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People and Events

<i> From staff and wire reports</i>

After a search of their records, state election officials say Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood) made history Tuesday. Tucker, who died last month, became the first California legislator to win posthumously at the polls.

Tucker would be pleased to know that he won easily, gaining 71% of the vote.

Michael Davis, the GOP loser, got the message.

“The people have made it clear they wish to be represented by a Democrat no matter what the circumstances,” said Davis, who becomes the answer to a new political trivia question.

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Before Tucker, several other deceased legislators sought office in California, but all failed. The most recent was Republican state Sen. Jess Dorsey of Kern County, who died too late to have his name removed from the 1958 ballot.

On a national level, Republican vice presidential candidate James Sherman died during the 1912 campaign; he and running mate William Howard Taft drew more than 3 million votes in a losing cause.

Tucker’s party had trumpeted his candidacy right up to Election Day, aware that if he won, a special election would be called in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Tucker, Inglewood’s first black councilman and assemblyman, had previously won seven consecutive elections to the Statehouse.

While some voters were still unaware of his death Tuesday, others indicated that his passing was no reason to vote for a Republican.

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“As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one man running,” said one Tucker backer.

“There are a lot of snakes people find in this particular milieu,” comic Larry Wilson told onlookers Thursday at the Century City Shopping Center. “Have you been to any of the bars here?”

But, Wilson continued, none had “the nice colors and patterns” of those that were stretched out in front of him at the Snake Beauty Contest that he was emceeing.

Twenty slithering lovelies showed up, most wrapped around an owner’s waist, elbow or neck, although one python arrived in a Gelson’s shopping cart.

The shopper serpent, a 16-foot, 150-pounder named Samantha, won first prize of $250 for best personality--meaning she didn’t lose her temper.

A petite albino Boa constrictor, just 7 feet long, was judged most beautiful, winning $500 for owner Steven Osborne, 30, an air-traffic controller from Quartz Hill.

A crowd of about 30 passers-by watched the event from a respectful distance. Some tourists seemed surprised, even if the event was a promo for a movie.

Noted Ron Campbell, a truck driver from the Midwest: “People are a little different out here than back in Chicago.”

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For some Westside residents, this election may not be remembered so much for the politicians who put them to sleep as for the commentator who woke them up.

Political analyst William Schneider was supposed to give a live commentary for National Public Radio at 3:30 in the morning. The radio spot, intended for East Coast audiences, was to be recorded at NPR’s studio in West Los Angeles.

“I had a taxi pick me up from my downtown hotel but when we got to the studio, no one was there,” recalled Schneider, who is also a Times analyst. “They’d apparently forgotten that I was coming. I said to the taxi driver, ‘What’ll I do?’ He suggested a pay phone at a nearby gas station.”

Once he reached NPR in Washington by telephone, Schneider was forced to shout his analysis because the connection was less clear than a studio line. That’s when houses in the neighborhood started to light up and residents came outside.

“People were asking, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Schneider said. “I think they thought there was a murder or something. My driver would tell them, ‘Oh, this guy’s doing a commentary.’ ”

His radio spot lasted 10 minutes.

“Fortunately,” he said, “none of the residents started arguing with me in the middle of the piece.”


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