ELECTIONS LEGISLATURE, CONGRESS : Incumbents Don’t Have Much to Fear From Challengers : Politics: After the votes are counted, under-financed unknowns will most likely find it’s the status quo all over again.


Where but on the Westside can you find Zsa Zsa Gabor’s lawyer, a gay swimming pool contractor and a born-again Jew for Jesus on the ballot?

The three candidates are among a crop of challengers who have chosen to take on firmly entrenched legislators and congressmen despite overwhelming odds against their insurgent candidacies.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. May 31, 1990 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 31, 1990 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 3 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Congressional candidate--Peace and Freedom Party congressional candidate John Honigsfeld was inadvertently left out of a story published Sunday on challengers to incumbent lawmakers. Honigsfeld, a Los Angeles teacher, will face Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) and Republican Jim Salomon in the 23rd Congressional District race in November.

Under-financed, under-organized and largely unknown, the challengers do not pose a threat to the Westside’s political power structure.

In fact, their campaigns have been so low-key that, with little more than a week before voters go to the polls, there’s almost no sign of an impending election: No billboards, no bumper stickers, no posters on utility poles.


The lack of action is a testament to just how safe incumbent lawmakers are on this solidly Democratic turf. The veteran office-holders are all but assured of renomination June 5, and since the area is so reliably Democratic, the odds heavily favor their reelection in November.

Challengers may cry foul, but it is a fact of political life that after all the votes are counted, it’s most likely to be the status quo all over again.

Bruce Cain, associate director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, says the Westside is simply “hard-core liberal, Jewish and non-competitive.”

Ironically, it is precisely that state of affairs that prompted Century City attorney William Graysen to run against state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles).

Graysen, who represented Gabor in the celebrated Beverly Hills cop-slapping case, said he decided to enter the Democratic race after the Berlin Wall crumbled last fall.

“Events in Germany caused me to examine the state of government here in West Los Angeles,” Graysen said. “I found incumbents getting elected again and again. Incumbents running unopposed.”

Graysen said he decided to run because “the people don’t even have a choice, so I’m the choice.”

The 37-year-old attorney does not underestimate the task before him in trying to oust the 72-year-old Rosenthal. “I know he is a very tough candidate, that he is very entrenched.”

Rosenthal is the only senator in the state with a primary challenger, but he does not sound worried. “I think that the man is looking for a little publicity,” he said. “I’m not really that concerned.”

In his quest for a third term, Rosenthal will face Republican Michael Schrager and Peace and Freedom candidate Margery Hinds in November.

Rosenthal’s 22nd Senate District includes Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Bel-Air, Westwood, West Los Angeles, Century City, Beverly Hills, Mar Vista, the Palms area and part of Culver City.

Nearby in the 45th Assembly District, the primary fight to select a Republican challenger to Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) has taken on a personal tone.

The district, which includes Hollywood, West Hollywood, Hancock Park, Universal City, North Hollywood and part of Burbank, is nearly 59% Democratic in voter registration. Margolin is running for a sixth term after winning a landslide reelection victory two years ago.

West Hollywood swimming pool contractor Robert K. Davis is running against Hollywood businesswoman Elizabeth Michael in the GOP primary.

Davis, 45, who ran unsuccessfully for the West Hollywood City Council last month, conceded it is “doubtful that a Republican will win in November.” But Davis, who said he is gay, entered the race to oppose “certain right-wing elements in the Republican Party.” He accuses his rival of making “fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist speeches” and opposing abortion and gay rights.

Michael, 33, identifies herself as a “born-again Christian” and “a Jew who believes among other things that Jesus is the Messiah.” She strongly opposes abortion because of her religious beliefs.

But Michael’s position on gay rights is difficult to discern. “I do not have a clearly defined set of religious convictions on the subject of homosexual orientation,” she said. Nor does she take a position on the current controversy in the Republican Party over whether gay clubs should be chartered.

Margolin will face the GOP nominee and Peace and Freedom candidate Owen Staley in November.

Farther west, Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) has drawn another Democratic primary challenge from Los Angeles businessman Alex Cota.

Cota sends out crudely produced campaign mailers and sharply questions Hayden at some campaign forums. He is making his third run at the four-term lawmaker.

Cota opposes the “Big Green” environmental initiative that Hayden is sponsoring. He said the measure, which would create the office of a state environmental advocate, phase out cancer-causing pesticides and protect the coastline, is an abuse of the initiative process. And he charges that Hayden is attempting to promote himself as state environmental czar.

Hayden, 50, has said running for such a highly visible statewide office would be appealing if the initiative wins approval this fall.

Two Republicans are competing for the right to challenge Hayden in the 44th Assembly District, which includes Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista, West Los Angeles and Century City.

Gloria Stout, 45, a Pacific Palisades camera store owner, has run against Hayden twice before. She is opposed by Fred Beteta, 60, a retired aerospace associate engineer and longtime member of the Santa Monica College board of trustees.

Both candidates support abortion rights and favor more aid to education.

They differ on what to do about the homeless. Stout has called for creation of a commission to study the problem and consider shifting responsibility for the homeless from local governments to the state. But Beteta says another commission is not needed and suggests that rent subsidies may be necessary instead.

The Republicans disagree about who can best tackle Hayden.

Beteta charges that Stout has tried and failed to win elective office and that a new face is needed. “There is a choice, for a change,” he tells Republicans.

For her part, Stout questions Beteta’s commitment to the GOP, noting that he became a Republican after a falling-out with local Democrats. “What I call myself is the real Republican,” she said.

The winner of the Republican contest will face Hayden in November, as will Libertarian Rebecca Donner and Peace and Freedom candidate Timothy Burdick.

Like Hayden, Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) faces a primary challenger. Sal Genovese, 44, administrator of a private treatment program for alcoholics and drug abusers, is making his second run against Roos.

Genovese readily acknowledges that “it’s not easy to unseat a person like Mike Roos,” but says the public doesn’t like incumbents.

Roos’ 46th Assembly District includes the mid-Wilshire area, downtown Los Angeles, Silver Lake and Griffith Park.

Two Republicans, Los Angeles stockbroker Geoffrey Church and disabled Korean War veteran Howard O. Watts are running in the GOP primary. Both are anti-abortion and oppose Roos’ efforts to restrict the sale of assault rifles.

In his quest for an eighth term, Roos will face the winner of the GOP primary and the victor in the Peace and Freedom Party primary, which pits Dan Robrish against Robert Taves. Libertarian Michael Everling also will be on the November ballot.

In congressional races, Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) has no Democratic opponent. But two Republicans, West Los Angeles attorney David Barrett Cohen and Playa del Rey computer salesman Hans Yeager, are running in the GOP primary.

Issues have not divided the two Republican candidates, although campaign spending and political endorsements distinguish them.

Cohen, 30, said he plans to spend about $30,000 on his primary campaign. He has won the endorsements of state and local Republican groups and is planning a pre-primary mailer to GOP voters.

He complains about incumbent advantages, including congressional mailing privileges. Cohen wants a limit on campaign spending, a ban on contributions from political action committees, and a six-term limit for House members.

Yeager, 27, said he has spent about $3,000 for signs and a limited mailing to active Republicans. He says he brings a different style to the race. “I’m just not going to be another lawyer,” Yeager said.

He said higher taxes and reductions in defense spending may be necessary to cut the federal budget deficit.

Levine’s 27th Congressional District includes Santa Monica, part of West Los Angeles, Mar Vista, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, part of Inglewood, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Lawndale, part of Torrance and Terminal Island.

When he seeks a fifth term this fall, Levine, 46, will face the winner of the Republican race and Peace and Freedom candidate Edward Ferrer.

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), one of the leaders of the Westside’s Berman-Waxman Democratic political organization, faces a nominal primary challenge from a follower of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

Scott M. Gaulke of Studio City, who said he has been associated with LaRouche for 11 years, differs with the liberal Berman on numerous issues, including abortion.

Two Republicans, Van Nuys businessman Roy Dahlson and Sun Valley hardware manager Gary E. Forsch are seeking the right to oppose Berman. Both are anti-abortion.

On the November ballot, Berman will face, in addition to the winner of the GOP primary, Libertarian Bernard Zimring. Berman’s 26th Congressional District includes the hills above Hollywood, Bel-Air, and Beverly Hills, plus the northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Several Democratic incumbents have no primary challengers:

* Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) can concentrate his energy on the fall campaign when he is expected to face a well-financed challenge from Republican businessman Jim Salomon.

Beilenson is seeking his eighth term in Congress. Although his district is 53% Democratic in registration, he received 63.5% of the vote against Salomon two years ago.

The 23rd Congressional District includes Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Westwood, Bel-Air, Century City, Beverly Hills, Rancho Park, and the Palms area plus the northwestern part of the San Fernando Valley.

* Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) will again face Republican John N. Cowles in the fall. Peace and Freedom voters must select between candidates Vikki Murdock and Maggie Phair.

Waxman, 50, was elected to an eighth term in 1988 with 72% of the vote. His 24th Congressional District includes the Fairfax District, the Hollywood area, the edge of downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Park and North Hollywood.

* Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles) will run against Republican George Z. Adams, whom he easily defeated two years ago. Libertarian Bob Weber and Peace and Freedom candidate William R. Williams will also be on the ballot.

Dixon, 55, is seeking his seventh term. His 28th Congressional District includes Culver City, Westchester, Lennox, Baldwin Hills, and South Central Los Angeles.

* Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles), who is seeking a third term, will face Republican Gary Passi, Libertarian Andrew S. Rotter and Peace and Freedom candidate John Paul Lindblad in November.

Friedman’s 43rd Assembly District includes Bel-Air, Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills and parts of the northwestern San Fernando Valley.

* Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) is seeking a seventh term. She will again face Republican Eric Givens, whom she easily defeated two years ago.

Peace and Freedom candidate Alice Mae Miles and Libertarian Carin Rogers will also be on the ballot in the staunchly Democratic 49th Assembly District, which includes Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Westchester, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills, and the Crenshaw area.

* Sen. Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles) has no Democratic or Republican challenger in her bid for a fourth term. Watson faces only Peace and Freedom candidate Ivan Kasimoff.

Her 28th Senate District includes Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Westchester, part of Culver City, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale and part of South-Central Los Angeles.

One other state Senate contest touches the Westside. Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) will face Republican Carey Rogers of Santa Barbara and Libertarian Jay C. Wood in November. Hart’s 18th Senate District runs from the Topanga Canyon area in Malibu north to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.