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LOS ANGELES COUNTY ELECTIONS

Runoffs Likely in at Least 5 of 8 City Council Races

Returns: Tom Hayden, Janice Hahn, Dennis Zine, Carl Washington lead their contests. Mike Woo, Eric Garcetti are even with more than half of votes counted.

April 11, 2001|TINA DAUNT and PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

With term limits forcing nearly half the Los Angeles City Council out of office, dozens of candidates on Tuesday faced off in heated--and sometimes costly--political battles.

Early returns pointed to runoff elections in June in at least five of eight council races. The toughest battles being were waged in the 5th District, which stretches from Westwood through Bel-Air to Van Nuys, and in the 13th District, which includes parts of Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park.

With all the seats in the odd-numbered districts up for grabs, a diverse group of candidates was seeking office. Debate has focused on police reform, affordable housing and education. Any candidate receiving a majority of the votes cast will be elected. If no one candidate can claim a majority, the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff election June 5.

In the 5th District, a crowd of 11 candidates set a record by spending a combined $1.4 million in quest of the seat held by Councilman Mike Feuer, who is running for city attorney. Among the candidates is former state Sen. Tom Hayden and former federal prosecutor Jack Weiss.

With more than half the votes counted, Hayden was in the lead, with Weiss following close behind, making a runoff likely.

Hayden--who loaned his campaign $171,000--spent much of the campaign defending himself against attacks from others, who criticized his decision to move into the district last year to run and questioned whether he actually lived in the Westwood residence of his campaign coordinator, as he claimed.

The former state senator argued that until last year, he lived just outside the council district in Brentwood and has represented much of the 5th District as a member of the Legislature.

In mailers to district residents, Weiss attacked Hayden's record in Sacramento as a failure, and accused Hayden of being soft on street gangs.

That drew sharp denunciations from Gov. Gray Davis, who called Hayden an effective legislator, and state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who said Hayden had pressed for tougher penalties for gang violence.

"With 11 candidates in the race, I have always believed there would be a runoff in June," Hayden said in a statement Tuesday evening. "I am continuing to plan for that likelihood. Nevertheless, today is an important step along the way. I expect to finish first today and to appeal successfully to many of the voters who have opted to support their favorite candidates in the primary."

Weiss also was confident he had made the runoff with Hayden.

"It's extremely gratifying to be in this position, and we are going to run the most vigorous campaign this district has ever seen," Weiss said. "It will be a very competitive race, and I look forward to debating the issues from neighborhood to neighborhood."

In the 13th District, eight people were vying for the seat previously held by Jackie Goldberg.

Top candidates included Mike Woo, a former city councilman who lost a mayoral bid to Richard Riordan eight years ago; former teacher and former state Assemblyman Scott Wildman; attorney Art Goldberg, brother of the former councilwoman; college professor Eric Garcetti, son of former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti; and Conrado Terrazas, former aide to Jackie Goldberg.

With most votes counted early Wednesday, Garcetti and Woo were in a dead heat for first place, and appeared headed for a runoff.

"I'm in the runoff and I am so excited about it," Garcetti said. "I am humbled by the response of voters to someone who has never run for office before."

In the neighboring 1st District, with most of the votes counted, Ed Reyes held a strong lead over Lincoln Heights attorney Fumio Robert Nakahiro. Reyes is the former chief of staff for Mike Hernandez, who vacated the council seat.

The field of candidates included community college professor David Sanchez and businessman Joseph Lucey.

That race was thrown open when veteran state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), considered a shoo-in to represent the 13-square-mile area, dropped out. The area includes the scandal-ridden Rampart police division and the infamous Belmont Learning Complex.

In the 11th District, incumbent Cindy Miscikowski was facing token opposition and was expected to easily win a second term, representing a far-reaching area that stretches from Brentwood to Woodland Hills. Preliminary balloting showed Miscikowski trouncing Arthur W. Mortell.

With termed-out Councilwoman Laura Chick running for city controller, six hopefuls were seeking to represent the 3rd District in the southwest San Fernando Valley.

Crime in much of the district is low, compared to some areas of the city, but several recent high-profile slayings have made police services more of an issue this year. City Council aide Francine Oschin of Reseda led in fund-raising, and police union director Dennis Zine of West Hills received a boost when the union spent more than $47,000 on an independent mail and telephone campaign in his favor.

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