CERRITOS — Despite plenty of controversy, Carol Chen was reelected to the City Council Tuesday and George Ray won an open seat, becoming the newest member, according to unofficial election returns.
"First, I want to thank our citizens, who I think are the most intelligent - knowing what is going on in the city and (who) have chosen the best candidates to serve on the City Council," Chen told supporters Tuesday night at City Hall. "I am truly grateful for another opportunity to serve you for another four years."
With all precincts reporting, Chen had 3,438 votes, while Ray received 3,316.
"I'm overwhelmed by the residents in Cerritos and the voters who came out to support me," Ray said. "I'm looking forward to serving the citizens of Cerritos."
James Kang, an ABC Unified School District board member, received 1,096 votes; Frank Aurelio Yokoyama, a Cerritos planning commissioner and an attorney, had 2,623; K.Y. Ma, a retired police officer, had 953; and Gerad Valencia, a homemaker, had 203. Ray is the chairman of a manufacturing company.
Controversy was plentiful during the race.
In recent weeks the local newspaper, the Los Cerritos Community News, reported alleged misuse of public funds by Chen and two other council members during trips for city business. The council members denied the charges.
Then the newspaper ran an advertisement, reportedly funded by a political action committee founded by the publisher, calling Chen "an agent of communist China." Chen and other council members held a press conference denouncing the ad as racially motivated.
"It's real gratifying to know that our residents can see through some of the unfortunate negativity that came in this election that was so unwanted," Chen said Tuesday. "This is not representative of our community. We are such a harmonious community and have a lot of important issues we need to deal with."
Amid the controversy, the council candidates focused on issues such as the loss of redevelopment funds and improving public safety.
Throughout the campaign, council hopefuls said they were concerned about the city's future without redevelopment. Late last year the city repaid the state $10.1 million due to the dissolution of its redevelopment agency, which had used property tax revenue to spur business development.
"I will bring a new sense to the city when it comes to management and finances and the budget," Ray said. "So, we're going to face some tough times. We're going to make some tough decisions as a City Council."
Several projects, such as low- to moderate-income housing developments, will be greatly affected without redevelopment, Ray said.
Chen also said she plans to "contain costs and maintain financial stability with a balanced budget."
Maintaining Cerritos' business-friendly environment is also essential, said Ray.
"My top priority will be to remove any barriers that will cause businesses to move out of Cerritos, which will attract new business to the city," he said at a candidate forum.
Several candidates expressed concern during the campaign about the rise of crime in the city, a factor they said could deter future businesses and residents.
According to the city's crime statistics, 283 residential burglaries occurred in 2012, up from 217 in 2011.