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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS

Runoff Is Set for Long Beach Mayoral Race

In Vernon, the city clerk locks up ballots and announces that they won't be counted until litigation in the council race is completed.

April 12, 2006|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

In elections with few surprises but a dose of quirkiness, the candidate who spent the most money in the Long Beach mayor's race garnered the most votes Tuesday and a spot in the runoff, while the city of Vernon lived up to its reputation as an odd-ball city with a last-minute decision not to count the votes on election day.

In terms of city size, the most important race of the day was in Long Beach -- the state's fifth largest municipality -- where Bob Foster, a former president of Southern California Edison, led by a wide margin in incomplete returns but fell short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff election with the second-highest vote-getter, Councilman Frank Colonna.

The Long Beach race also was notable because it marked the stepping down of Mayor Beverly O'Neill after three terms -- the last one on a write-in vote.

Foster, who raised more than $650,000 in campaign funds -- more than all mayoral candidates combined -- also had influential endorsements from police and fire unions.

During the campaign, Colonna, who raised $238,166, likened himself to David and compared Foster to Goliath

In a hard-fought campaign, incumbent Long Beach City Auditor Gary Burroughs was losing to challenger Laura Wilson Doud, who once worked in the office.

Runoffs were shaping up in City Council Districts 3 and 5. The leading vote-getter in District 5 was write-in candidate Jackie Kell, an incumbent who could not have her name on the ballot because of term-limit rules.

The election in Vernon had a Keystone Kops feel to it almost from the beginning, and certainly on election day with the decision not to count the votes.

It was, among other things, the first contested City Council election in 25 years. The race included a cast of old-guard council members and three new arrivals who managed to keep the election in the courts until election day.

Vernon is unique -- some call it peculiar to the extreme -- in that it has 86 registered voters even though about 44,000 people work in the city's five square miles of low-slung industrial and commercial buildings.

This year, three entrenched incumbents were challenged by three candidates who set up residence in the tiny city and filed to run for office. Within days, the building where they were living was red-tagged as unsafe and dangerous and their electricity was cut off.

But after a series of court challenges, the three prevailed and their names were on the Tuesday ballot.

After the polls closed, City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr. carried a red metal box containing ballots into the council chambers and said it would be kept locked until pending litigation over the election was completed.

In another Southland race, voters in Malibu soundly defeated a measure to soften term limits, 1,796 to 680.

And in Arcadia, an $8-million rail bond passed by a more than 2-1 margin.

The Lawndale city clerk's race was too close to call.

In Avalon, on Catalina Island, challenger Robert Kennedy defeated incumbent Mayor Ralph Morrow.

Times staff writers Hector Becerra, Stephen Clark, Lynn Doan, Arin Gencer and Hemmy So contributed to this report.

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