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Thousand Oaks Voters Retain Councilwoman

Politics: Elois Zeanah easily triumphed in city's first recall election. Now she and supporters take aim at council opponents.

November 06, 1997|MIGUEL BUSTILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Calling her recall election victory a mandate from an upset citizenry, Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Elois Zeanah vowed Wednesday that she and other like-minded candidates would ride the groundswell into next year's elections.

The embattled councilwoman handily withstood the costliest political attack in Ventura County history, capturing a two-thirds share of the electoral pie, according to semiofficial election results. Of the 29,936 ballots cast by Thousand Oaks residents Tuesday, Zeanah received 17,703 votes.

"They have stirred a sleeping giant . . . this is a revolution," Zeanah said. "The people of this city understand that there's something rotten here and they've gotten up and said, 'Enough!' "

It was a crushing defeat for the committee Yes! Remove Elois Zeanah, which spent more than $280,000 in its 10-month ouster campaign on paid petitioners, legal fees, radio, television, direct mail and newspaper advertisements.

Most of that money, about $220,000, came from Moorpark resident and Domino's Pizza entrepreneur Jill Lederer, who in a last-minute flier encouraged registered voters to cast ballots by offering free medium pies with toppings for all.

Reached Wednesday at her corporate office in Thousand Oaks, Lederer had no comment on Zeanah's lopsided win. "I have nothing to say right now," she said.

According to semiofficial returns, Zeanah actually fared better in Tuesday's recall campaign than in her 1994 run for office. Zeanah collected 10,417 votes in the 1994 election, which included 16 candidates. By comparison, 17,703 voters decided this week that Zeanah should stay in office.

In a written statement Wednesday, Yes! Remove Elois Zeanah spokesman Peter J. Turpel argued that although voters opted to keep the councilwoman in office to finish her term, it does not mean they support Zeanah or her politics.

"Of course we are disappointed with the results of the election," Turpel said. "But we are not totally surprised. Passing a recall is a very difficult thing to accomplish. We knew that at the start.

"Mrs. Zeanah is by no means out of the woods," Turpel continued. "It would be a mistake for her to look at this as a vote of confidence."

Whatever the case, two things were clear in the aftermath of the divisive recall race: Zeanah's name recognition just got a major boost, and she and her supporters plan to capitalize on their victory to capture the council majority in next year's election.

The seats of Mayor Judy Lazar, Councilman Andy Fox and Zeanah will all be up for grabs in November 1998.

"It changes the whole complexion of the 1998 election," said Zeanah supporter and former council candidate Dan Del Campo, who will likely throw his hat into the ring again. "This portends to be the first major shift in Thousand Oaks' political history."

Zeanah said Wednesday that she has not decided if she will seek another term next year, but that it is likely. In the meantime, while she completes the remainder of her term, she is planning to spearhead one and possibly more initiative drives, but declined to elaborate what they might be about.

"I am thinking about next year," Zeanah said. "That was the real reason for this mean-spirited recall. People who support the current pro-development council majority are fearful that they will lose their influence in this city."

At the same time, however, Zeanah and her only council ally, Councilwoman Linda Parks, stressed that Thousand Oaks leaders need to again try to put their differences aside and stop the grandstanding, bickering and petty personal politics.

"This recall's been like a sickness, so I'm glad it's over," Parks said. "I'm looking forward to putting this behind us and working together to get things done."

Councilman Mike Markey echoed those sentiments, even while agreeing with recall backers that Tuesday's vote should not be construed as a sign of growing support for Zeanah.

"We need to be professional, stop pointing fingers and put all that personal stuff behind us," Markey said.

Recall frenzy first struck Thousand Oaks in January, when Turpel walked up to Zeanah during a council meeting and handed her a notice declaring Yes! Remove Elois Zeanah's intent to gather signatures and force a recall election.

Zeanah, the group said, was costing taxpayers millions of dollars with irresponsible decisions that were spurring lawsuits against the city, and was also recklessly accusing city officials of numerous crimes and dirty deeds she could not substantiate.

The councilwoman and her supporters immediately slammed the recall effort, characterizing it as a ploy by greedy developers to oust a vocal adversary. Noting that Lederer was Fox's former campaign manager, Zeanah also charged that Fox was the brains behind the recall drive--an accusation both Fox and Lederer strongly denied.

Within weeks, a pro-Zeanah group served Fox and Lazar with recall papers. The group's petition drive fizzled, however.

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