Marguerite Archie-Hudson came into the battle for the Democratic nomination for Maxine Waters' 48th Assembly District seat with heavy-duty political armaments.
She had a larger war chest than any of her opponents, the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party, plus the blessings of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and Waters, a Democrat who is vacating her seat after a 14-year tenure to run for Congress. Perhaps most important, she had access to Waters' highly effective political machine.
But in the final days of the primary campaign, it remains unclear whether Archie-Hudson, a one-time Brown aide and former Los Angeles Community College District trustee, can parlay those advantages into a victory Tuesday over Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, the most formidable of her opponents.
Three other Democratic candidates are considered long shots in the race.
Even some of Farrell's staunchest political foes are cautiously giving him the edge in the race, despite questions raised last week about whether he is legally eligible to be a candidate.
Farrell's voter registration card lists an address in the 48th District as his residence, but the owners of the home dispute that, saying Farrell began the process of buying the property from them in February but allowed the deal to lapse.
California law requires that candidates for Assembly seats live in their respective districts at the time nomination filing papers are issued. Aside from the legal question surrounding Farrell's residency, the flap has raised the political question of his commitment to the 48th District.
Kerman Maddox, who helped spearhead an unsuccessful drive to recall Farrell from his council seat two years ago, said the residency issue may have cropped up too late to harm Farrell.
"Had this come out a week before and dragged out, Marguerite could have snatched it and run," Maddox said. "It's a great hit. It's a real issue. But it's real late."
Political observers agree that the one most important advantage Farrell has in the race is name recognition.
He has been on the City Council 16 years, and in that time has built a following of loyal supporters. His council district overlaps much of the portion of the 48th Assembly District that is within the city of Los Angeles. The district also includes the cities of Lynwood and South Gate, as well as unincorporated county areas.
Ferdia Harris, 73, a longtime community activist who heads a coalition of 30 block clubs in South-Central and Southeast Los Angeles, said she doesn't care whether Farrell actually lives in the 48th.
"None of them live where they say they live. It's just a joke anyway," she said, referring to officeholders and candidates in South-Central in general.
Willis Pursley, another coalition leader, also continues to support Farrell.
"He just should have gotten a better lie, and he should have gotten his lie together," said Pursley.
Despite such support, Farrell's record has been the subject of harsh criticism during the campaign. His opponents have contended that his future effectiveness as a politician can be best measured by the deterioration that has occurred within his council district during his tenure. They cite increases in gang violence, drug-trafficking and other crimes, the flight of businesses from the district and chronic joblessness among many of its residents.
Archie-Hudson, at a candidates forum last week, promised that as an Assembly member she would push for state programs that stress job training, economic development and improvements to public schools.
Similar promises were made by the other Democratic candidates, Lynwood City Councilwoman Evelyn Wells, political consultant Roderick Wright and write-in candidate Brenda Moffett, a Watts activist.
The Democrat who is victorious Tuesday will face Republican Gloria Salazar and Libertarian Jose Castaneda in the November general election.