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ORANGE COUNTY | ORANGE COUNTY ELECTIONS 2002

Dramatics, Not Issues, Shape Mayoral Race

October 16, 2002|Vivian LeTran | Times Staff Writer

Begin by understanding that one mayoral candidate likes to wear a gold-colored cardboard crown from Burger King and carries a puppet dressed in prison garb.

Another candidate, a former police officer who was fired for allegedly using excessive force, has filed a defamation suit against the mayor. He says the mayor called him a "convicted felon," which he says he is not.

And the mayor, seeking a fifth straight term, has responded with a legal complaint of his own, saying he is being harassed by the former policeman, whom he calls "one of the most negative human beings I know."

If it's civility voters want, Garden Grove might be a tough place to find it. Voters in the central Orange County city are being asked to choose among three candidates on the November ballot who, some say, are providing more spectacle than meaningful debate.

"I'm very tired of it. There's just too much drama. It's like a TV sitcom with all the political games," said resident Robert Walker, 52, who has lived in town for 25 years. "I'm waiting for Hollywood to come down and make a comedy show of Garden Grove."

The mayoral race is a tangle of extreme personalities who appear to share little love for one another.

Bruce Broadwater became the mayor of Garden Grove in 1994. He has served four straight two-year terms and is seeking to finish a full decade as the city's top elected official. A strong advocate of revitalization and redevelopment, he is known as "the Bulldozer" by some, a title he now flaunts. He contends the city has flourished during his tenure.

Broadwater is being challenged by Tony Flores, a former policeman who lost his job with the city's police force in 1988. A soccer dad and PTA member, Flores says he is a longtime resident who has grown disillusioned with the city's direction, particularly its aggressive redevelopment push. Flores, a workers' compensation agent, said Garden Grove has become overbuilt and overrun by big business.

The third candidate is Will B. King, a flamboyant sort who describes himself as the biggest gadfly in the nation. In 1995, King made national headlines during the O.J. Simpson murder trial when he was removed from the courtroom while dressed in women's clothing. He was convicted six years ago of threatening his former wife's fiance with a toy bomb, but the conviction was overturned. Listed on the ballot as Will B. King, he also goes by William Beckingham.

In addition to sorting out the mayoral contest, voters in Garden Grove will be asked to choose among five candidates seeking two council seats.

The mayoral candidates avoid one another when possible. Other times they've yelled, exchanged snide remarks and hurled insults at one another, observers say. At one candidates debate, King tossed around a puppet effigy of the mayor in prison clothes and called his opponents "maggots."

While King has injected an unpredictable quality into the race, it's the bitterness between Broadwater and Flores that has caught the attention of those who follow city politics.

Flores filed a defamation lawsuit against Broadwater in late August, alleging the mayor called him "a felon" during a private City Hall meeting with a constituent who had wanted Flores to attend the meeting.

Broadwater countersued Flores last month, seeking to have Flores' suit dismissed and his attorneys fees paid.

Broadwater denies he called Flores a felon. Instead, the mayor states in his lawsuit that he said Flores is "as close to being a felon without being one." He is seeking an Oct. 31 hearing.

Wearisome voters say the mudslinging has gotten worse and needs to stop.

"I have to remind myself: Let's stick to the issue, let's stick to the issue," said Verla Lambert, 65. "I think there's too many distractions with all the bad blood between the men. When you're slinging mud back and forth, that doesn't help voters. We're not voting for who slings the most mud against the other. Just stick to the issues."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Who's appearing on the ballot

Candidates for the Nov. 5 election:

*--* Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater*, Mayor Will B. King, Public affairs/CEO Anthony Joseph "Tony" Flores, Maritime claims adjuster

*--*

*--* City Council (2 seats) Pedro Mendoza, General contractor Joseph Pak, Community relations director Chris Prevatt, Health services planner William "Bill" Dalton*, Councilman/retired policeman Mark Leyes*, City Council member

*--*

*--* * Incumbent

*--*

*

Candidate Forums Set

Here are some upcoming candidate forums in Orange County:

Costa Mesa City Council, Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Harbor Christian Fellowship, 740 Wilson St., Costa Mesa.

Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees, Tuesday at 7 p.m., Savanna High School Auditorium, 301 N. Gilbert St., Anaheim.

Orange County Judicial Candidates, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m., Whittier Law School, 3333 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa.

Garden Grove City Council, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m., West Grove Park, Stanford Avenue and Casper Street, Garden Grove.

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