Compton election results may prompt power shift

The balance of power may have shifted in Compton with the results of a City Council runoff in an election that spurred attacks on the conduct of both candidates.

Challenger Janna Zurita defeated incumbent Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun — who unseated Zurita’s mother from the council eight years ago.

The runoff election held Tuesday night was too close to call. Final results announced Thursday afternoon showed Zurita won by 109 votes, taking 51.7% of the vote.

Voter turnout, typically low in Compton, was no exception this time. Less than 8% of registered voters cast ballots.

Calhoun declined to comment on the election results. Zurita, reached en route to visit a family member in the hospital, said only, “I’m humbled and I have a lot of work to do.”

In the past, Calhoun and Councilwoman Lillie Dobson had formed a majority voting bloc with Mayor Eric Perrodin, although Calhoun has recently opposed the mayor on some major initiatives. In April, she cast the deciding vote to kill plans to create a Compton Police Department, and last month, she voted against authorizing the city manager to lay off employees. Nevertheless, Perrodin gave Calhoun his endorsement.

Zurita’s mother, Delores Zurita, was on the council during the days of former Mayor Omar Bradley, who is also Delores Zurita’s nephew. Bradley was convicted in 2004 of misappropriating city funds over his use of city credit cards. Delores Zurita was acquitted of charges in the same case, but not before losing her seat to Calhoun in 2003.

In the weeks before the runoff election, supporters of each candidate leveled charges of misconduct against the other. Zurita was the subject of a complaint to the district attorney’s office alleging that she does not live in the district she will represent, while a rumor that Calhoun received a $5,000 personal loan from Compton City Clerk Alita Godwin during the campaign led Godwin to post a written denial on the city’s website.

Dave Demerjian, head of the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, said the office has an inquiry open into the allegation regarding Zurita’s residency, but it has not progressed to a full-blown investigation. His office was not investigating the alleged loan, which Demerjian said would fall under the jurisdiction of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The commission had no complaint on file against either candidate.

–Abby Sewell

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