With veteran state Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Norwalk) expected to win a seat on the state Board of Equalization in the Nov. 4 general election, a flock of candidates are already scrambling to raise money and organize support to run for his suburban 33rd District seat.
Should Carpenter win the November race against Republican H. Stanley Jones, a special election to fill the vacancy in his Los Angeles and Orange County Senate district is expected to be held early next year.
Even at this early date, Assemblymen Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk) and Dave Elder (D-Long Beach) and former Assemblyman Bruce Young (D-Cerritos) have voiced an interest in the Senate seat. Two other legislators are being talked about as potential candidates, and numerous city council members are jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crowded campaign field.
"I would suspect that there might be so many candidates in that race that the first one who gets 17 votes will win," Carpenter cracked.
Despite a Democratic registration edge in the district, Republican strategists say the special election would give them an excellent opportunity to capture the seat
To Stay Neutral
Carpenter, who was elected to the Senate in 1976 and turned back a strong Republican challenge in 1984, said he plans "to stay neutral" in the primary race to succeed him. However, he said that if Elder jumps into the race he would "endorse someone against him."
"The district deserves to have someone who comes from the district," said Carpenter, referring to the fact that Elder does not live there.
Young, whose Assembly district covered much of the Los Angeles County portion of the Senate district, is perhaps the best known potential candidate.
Young, now a Sacramento lobbyist, retired from the Assembly in 1984, saying he wanted to be a full-time father to his teen-age daughter. A year earlier, Young was fined $13,000 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for concealing more than $40,000 in contributions. He said his retirement was not related to the FPPC fine.
"Right now I'm not a candidate," Young said Tuesday, but he added that he is considering the race because his friends in the district and in Sacramento have asked him to throw his hat into the ring.
He said he could consider a political comeback because "I feel I've stabilized my family life," explaining that his daughter will be graduating from high school around the time of the Senate election.
Just Doesn't Know
Still, he acknowledged, "I just don't know if I want to go back to being a public official."
Other Democrats who have expressed an interest include Cypress Mayor Otto J. Lacayo and Peter C. Ohanesian, a Downey public affairs consultant who unsuccessfully ran for the state Assembly in 1984.
Democratic campaign consultants and party activists say that other potential Democratic candidates include Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), if he should lose his November race for Congress.
Still others on the Democratic list include Norwalk City Councilmen Rod Rodriguez and Cecil Green; and Kurt Haunfelner, an aide to Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and a member of the Anaheim Union High School District.
Among the Republicans who have voiced an interest are Assemblyman Grisham, who holds Young's former seat, and Cerritos City Councilmen Don Knabe and Daniel K. Wong. Others regarded as potential GOP candidates include Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who said she would have to move into the district to seek the seat; Margaret Vineyard, a former Hawaiian Gardens councilwoman who ran a surprisingly close race against Carpenter in 1984; and Buena Park Mayor Pro Tem Don Griffin.
Mostly in Southeast
Nearly three-fourths of the district's voters live in the southeastern Los Angeles County communities of Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey, East Whittier, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and South Whittier. The remainder reside in the northwestern corner of Orange County.
As of May 5, the Secretary of State's office reported that Democrats held a registration edge of 55.2% compared to 36.5% for the Republicans.
Gov. George Deukmejian must call a special election within 14 days of Carpenter leaving the Senate. The election would be held early next year. If no one emerged with more than 50% of the votes, a runoff would be held between the top Republican and top Democrat.
Republicans view the district as a conservative area that they should rightfully represent. And, they say their chances are enhanced because GOP voters traditionally turn out to vote in special elections.
Nonetheless, John Hendricks, staff director of the Senate Democratic caucus, said a conservative or moderate Democrat in Carpenter's mold could hold the seat for the Democrats.
Speculation among Democrats has turned to Young and Robinson because both would have the ability to raise a hefty campaign war chest. Lacayo, who has close ties to organized labor, is also being mentioned by party leaders, who believe that he also could raise substantial funds. Democratic activists say Robinson is considering the Senate seat as an option if he loses in November to 38th District U.S. Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Garden Grove). But publicly, Robinson declines to acknowledge he has given it any thought.
"I refuse to accept the potentiality that I would not be successful in my current endeavor," Robinson declared this week.
Assemblyman Elder, who lives outside the 33rd District, said he is checking to determine whether he would have to relinquish his Assembly seat before he could run for the Senate.
"I'm trying to gather information about it to see if it's feasible" to stay in the Assembly but campaign for the Carpenter seat, Elder said.
Carpenter termed Cypress Mayor Lacayo "a rather strong candidate." In 1974, Lacayo narrowly lost to Carpenter in a bitter Assembly Democratic primary but the former rivals say they have made peace.
On the Republican side, Assemblyman Grisham, a former congressman who was elected to the Legislature in 1984, said that if he wins reelection in November he will seriously look at the Senate race. He is facing a challenge from Democrat Bob White, a Norwalk city councilman.
Not Ruled Out
Assemblywoman Allen said she would not rule out a run for Carpenter's seat but would be more interested in succeeding Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) should his seat ever become vacant.
Cerritos City Councilman Don Knabe, who is chief of staff to Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, said that after Carpenter won the Democratic nomination for the Board of Equalization "the phone started ringing" with calls from supporters urging him to run for Carpenter's seat.
Knabe said that Grisham's entry into the race "would not have an impact on my decision." Instead, he said he wants to make sure he has the ability to raise money and organize his supporters.
Wong, his Cerritos council colleague, said that he is waiting to make sure that Carpenter wins the Board of Equalization election before deciding whether to seek the Senate seat.