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Compton voters weigh crowded ballot in mayor's race

April 16, 2013|By Angel Jennings
  • Candidates for Compton mayor appear at a forum earlier this month.
Candidates for Compton mayor appear at a forum earlier this month. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)

Compton residents went to the polls Tuesday to cast their votes for the city's next mayor, choosing from a crowded ballot filled with familiar and unknown names.

A dozen candidates appeared on the ballot, including current Mayor Eric Perrodin; former Mayor Omar Bradley, whose conviction on corruption charges was overturned last year; several community activists; and some newcomers, including urban planner Aja Brown and former child star Rodney Allen Rippy, who appeared in Jack in the Box commercials.

As voters left the polls, many echoed the same sentiment: They were looking for change. Some hoped they could usher in a new regime that could lead Compton in a new direction.

Donald Patton, 52, said he normally stays home for the municipal race but felt this election was too important to skip. With the city recovering from a $40-million budget deficit, he wanted to make sure the next set of leaders can push the city forward. He said he cast his vote for Brown. 

"It's good to have somebody young with fresh ideas," Patton said. "I just want to see change in my community."

The mayor's race comes as Compton faces a crossroads. The city, once notorious for violent crime and blight, has seen crime -- particularly homicide -- plummet over the last decade. There has also been much-needed economic development. But a financial meltdown at City Hall threatened that progress.

Two years ago, the general fund had run up a $40-million deficit because for years, officials had raided the city's water, sewer and retirement funds when the general fund ran short on cash. The city laid off 15% of its employees and cut back on services such as graffiti removal, tree trimming and street maintenance.

Patsy Rice, 61, said she missed the simple things the city once offered, such as the Christmas decorations that used to line the city's major thoroughfare. The lights and holiday cheer have been absent for the last two years. 

Additionally, Rice said her water bill continues to spike. She said she voted for Bradley, who was mayor of Compton for eight years before losing to Perrodin. He was sent to jail in 2001 for misappropriating public funds. 

Despite his troublesome past, Rice said, she was willing to give Bradley a second chance.

"Maybe we could have been in better shape" if Bradley remained as mayor, she said.

But Alex Hooper said the city would be worse under Bradley. The 43-year-old voted specifically to keep Bradley from returning to the mayoral seat.

"I want to make sure those knuckleheads don't get in," Hooper said.  "The city is straight right now. Every city has a deficit. It would be more of a deficit if he gets back in."

Tuesday afternoon, half a dozen police officers showed up at Christ First Missionary Baptist Church along with City Clerk Alita Goodwin after a polling worker complained of a campaign worker soliciting voters.  Officers pushed the campaign to the other side of the street.

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 twitter: @LATangel

angel.jennings@latimes.com

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