Beilenson a Target : 2 Congressional Races May Turn Into Dogfights

Times Staff Writer

The slate of candidates who will be running for Congress this year in the San Fernando Valley was completed Friday, but it was too early to tell if any of the four races would be close enough to grab or sustain voters’ attention.

Two races, however, show promise.

In the 23rd Congressional District, George Woolverton, a Tarzana Republican who works as a workers’ compensation attorney, hopes to unseat five-term Democratic Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson. Beilenson, though perennially nervous, historically has never had any trouble squashing Republican challenges.

But Woolverton, a moderate Republican, has registered 10,000 new Republican voters in the district in recent months and has been courting the Republican Party to target the race. Targeting would help Woolverton collect the $750,000 he thinks it would take to win.


May Be First Serious Contender

Some Republican strategists suggest that Woolverton is the first serious challenger Beilenson has ever had to face in the district, which includes Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills and a large chunk of the Westside. This could force Beilenson, who has always refused contributions from political action committees, to spend more than the minimal amount of money he has spent in his earlier campaigns.

Another potential dogfight is shaping up in the 21st Congressional District, which includes portions of Ventura County, the northern San Fernando Valley and the Sunland-Tujunga area. In that district, Simi Valley Mayor Elton Gallegly and Tony Hope, the son of entertainer Bob Hope, will be competing for the Republican nomination.

The Republican contest was triggered by incumbent Bobbi Fiedler’s decision to run for the U. S. Senate. The Republican who wins the June primary is virtually guaranteed victory in the general election because of the district’s overwhelming Republican makeup.

Whatever happens, the Valley contests this year probably will not be as dull as those in 1984, when all the Valley incumbents handily defeated a collection of political neophytes and perennial candidates.

Challengers who have entered Valley-area congressional races include a former mayor of Avalon, a university instructor, a movie executive, businessmen and a Tarzana music instructor who decided to run after he won $50,000 in the state lottery.

Democratic Rep. Henry A. Waxman, whose predominantly Westside district spills into North Hollywood, Burbank and Studio City, is the only incumbent who will face neither a Democratic nor Republican opponent. Waxman, one of the most powerful members of the House, is being challenged by Libertarian George Abrahams and Peace and Freedom candidate James Green, both of Los Angeles.

It appears that Waxman’s friend and colleague, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), also might breeze through his third congressional election. His three unknown Republican challengers are C. C. (Mel) Alferero, a consultant from Panorama City; Robert M. Kerns, a Northridge businessman, and Kenneth Frazier of Canoga Park.

‘Uphill Battle’

In the 23rd District, Woolverton, 35, hopes to prevent a potential Democratic cakewalk. The attorney says the district’s constituency is too conservative to keep sending Beilenson to Washington.

“It’s an uphill battle, obviously,” Woolverton said. But, he added, “It’s definitely winnable based upon my strengths and his weaknesses.”

Beilenson’s strongest support has come from liberal Jewish Westsiders but redistricting has plopped more of his territory in the conservative Valley. The Valley now makes up more than 60% of the district, which voted for President Reagan in 1984. Republican registration in the 23rd District has been steadily increasing from 32% in 1982 to 37% today.

But, Beilenson says, Democrats and Republicans alike have always valued his reputation as an independent thinker who will not automatically vote along party lines.

“I find I get a lot of support from a lot of people who believe me to be intellectually honest and who believe I do the right things,” he said. “I don’t hesitate to cast votes that I know can be used against me publicly.”

Two Democratic Opponents

Beilenson’s two Democratic opponents are Eric C. Jacobson of Los Angeles and William J. Kurdi, a university instructor from Los Angeles who has been running unsuccessfully for state and federal offices in the Valley for almost 10 years. Also in the race are Peace and Freedom candidate Tom Hopke of Los Angeles and Libertarian Taylor Rhodes, a businessman from Beverly Hills, who ran against Democratic Assemblyman Gray Davis in 1984.

In the 21st District, the Republican primary has attracted a good deal of media attention because of the Hope’s entry into the race and the early departure of Assemblyman Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks. McClintock withdrew earlier this week, saying Hope could easily outspend him. McClintock will be seeking his old Assembly seat.

Barry Goldwater Jr. is another prominent Republican who decided not to enter the race. Last month, the former Valley congressman said he was seriously considering re-entering politics, but the deadline expired without his filing. He could not be reached for comment.

Gallegly and Hope, an attorney who recently returned to the district from Washington, are trying to woo McClintock supporters into their camps. McClintock has not endorsed anyone in the race.

Party Sought Strong Candidate

The national Democratic Party had sought a prominent Democrat, including state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), to run in the 21st District. Neither filed, however.

But six Democrats did enter the race. The best known is Gilbert R. Saldana, who became one of the youngest mayors in the country in 1982 when, at 23, he took over the post in Avalon. Santa Catalina Island is part of the oddly shaped 21st District.

The other contenders are Stephen H. Dart, a Northridge businessman; Don Parker, a movie industry executive; Robert Feldburg of Westlake Village; George Margolis, a Simi Valley businessman who has waged numerous unsuccessful attempts at elective office, and Anthony T. Irek, a Tarzana music teacher whose $50,000 lottery ticket helped him decide to run.

The other candidate in the 21st District is Libertarian Daniel Weiner of Simi Valley.