Some of Los Angeles' black leaders say they think it is time to encourage ailing Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn to re-evaluate his decision to seek another four-year term in June.
With the candidate filing period only three weeks away, two politically influential South-Central Los Angeles ministers and longtime Hahn allies said this week that they hope the 68-year-old supervisor, who suffered a stroke last January and remains on a limited work schedule, will reconsider his plans.
In delicately worded comments during separate interviews with The Times, the Rev. H. H. Brookins, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a close ally of Mayor Tom Bradley, and the Rev. Cecil Murray, pastor of one of the larger black congregations in the city, stressed they are not trying to force out Hahn.
But, given Hahn's infirmities, both suggested it may be time for him to cap his more than 40 years of public service to the county's minority community by helping to select a black successor who has broad community support. Black and Latino neighborhoods make up much of Hahn's supervisorial district.
"Kenny Hahn for a generation has been without peer," Murray said. "In deference to that generation of sensitivity and service, we would not have him a vanquished champion seeking to hold a crown that would be better placed upon younger, more vibrant heads."
Said Brookins: "The hope is that for Mr. Hahn and the community for which he has done so much . . . an appropriate legacy that he might leave would be to use his good office to encourage a black to take his seat . . . to try and retain what he has done.
"I would hope that he would consider or reconsider the proposition in light of his own physical condition."
Such comments from prominent ministers who have helped form a core of Hahn's church-based support over the years reflect a growing concern among black community leaders that the veteran supervisor may not be physically up to the demands of his office or able to complete another term. If Hahn resigns or dies in office, it would give Gov. George Deukmejian, a conservative Republican, a rare chance to install a successor in the heavily minority and Democratic district.
That turn of events would be a major setback for black activists who want a representative of a new generation to follow Hahn in office, someone in line to ascend to a top political leadership role after Bradley and Councilman Gilbert Lindsay retire.
Brookins said he will confer with black community leaders in coming days to see if there is interest in forming a committee to meet with Hahn to discuss his health and his plans.
Dan Wolf, Hahn's press deputy, said Brookins, Murray and other black leaders have not discussed such concerns with the supervisor or urged him reconsider his decision. "Since they do know Kenny, if they want to talk to him, they should pick up the phone," he said.
"The response Kenny has gotten from the black leadership, both political and religious, is, 'We're with you.' "
Hahn, who remains partially paralyzed and wheelchair bound, has missed about half the board's meetings and been hospitalized twice since returning to his duties in August. He conceded in a recent interview that his doctors have not indicated he will make significant additional improvements. But he has repeatedly contended he is getting better and still can effectively represent his Culver City-to-Lynwood district.
Hahn recently began acupuncture treatments to attempt to stimulate his nervous system and muscles, Wolf said. Since the first of the year, Hahn has increased the time he spends at the office but is still averaging only 15 to 20 hours a week, Wolf said.
Brookins' and Murray's concerns were echoed in general by several black leaders, although others said they were unaware of any organized effort to push Hahn to reconsider his plans.
"Clearly that has been some concern expressed," said John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. "But it's premature at this point to suggest it is widespread or that it has reached a point that large numbers of people are prepared to move on it one way or another."
The Rev. Paul Martin, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said he is inclined to "honor (Hahn's) own personal desires."
'A Matter of Concern'
But he also said: "From my perspective, it is a matter of concern. There has not been any dialogue" with Hahn.
The supervisor, saying the medical advice he receives is private, has declined to give his doctors permission to discuss his condition.
"There has been a sense of secrecy around that," said Martin, adding there is a "very real need" for a group of key community leaders to meet with Hahn and get more information to "alleviate concerns about his capability to stay in office."
On the basis of Hahn's 40-year record of service to the minorities in the county, most observers believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to defeat Hahn, should he run.
But a Los Angeles County supervisor's seat is among the most prized and politically powerful in the state.
What some black leaders fear is having to choose between a loyal political friend of the past, who may be physically down, and a young, rising star who holds promise for the future of black politics.
Dixon Interested in Post
Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), a respected leader of the Black Congressional Caucus and part of the influential Westside political alliance headed by Reps. Henry Waxman and Howard Berman, is interested in Hahn's seat, but could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
He has said he will not challenge Hahn, but sources close to Dixon say he is almost certain to run if Hahn chooses to step aside.
Another strong contender could be Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who is closely allied with Assembly Speaker Willie Brown's powerful political operation. Waters could not be reached for comment, but political sources say she may be interested.
Other possible candidates include former Carson Councilman Gilbert Smith. Another possibility, should Hahn not run, is Hahn's chief deputy, Mas Fukai, a Gardena city councilman and leading fund-raiser in the Asian community.