Rep. Matthew G. (Marty) Martinez (D-Monterey Park) scored a surprisingly easy victory over his Republican challenger Tuesday as voters reelected all of the area’s incumbent congressmen and state legislators.
Martinez gained more than 60% of the vote in the 30th Congressional District even though he had just come through a bruising primary and was outspent, $300,000 to $100,000 by his Republican opponent, Ralph R. Ramirez.
Wide as the margin was in the 30th District, it was still the closest congressional contest in the San Gabriel Valley. Other incumbents who won easily were Reps. Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente) in the 34th District, with 63% of the vote; David Dreier (R-La Verne) in the 33rd District and Carlos J.Moorhead (R-Glendale) in the 22nd District, each with 69%, and Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles) in the 25th District, with 85%.
The Assembly races were just as lopsided. But Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier), who have been named as targets in an FBI investigation of corruption in Sacramento, won by smaller margins than they enjoyed 2 years ago.
Nolan, who defeated Democrat John Vollbrecht 67% to 30% in 1986 in the 41st District, won 58% to 38% against the same opponent Tuesday. Hill, who received 69% of the vote 2 years ago, gained 63% this time in the 52nd District.
Hill’s challenger, Terry Lee Perkins, a Walnut teacher, said she doubted the FBI investigation hurt Hill since no charges have been filed. She said she “would like to think it was my campaign” and not the investigation that reduced the victory margin this year.
Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte), who scored a comparatively narrow 53% to 45% victory over former El Monte Councilman Henry Velasco in 1986, widened the gap to 65% to 33% Tuesday against the same opponent.
One difference was that Velasco, who received $213,000 from the Assembly Republican caucus 2 years ago, did not get financial aid this time in the 60th District.
But money was not the decisive factor in the race for Congress between Martinez and Ramirez.
Martinez, who won election to Congress in 1982 over an opponent who spent more than $1 million, said he has grown accustomed to being outspent by Republicans.
The Republican Party has always viewed Martinez as vulnerable even though he represents a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1.
“If they want to keep wasting their money, let them,” Martinez said. “A Republican can win if he can walk on water.”
The results seemed to stun Ramirez, who spent more than 18 months campaigning for the office full time, received $45,000 in cash and services from the Republican National Congressional Campaign Committee, benefited from district appearances by nationally known Republicans, and had enough money to send a dozen mailers to voters.
Ramirez had thought that Martinez had been badly damaged by savage personal attacks by former Monterey Park Mayor Lily Chen in a tough Democratic primary in June.
Evidence of Popularity
But Gary Townsend, an aide to the congressman, said the failure of voters to be swayed by personal attacks in the primary and in previous elections showed just how solidly entrenched Martinez is.
“I don’t think there is anything he could be hit with that he hasn’t been hit with,” Townsend said.
The congressman’s daughter, Diane Martinez, a member of the Garvey school board, said the secret to her father’s success has been his willingness to use his office to deal with local problems, joining one community’s battle over a school location and another city’s effort to attract a new supermarket, and to help residents with personal problems, such as immigration or Social Security benefits. “It’s a whole lot of small issues,” she said. “He reaches out.”
The congressman said he was so confident of victory that “we did less (campaigning) than we normally would do.”
While Ramirez was sending a dozen mailers to voters, Martinez mailed a potholder, two letters and a slate mailer.
Ramirez, who turned 51 Wednesday, stubbornly refused to concede defeat into the early morning hours, even though Martinez led from the first returns and steadily maintained a wide lead.
In the Democratic primary, Martinez was accused of overpaying a staff member, whom Chen labeled as his “girlfriend,” and of other abuses of his office. Martinez denied the charges.
The campaign Ramirez ran was mild by comparison, focusing on issues and performance rather than personal character, while accusing Martinez of absenteeism and ineffectiveness. In his campaign literature, Ramirez stressed his own strong background in business and as former director of the state division of industrial accidents and portrayed himself as a Latino family man with strong roots in the community.
Ramirez said he had no regrets about the kind of campaign he ran.
“I have no misgivings,” he said. “We did it above-board. I can hold my head up. We did everything we could.”
In the 34th Congressional District, Republican challenger Charles House, a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff from Hacienda Heights, enlivened the final weeks of the campaign by accusing Torres of unethical business dealings and misrepresenting his college background. Torres denied the charges.
Despite the loss, House said he had no regrets about his campaign strategy. “People have a right to know about their congressman,” House said.
House said he will run again in 1990. “I know Torres is just too liberal for the people of this district,” he said.
Torres won his fourth term 63% to 35%, with a Libertarian candidate taking the remainder of the vote.