasn't telling the whole story," Monahan said. "I think the voters are saying that what has happened in my personal life is none of his business."
"I was running to win, but it's up to the voters and they made a different choice," Collart said.
"I'm disappointed that I finished fourth," Tuttle said Tuesday night. "I thought I deserved to be at least third, looking at who beat me," referring to Monahan.
Candidates and local politicians said this year's race did not center around the growth issues that traditionally dominate council elections. The recession overshadowed most other concerns, and nearly all of the candidates ran on platforms of business recruitment and economic revitalization.
The Ventura Chamber of Commerce, which helped elect three pro-business candidates to the council in 1991, did not play as big a role this time.
City Clerk Barbara Kam said the chamber spent $2,464 in the campaign, almost $10,000 less than it spent in 1991. Earlier in the campaign, chamber officials said they planned to spend $16,000 to promote Measures, Monahan, Clark Owens and Ken Schmitz.
Venturans for Responsible Government, a business coalition that helped back the chamber's slate in 1991, also got involved in the race this year. But this time, the group--headed by rancher Carolyn Leavens--produced a negative campaign against Bennett, Collart and Tuttle.
On the environmental side, outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia spent about $10,000 in ads to support Bennett, Collart, Tuttle and Nancy Cloutier. Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, owners of the company, contributed an additional $4,650 to the four campaigns.
In 1989, a trio of environmental candidates--including Collart and Tuttle--were swept onto the council after being heavily backed by Patagonia. The third environmentalist, Councilwoman Cathy Bean, did not seek reelection this year.
Campaign spending in the race was one of the most expensive in Ventura history. As of Oct. 16, candidates had spent a total of $117,317.
By Oct. 16, Owens had topped the list of money-raisers at $20,216. Measures took in the second highest amount, with $19,434. Monahan reported $18,503 in contributions, and Bennett had raised $17,867.
Final financial statements are not due until Jan. 31.
On Dec. 6, the winners will join Mayor Greg Carson and Councilmen Tom Buford and Jack Tingstrom on the council for four-year terms. The election of Measures and defeat of Collart will tilt the council more to a pro-business emphasis.
The other candidates in Tuesday's election were:
Neil Demers-Grey, 28, secretary; Charles Kistner, 33, owner of a job testing firm; Dick Massa, 53, owner of Ventura Medical Supply; Brian Lee Rencher, 33, Ventura College student; Virginia Weber, 44, educational grants administrator, and Carroll Dean Williams, 51, manufacturing engineer.
In another election, Thomas W. Jamison was in a close race for his seat in the Ventura River Valley Municipal Advisory Council's 1st District.
His opponent, Kathy Sigafoos, campaigned on better land-use planning and better communication between the county supervisors and the community.