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Official Blames Defeat on Flier

Politics: Diamond Bar councilwoman says the leaflet wrongly linked her to Afghanistan.

November 08, 2001|DAVID HERMANN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Diamond Bar councilwoman who lost her bid for reelection Tuesday blamed a flier that linked her to groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The only thing it didn't accuse me of was killing somebody or being a serial child molester," Eileen Ansari said Wednesday.

Tuesday's unofficial election results showed Ansari, a councilwoman for eight years, losing by 118 votes.

Leaflets attacking Ansari, whose Pakistan-born husband and three children are Muslim, were placed on doorsteps late last week.

A story in the Inland Valley Times about the flier and a 1998 story in the Los Angeles Times identified the 58-year-old retired nurse and teacher as a Muslim. But Ansari said Wednesday that she is Catholic and has not converted.

"One day I probably will become a Muslim," she said. "But I have two Catholic parents who are still alive, and that has to be a decision I'm ready for with all my heart."

Ansari said she has hired a private investigator to determine who produced and distributed the flier. It is credited to the Diamond Bar and American Citizens for Honest Government and to Diamond Bar Citizens for Good Government, neither of which is registered in the state as a campaign organization or political action committee.

California law requires political groups that spend or raise $1,000 or more to register with the state. Officials with the Fair Political Practices Commission have said it is possible that the Diamond Bar groups have not hit that threshold.

Ansari's campaign also filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The black and white photocopied leaflets accused Ansari of conflicts of interest, misuse of public funds, ties to Arab American political groups, and trips to meet with groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ansari said the claims about her ties to Arab American political groups are true and something she is proud of. But allegations of ties to groups in the Middle East and trips there to meet with them, and the rest of the flier's allegations, are malicious lies, she said.

David Demerjian, the head deputy district attorney with the office's Public Integrity Unit, said Wednesday that he had read the flier and determined that nothing in it qualified as a hate crime.

Supporters and opponents decried the contents of the flier, which also criticized the heavyset councilwoman's eating habits, as hate speech.

Five candidates were vying Tuesday for three at-large seats on the City Council. The others were incumbents Wen Chang and Debby O'Connor and challengers Robert Zirbes and Tom Ortiz.

With only absentee ballots counted early Tuesday evening, all three incumbents led the challengers. But as votes from the city's 17 precincts came in, Zirbes, chairman of the city's Planning Commission, narrowly overtook Ansari in a city of more than 29,000 registered voters. Ortiz finished last.

Ansari said she will decide whether to request a recount once all ballots have been counted.

Grace Chavez, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar, said there was no way to determine Wednesday how many ballots remained to be counted. But she said official results should be available by Nov. 26.

Ansari will have five days after the results are certified to request a recount. Winners are scheduled to be sworn into office Dec. 4.

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