Imagine running for office in a district whose boundaries are unclear, on an election day that could change, against opponents who remain unknown.
That is the daunting prospect facing Sarah Flores and Greg O'Brien, candidates for the 1st District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Flores, a former deputy to Supervisor Pete Schabarum, and O'Brien, a Superior Court judge, were the two top vote-getters in the June 5 election to replace the retiring Schabarum. Under normal circumstances, they would be preparing for a November runoff to see who would represent a district that includes much of the San Gabriel Valley and the southeast part of the county.
But U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon threw their election plans into limbo a day before the primary when he ruled that the current supervisorial districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act by unfairly diluting the strength of Latinos.
Kenyon will preside over a hearing Thursday to review an alternative map of the supervisorial districts that was submitted last week by the county. If he doesn't like that plan, he could accept districts drawn by the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Or the judge could draw a map of his own. He must also decide whether to invalidate the primary and order a new election.
Established politicians such as Rep. Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente) and Los Angeles City Council members Gloria Molina and Richard Alatorre have said they are considering a run for supervisor in a new, predominantly Latino district. As conceived by the supervisors, that would be the 3rd District.
But Judge Kenyon could redraw the boundaries to place a majority of Latinos in the 1st District, which would, theoretically, make the race appealing to the powerful Latino politicians.
Both Flores and O'Brien--who live just 12 doors apart in Glendora, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains--say they intend to run regardless of how the 1st District is redrawn. But sometimes they must struggle to buck up their spirits and to build enthusiasm for their campaigns.
"If I sound down, I guess what is dominating my thoughts right now is that we may well be back into a primary," O'Brien said. "And then it would be April of 1991 for the general election. . . . Good grief!"
Flores said: "The hardest part is not knowing, trying to strategize and make several plans based on assumption and not knowledge. We will have to regroup and perhaps focus on cities we haven't focused on before."
Flores finished on top of a 10-candidate primary field, with 34.69% of the vote, while O'Brien finished second with 20.1%.
Both agreed that fund raising has been nearly impossible since Kenyon threw the validity of the primary result into doubt.
With the backing of Supervisors Deane Dana and Mike Antonovich, Flores collected more than $400,000 before the primary, to top all other candidates. "We expected to raise another $100,000 from June 5, 1990, through June 19, 1990," Flores wrote in a declaration to Kenyon. "Instead, we raised only $500."
O'Brien, who raised about $300,000 in the primary, said he is collecting previous pledges but has temporarily stopped soliciting new contributions.
"We are waiting because all the contributors are waiting to see what is happening," O'Brien said.
Flores said in a declaration to Kenyon that the uncertainty surrounding the election has also "made it impossible for me to . . . generate enthusiasm among volunteers and voters."
She wrote the judge that he should not invalidate the primary, because she is "within striking distance" of becoming the first Latino ever elected to the Board of Supervisors."
Flores said she is seeking to consolidate her support with endorsements from local city officials.