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Los Angeles

Long Beach Mayor in Lead

Election: With slightly less than half the vote counted, incumbent Beverly O'Neill holds a comfortable margin against two rivals.

June 05, 2002|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Long Beach residents were favoring termed-out incumbent Beverly O'Neill for mayor in early returns Tuesday in a runoff election that had only one name on the ballot but two write-in contenders.

O'Neill, who ran as a write-in candidate because she has already served two terms, was leading with 48% of the votes, with 81 of 188 precincts reporting.

Vice Mayor Dan Baker, the only name on the ballot, was in second place with 37% of the vote and Norm Ryan, who previously authored a winning utility tax cut proposition and ran as a write-in candidate, was in third with 14% of vote.

The unusual number of write-in votes slowed the ballot counting, the Long Beach city clerk's office said. . Final unofficial results were not expected until 3 a.m. today.

"I have to tell you," O'Neill said. "it's too early for me to be excited. I'm thrilled ... but I know in an election ... things can change a lot" by the end of the night.

In some parts of Long Beach, voters Tuesday were deciding two other runoff contests: the 7th District City Council seat and the 5th District seat on the Long Beach Unified School District board.

With 17 of 50 precincts reporting, Jeannine McManigal-Ball was leading in the school board race with 52.6% of the vote, followed by James John Choura with 47.3% . In the 7th District council race, Mike Donelon was leading with 55%, followed by Tonia Reyes Uranga with 45% with only four of 23 precincts reporting.

But the peculiar mayor's race has attracted attention even outside this city of 461,000.

Long Beach's voter-approved term limits law precludes any elected city official from running for a third term. But unlike most term limits laws, the city's statute allows an incumbent to run as a write-in candidate.

O'Neill's first-place finish in the primary stunned political observers because it is so difficult, even for a popular incumbent, to win as a write-in. A runoff was necessary because none of the candidates got more than 50% of the vote.

Elsewhere, voters in Saugus approved an elementary school bond measure in the Santa Clarita Valley city. The bond garnered 73% of the vote in unofficial final results. . The measure needed two-thirds approval for passage.

The $48-million bond measure would help fund a $120-million plan to renovate old elementary schools and build two new ones, district officials said.

Supt. Laurie Fish said the money would provide some relief for a 13-school system that isn't overcrowded now but does rely on portable classrooms for nearly half its learning space.

"Although Saugus has done a good job of keeping up with the growth, we are still growing rapidly," she said.

In Pomona, two measures to reduce or eliminate the utility users tax were losing in early returns.

Staff writers Richard Fausse, Gariot Louimat and Hector Becerra contributed to this report.

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