Thirty-four-year-old Jim Brulte, a bachelor, doesn't have a lot of homey frills in his house in the Creekside section of Ontario.
Two of the three bedrooms have been converted into offices equipped with the tools of modern political technicians: telephones, computers and fax machines. At the touch of a computer button, Brulte can summon up the names of his supporters for the Republican nomination in the 65th Assembly District, see how much they have donated, and whether they have agreed to put a campaign sign in their yard or offered other aid.
Brulte's opponent, Pomona Councilman Mark A. T. Nymeyer, is running a primitive campaign by comparison--no computers, no database, no high-priced political expertise. "We're just entry-level politicians," Nymeyer said, as he discussed his election effort at his office at the Central Baptist Church in Pomona, where he is administrator and temporary pastor.
The room is full of pictures of Nymeyer's wife and four children and lined with books on Christianity and Abraham Lincoln.
Nymeyer stresses his family ties and his service in local government. By the end of the campaign, he said, "people will certainly know I am a married man and can relate to some of the problems they have."
Brulte, meanwhile, emphasizes his devotion to the Republican Party and his work for state and national leaders.
In his first run for political office, Brulte, who started working in political campaigns when he was 10, seems to have covered every base. He has sewn up key endorsements including that of the district's incumbent, Assemblyman Charles M. Bader (R-Pomona), who is giving up the seat to run for the state Senate. Brulte also has raised lots of money, hired a skilled political consultant and enlisted hundreds of volunteers.
Nymeyer, meanwhile, has been a paradox in his seven years on the City Council. He is the Baptist preacher who proposed a ballot measure to authorize poker parlors. He is the champion of business who suggested enactment of a payroll tax. He is the law-and-order man who voted to fire the police chief, antagonizing the Pomona Police Officers Assn., which made a point of endorsing his opponent.
The victor in the Republican primary will face Democrat Robert Erwin in November for what has been a Republican seat. Republicans outnumber Democrats, 50% to 40%, in the fast-growing 65th District, which stretches from Pomona south to Chino, east to Ontario and north through Rancho Cucamonga to Wrightwood in the mountains and Hesperia and Adelanto in the High Desert. More than half the Republican voters live in Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Chino. The district takes in half of the city of Pomona, which has less than 8% of the district's Republican vote.
Erwin, the only Democratic candidate on the primary ballot, is a counselor with the San Bernardino County Probation Department and owns a sandwich shop and catering business in Chino. His wife, Diane, is a member of the Chino City Council. "It's definitely an uphill battle, but it's a winnable seat" for a Democrat, Erwin said, adding that he expects to draw votes from veterans because he served in Vietnam and from abortion-rights advocates because he is the only candidate who describes himself as "pro-choice."
Brulte, who was Bader's chief of staff until he resigned in March to campaign full time, has been endorsed by every Republican mayor in the district, including Pomona's Donna Smith, as well as state Sen. Bill Leonard (R-Big Bear) and U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands). He also has strong financial backing from the district's powerful building industry.
"Most of the people who have known me and have worked with me are endorsing me," Brulte said. "Many of the people who have known and worked with Mark are also endorsing me."
Nymeyer said he is untroubled by the endorsements, including that of Bader, a former Pomona mayor, saying that such endorsements can scare away as many votes as they draw. However, he has complained about Bader's endorsement of Brulte.
"Chuck Bader has said numerous times that one of the biggest problems in Sacramento is that there are so many people up there who make decisions who have never served in local government," Nymeyer said. "And yet Chuck is supporting his man, who has never served in local government."
Brulte was 4 when his family moved from New York to California in 1960. He grew up in Ontario in a family that was interested in politics. At 10, Brulte said, he was "knocking on doors and handing out brochures" for Republican candidates.
He served as student president at Chaffey High School in Ontario, attended Azusa Pacific University, Chaffey College and Cal Poly Pomona, earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Cal Poly in 1980. He also served in the California Air National Guard and was national Airman of the Year in 1977.
His first job in government was as traveling field representative for Sen. S. I. Hayakawa in 1980. He then moved to Washington and worked for the Republican National Committee and the departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development. He also served as a member of the White House advance staff for then-Vice President Bush.
In 1986, Brulte said, he came back to Ontario to get a master's degree in business and to set up his own management development firm. He became executive director of the San Bernardino County Republican Party in 1986 and joined Bader's staff in 1987.
Brulte and Nymeyer have this in common: both are 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Nymeyer is lanky; Brulte is a husky 260 pounds.
Nymeyer, 37, grew up in the Chicago area and moved to Pomona 13 years ago to become a teacher at a school that is now closed but was then affiliated with Central Baptist Church. Nymeyer also served as coach and principal before becoming administrator of the church.
He was elected to the Pomona City Council in 1983 and was reelected four years later. He has served on the county Republican Central Committee since 1982.
Nymeyer said the fact that he is married and has four children means he can understand the problems of families better than Brulte. "This is a family district," Nymeyer said. "You really have to be married and go through the decision-making processes and struggles that married people go through to make ends meet--to provide for their families--to understand the struggles that people go through."
Brulte said he doesn't view his single status as a drawback with voters. After all, he said, Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne), has been able to represent the area well without being married.
Brulte said Nymeyer's "record as a Pomona city councilman is so bad that he is trying to run away from it." He said Nymeyer would like voters to forget that he authored a measure to put legalization of card clubs on the ballot in Pomona and once advocated a payroll tax to raise revenue.
Nymeyer said he proposed the card club measure at the request of people, whom he has declined to identify, who wanted to build a card club and hotel. The council voted to put the issue on the ballot but later rescinded the action. Nymeyer said he never endorsed the card clubs but agreed to submit the matter to voters. "Looking back, it was obviously ill-timed, just a bad decision," Nymeyer said. "I'm willing to admit I made a mistake"
Nymeyer also disowned the payroll tax, saying he had suggested a few years ago that the city look at a payroll tax as an alternative to a tax on utility bills, but dropped the idea when further study demonstrated disadvantages.
While Brulte criticizes Nymeyer's performance in office, Nymeyer said Brulte's weakness is a lack of relevant experience. Nymeyer said people who work in Washington or on state legislative staffs "lose sight of what the average person has to deal with every day."
"People need to get out in the real world and find out how the real world lives, how people struggle everyday to meet their bills," he said.
Nymeyer said Brulte is looking for a steppingstone to Congress. "From everything I know about Jim Brulte," Nymeyer said, "he has no intention of staying in this seat. He owns a condominium in Washington D.C. . . . He's just waiting for reapportionment so he can go to Washington."
Brulte said the Assembly seat is the job he wants. "I'm not interested in running for Congress," he said, adding the condominium near Washington is an investment. "I maintain it as rental property and I will sell it when it is economically advantageous to do so."
Brulte said he has raised $130,000 so far for his primary campaign and expects to raise and spend nearly $160,000. Nymeyer said he is uncertain how much he will raise, but he had collected under $30,000 as of March 17, according to the financial reports he filed with election officials.