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Sorting Out the Local Elections | BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Knabe Takes Measured Approach to Job That Awaits Him

November 07, 1996|JEFFREY L. RABIN and JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Fresh from a resounding landslide victory, Don Knabe, Los Angeles County's newest supervisor-to-be, said he won't immediately take any bold steps now that he has won the office he coveted for so long.

Although his campaign was based on a five-point plan for the county's future, Knabe told reporters Wednesday on the steps of the Hall of Administration that he will spend time meeting with other elected officials before deciding what to do. He takes office Dec. 2.

"I am not going to jump in and be overly aggressive," said a beaming Knabe, who spent 14 years as chief deputy to retiring Supervisor Deane Dana. "I will be decisive and impassioned, but I am not going to call for terrorism of any sort."

Although he did not back away from any campaign pledges, Knabe said it was too early to begin implementing the five points that formed the backbone of his campaign, including his call for creation of an inspector general and independent audits of county spending to look for potential waste, fraud and abuse.

Knabe cited a Times series on possible misspending and other fiscal problems by the Sheriff's Department in its jail operations and said an inspector general's review or audit might be needed. But, he said, calling for such steps would be premature, at least until he has met with the sheriff to discuss the allegations and hear his response.

On Tuesday, the supervisors ordered Sheriff Sherman Block and the county's chief administrative office to report back on the findings of The Times' series.

From the reporting of the earliest absentee ballots, Knabe's lock on the supervisor's seat was assured Tuesday night. When all the precincts were counted Wednesday morning, the former Cerritos mayor had trounced challenger Gordana Swanson by capturing almost 62% of the vote.

While Knabe and his supporters savored their victory Tuesday night at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center, Swanson was at a Torrance hotel reluctant to concede the race.

"If Knabe ends up being supervisor, I wish for him to turn a new leaf, but it's going to be difficult for him because he has so many IOUs," Swanson said.

With $2.6 million in mostly special interest campaign contributions, Knabe mounted a full-bore campaign on television, on billboards and through the mail in the sprawling 4th District.

Knabe acknowledged his fund-raising success but attributed it to broad-based support.

As the long campaign neared an end, Knabe said he would be more proactive than Dana, the most quiet and unassuming of the five supervisors.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said his new colleague will be a real asset to the board. But he added that Knabe must emerge from his role as right-hand man to Dana and "develop his own political persona now."

Swanson remained defiant to the end. "I feel victorious despite the numbers because we made excellent points and brought up issues to the public--the Twin Towers [jail] . . . the county libraries that have been closed when the expense of keeping them open would not have been that great," she said Tuesday night.

"But when you go against weeks of being on network TV, the fact is you cannot get the message out as well," she said.

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