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Latino Council Majority for Santa Ana?

Change would reflect the city's demographics, but experts doubt it would mean bloc voting.

October 15, 2002|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

If there's any heat being generated in the race for Santa Ana City Council, it's the friction between Mike Garcia, the candidate supported by the city's Establishment, and maverick Eleazar Elizondo, who brings political experience from working for several state representatives.

It's not that the two men, who are among six candidates running for the open seat in the city's Ward 6, have many differences on the issues. Elizondo advocates spending more city money on after-school programs; Garcia has begun to support the idea too.

The essential difference is that Garcia has endorsements from elected city officials and the city's fire and police organizations, while Elizondo is running against the status quo.

Whatever the outcome, there is a chance that a Latino city council majority could emerge from the Nov. 5 election for the first time in a city where 76% of the population is Latino. Four Latinos are among 10 candidates competing for three council seats. The victors will join incumbents Brett Franklin, Claudia C. Alvarez, Jose Solorio and Mayor Miguel A. Pulido, who is unopposed in his bid for a third term.

A Latino majority would reflect the increasing number of Latino voters in the city. The Redondo Beach-based AMAC political consulting firm reports that 47% of Santa Ana's 80,990 voters are Latino, based on a study of surnames. Just three years ago, there were only 65,237 voters in Santa Ana, AMAC analyst Steve Sammarco said. He estimates that 6,000 of the 15,753 new voters are Latino.

In Ward 2, in central Santa Ana, incumbent Lisa Bist, first elected in 1998, faces a challenge from newcomer Jose Macias.

Macias, 25, a recent San Diego State University graduate who quit his job as a sales representative to run, said he is seeking office to "get the word out that we have a lot of people who are not involved in the community and their views are not being considered."

He advocates that the city begin printing a Spanish-language newsletter to distribute to residents.

Macias, who reported raising $101 by the Sept. 30 filing deadline, wants more low-income housing, improvements made to the city's three library branches and expansion of after-school programs to prevent children from joining gangs. He is using the Internet to get his message out.

Councilwoman Bist, 43, one of the founders of the Wilshire Square neighborhood group in 1987, has focused on neighborhood improvements and code enforcement, while supporting the Artists Village and downtown revitalization in her first term. She recently was named the city's representative to the Orange County Transportation Authority's Center Line Corridor Advisory Panel, and supports that project.

Bist said she wants more money spent on "neighborhood infrastructure and improvements, parks programming and staffing, and recreation services programming, as well as our library services." She has raised $25,802.

In Ward 4, in the west-central part of the city, Zeke Hernandez, president of Santa Ana's chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, is trying to defeat incumbent Alberta D. Christy.

Hernandez, 56, who has run unsuccessfully several times over 30 years, said he is trying again because he wants "to see if, as a City Council member, I can make changes to the city of Santa Ana to cut wasteful spending and spend money on parks and recreation, neighborhood infrastructure and roads."

Hernandez, who had raised $1,973 by Sept. 30, also said the city library system needs more books, librarians and other resources.

"We have a sorry system that needs to be upgraded," he said. "It needs to be improved to tie into our motto as the Education City."

As a council member, Hernandez said he would try to blunt the influence of developers on decision-making.

For Christy, 57, a second term would allow her to focus on improving the city's economic base, as well as on public safety and neighborhood improvements. Although crime has recently jumped in Santa Ana, Christy noted it still is below levels of 10 years ago. She said she wants to keep it down by spending on technology and other resources for the Police Department.

Christy, who has raised $17,925, takes credit for helping create the city's new Youth Commission, a new Youth Expo event and a program that provides a children's book to new mothers.

In Ward 6, the field is larger because there is no incumbent. Councilwoman Patricia A. McGuigan is ineligible to run after serving three four-year terms. Besides Elizondo and Garcia, the others vying for her seat are Stanley Fiala, Margaret Jeanne Flindt, Robert L. Henson Sr. and Jennifer Villasenor.

Villasenor, 24, who has raised $900, is trying to appeal to young voters. As a child, she said, she heard politics discussed at her kitchen table because her father was active in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The planner for the city of Rosemead also supports more after-school programs for youths. "We have to be concerned about public safety," she said.

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