As he spoke about his political goals at a recent Century City fund-raising dinner, Assemblyman Tom Hayden all but ignored his own reelection campaign.
In a tough race, that could be a fatal mistake. But with his fourth term virtually assured, Hayden can afford to rally his troops around other causes.
So the Santa Monica assemblyman, dressed in a somber blue suit with a John Kennedy for President lapel pin, mostly focused on the faltering Democratic presidential campaign, statewide initiatives and nuclear weapons research.
“The voters know the local issues,” Hayden said. “The only reason for me to raise and spend a lot of money would be to answer a Republican attack.”
As the Nov. 8 election nears, Hayden, 48, appears to be in better shape than ever in the wealthy and largely Democratic 44th District that includes Santa Monica, Malibu, Mar Vista, Venice, Pacific Palisades and Century City.
$100,000 for Race
He expects to spend less than $100,000 on this year’s race, a far cry from the record-setting $1.7 million he poured into his initial campaign in 1982.
In that effort Hayden captured 52.7% of the vote. Two years later, he upped it to 56%. And in 1986, he again increased his margin with 58.8% of the vote.
His opponent in the last race, Pacific Palisades businesswoman Gloria Stout, is challenging Hayden again. Stout concedes that her chances are slim.
“Sometimes I wonder why I do it,” Stout said. “A lot of people feel there is no chance at all. I see a lot of shrugs of shoulders and excuses.”
Stout, who has raised about $25,000, said most of her money is going to pay canvassers and other aides. She doubts she will have enough money for a political mailing but said she continues to wage an active campaign.
Stout said she feels a strong commitment to the 44th District, because her home and her business, a neighborhood camera shop, are located there. The 43-year-old Republican activist said she also opposes Hayden’s liberal agenda.
Stout charged that the assemblyman spends more time working on broad-based issues than in tackling the grass-roots problems that affect the district.
“Hayden is only mildly interested in the drug problem, even though the public considers it a major problem,” Stout said. “He also hasn’t done much for victims of crime. . . . I think that there are a lot of weaknesses.”
One of Stout’s major problems has been getting her campaign on track. In an early interview with a community newspaper, Stout was quoted as saying that children as young as 10 who are accused of murder should be tried as adults and that their parents should serve jail time with them.
Stout’s campaign manager later said she had been misquoted, but Hayden used the story as an opportunity to brand her as “an ignorant person.”
Then, earlier this month, Stout participated in a campaign rally in which about 500 Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese boat people were invited to protest Hayden’s radical Vietnam-era activities. Only 15 people showed up.
Strangely, Stout said one of her most reliable sources of financial support has been the $2 and $3 contributions that started arriving after a stranger placed an anti-Hayden advertisement in a military magazine on her behalf.
One of the primary differences between Hayden and her, Stout tells voters, is that she favors less government interference, while he favors more.
“I would work with the Legislature, with my constituency and with private industry to change that which is bad,” Stout said. “And I would fight to get things done, instead of just creating another committee or bureaucracy.”
Hayden said his staff is monitoring Stout’s campaign in case she makes headway. He called Stout “the assigned candidate” of the state GOP, and he criticized her for aligning herself with conservatives who have called for his ouster on grounds that the former anti-war activist is a traitor.
“I don’t mind people voting against me or protesting me,” Hayden said. “What I do take issue with is her view . . . that I don’t deserve to be in office, even if voters elect me by a majority vote.”
In his six years in office, Hayden has not been appointed to any major positions of leadership in the Legislature and has occasionally been stymied by controversy over his past. But he has also received high marks from constituents for his environmental work on behalf of Santa Monica Bay, his defense of local rent control ordinances and his efforts to improve public education.
Hayden sits on the Democratic National Committee and his statewide political organization, Campaign California, has helped register more than 42,000 new Democrats since last June.
The group is also supporting three initiatives on the November ballot, the cigarette tax (Proposition 99), the state occupational safety and health plan (Proposition 97) and the homeless-aid package (Proposition 95).
As he encounters voters around the district, Hayden said most are far more interested in talking to him about presidential politics than his own race.
“Democrats have an interest in seeing the Democratic ticket prevail,” Hayden said. “And they are very frustrated.”