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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Wings of Deputy Registrar Clipped Over Flyers on Voter Fraud

March 31, 1994|EMILY ADAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Wilma J. Van Beek went door to door in Artesia looking for new voters to register, she was shocked at what she found. Voter fraud, she said, was lurking behind many doors.

Earlier this month, Van Beek took it upon herself to distribute 2,500 flyers reprimanding potential offenders and warning that polls would be monitored for illegal voting. She signed the flyer and identified herself as "deputy registrar of voters"--an imposing title actually held by hundreds of volunteers.

A week later, Van Beek was scolded by the secretary of state and county registrar-recorder's office after residents complained that she seemed to be singling out potential Latino voters.

The flyers, which included a Spanish translation, warned that any evidence of voter fraud would be turned over to the district attorney. Van Beek wrote that she had encountered registered voters who were undocumented immigrants, were under-age or using false identities.

The county registrar of voters reprimanded Van Beek for using the deputy registrar title on the flyer without permission. The acting secretary of state, Tony Miller, sent a letter demanding that Van Beek "cease and desist immediately from any tactic which could be construed to be the intimidation of voters."

Van Beek, who has endorsed challengers Tim Kelemen and John Lyon in the April 12 election for two City Council seats, said she never meant to intimidate anyone. She acted merely "to keep people out of trouble," she said.

She said she has given Miller and the district attorney's office names of people she says are improperly registered. She also submitted a letter describing irregularities she says she encountered while registering voters. The district attorney's office declined to comment.

Mayor James A. Van Horn Jr., who is seeking reelection, said Van Beek's flyer was aimed at one of his strongest voting blocs: the city's 6,000 Latinos. "I hope it infuriates them more than intimidates them," Van Horn said. Councilwoman Mary Alyce Soares is also seeking reelection.

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BUSINESS IS BUSINESS: The title business person may seem innocuous, but those could become fighting words in the race for the Long Beach mayor's seat.

It seems that candidate Frank Colonna, who owns a real estate brokerage firm, believed he would be the only businessman on the ballot. Then candidate ballot statements came out last week. Of the six candidates who are considered top contenders, four identified themselves as business people, including Colonna. The title is important, Colonna said, because recent elections have shown voters favor entrepreneurial types over politicians.

The other self-described business people are Beverly O'Neill, former president of Long Beach City College, who planned to become a private consultant before deciding to run for mayor; Don Westerland, executive director of the nonprofit counseling agency Family Service of Long Beach, and Jeffrey A. Kellogg, vice mayor and vice president of a commercial real estate firm.

Angry that others seemed to be horning in on their territory, Colonna's campaign consultants called a news conference to flush out the "lies and misrepresentations" of other candidates. Colonna called off the session once he heard what his campaign team had planned. "I reeled it back in because I was concerned about whether this thing was worthy of attention," Colonna said.

Voters haven't heard the end of this matter, however. Colonna's camp argues that the business title should only be used by those who hold a Long Beach business license. The business versus non-business issue will be showing up in Colonna's direct mail pieces within the next few days, consultant Dan Wooldridge said.

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NEW ARRIVAL: She worked 25 years for the city of Santa Fe Springs, but Hazel Fields is answering charges that she's a newcomer. Fields, who retired as city clerk two years ago, is now one of six candidates vying for two City Council seats there.

At a recent candidate's forum, it was revealed that Fields had left her Orange County home and moved to Santa Fe Springs six months ago.

Council candidates James W. Hogan Jr., a 34-year-resident, and Hilda Zamora, a resident for 19 years, were quick to point out their longevity in the city. Others running for council are incumbents Al Fuentes and Ronald S. Kernes, and challenger George Minnehan. Organizations representing city workers and firefighters have endorsed Fields and Minnehan, a 29-year resident.

Community correspondents Greg Miller and Psyche Pascual contributed to this report.

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