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Remapping Could Bring New Faces to Political Scene : Elections: With the state Supreme Court’s proposal opening districts without incumbents, many would-be candidates are testing the waters.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County resident Brian Bennett is apartment-hunting in the South Bay this weekend. And small wonder: The former legislative aide hopes to win a seat in Congress.

Under the state Supreme Court’s proposed redrawing of California’s legislative districts, the South Bay looks like a good place to try.

“Put it this way,” said Bennett, a former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), who is now working for Southern California Edison. “If I find a place I like this weekend, I’m putting down a deposit.”

Bennett, 36, is one among many would-be candidates poised to run in the South Bay after the unveiling Monday of the Supreme Court’s redistricting plan. The proposal, scheduled for final court consideration next month, is expected to leave the area with an open congressional seat and an open state Assembly seat, both of which would favor Republicans and be up for grabs next year.

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The congressional post, representing cities from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to Venice, has piqued the interest of more than half a dozen potential GOP candidates, ranging from Bennett to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores and Maureen Reagan, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan.

“We had hoped there would be a new district in that area that would be good for a Republican and that would take in the coast,” said Reagan, a resident of West Los Angeles. “The phone has been ringing off the hook with people calling, from here straight down to the peninsula. . . . They’re saying, ‘We think this district would be terrific, wouldn’t you like to run?’ ”

The Assembly seat, covering the beach cities, most of Torrance and part of the Westside, has already drawn one announced candidate--Torrance City Councilman Dan Walker. It is also being eyed closely by other Republicans, among them Manhattan Beach Mayor Bob Holmes and South Bay Municipal Court Judge Josh Fredricks.

With California’s primaries only six months away, a crush of political polling and campaign decisions involving both seats is expected in the coming weeks.

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“Whenever you have any kind of a seat that has no incumbent you’re going to attract a lot of people,” Fredricks said. “But you can’t sit around thinking about it too long or it will pass you by.”

The open seats, to be sure, could fail to materialize if the state Legislature and Gov. Pete Wilson agree on a redistricting plan by next month. Their inability to do so thus far is what prompted the Supreme Court to take over the redistricting process, a once-a-decade realignment of legislative boundaries intended to account for population shifts.

If, as expected, the court-proposed districts are approved without major changes, the South Bay will be treated to a scramble for the two districts without incumbents.

Drawing the widest interest so far is the proposed congressional district, an amalgam of some of the territory represented now by Congressmen Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Long Beach).

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The seat would likely be open because Rohrabacher plans to run in a court-drawn district in Orange County, and Levine--who would have trouble winning the new Republican district anyway--is planning a bid for the U.S. Senate.

Besides Bennett, Flores and Reagan, others who say they are seriously considering running for the seat include: David Barrett Cohen, Levine’s GOP challenger last year; William Fahey, a Manhattan Beach resident who heads the narcotics section of the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, and William Beverly, son of state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach).

Virtually all say they will make final decisions on their candidacies within the next few weeks. Flores says that for her, the temptation to run is strong.

“I am very interested in going into another phase in my career and representing people in another arena,” said the councilwoman, an unsuccessful candidate for secretary of state last year. “If someone was going to carve a district for me for Congress, it would probably look a lot like this district.”

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Beverly said that in his case, arriving at a decision may involve traveling east on a reconnaissance trip. “I’m thinking of taking the family to Washington over the holidays and looking around, to get the feel of it,” he said.

The prospect of an open Assembly seat has drawn fewer potential candidates. Although Walker announced Tuesday that he would definitely run, Holmes, the Manhattan Beach mayor, and Fredricks, the Municipal Court judge, have yet to make up their minds.

Redondo Beach Mayor Brad Parton says he is interested in both the congressional and the Assembly seats.

“I’m looking into both of them,” he said. “I’m not dead set on running, but I’d say the chances are way above 50% that I will. The only reason I’m hesitant is that I don’t know which of the two to run for.”

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Should the two districts be established as proposed by the court, the campaigning for them is sure to be aggressive.

If the lineup of potential candidates is an indication, for instance, the congressional race would likely involve debate about candidates “parachuting” into the South Bay to run.

“Because there is no residency requirement (for congressional races) you tend to attract people who want to be a congressman more than they want to represent a specific community,” said Beverly, a former president of the South Bay Union High School District school board and the South Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Asked about such sentiment, Reagan said Friday that she lives close to the proposed district and has long been concerned about two of its key challenges--protecting the aerospace industry and the coastline.

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“I’ve always lived in coastal California,” Reagan said. “You could draw a line from Morro Bay all the way down (coastal) California and everybody would have a lot of the same concerns.”

In a race for the proposed Assembly seat, Walker says he would attract GOP voters by pointing to his work for the Republican Party and his role in organizing opposition to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird.

Holmes, however, said Walker’s opponents would probably remind voters that the Torrance councilman switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP in 1984. Said Holmes: “It would be an issue since Mr. Walker is a convert, as we say.”

Who Might Run for Congress

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Among those interested in a congressional post resulting from the state Supreme Court’s proposed redrawing of legislative districts: Brian Bennett, Former Dornan aide Joan Milke Flores, L.A. city councilwoman Maureen Reagan, Ex-president’s daughter William Beverly, Ex-school board president


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