In the world of politics, the new 41st Congressional District is a land of opportunity.
Without an incumbent to claim the district that stretches from Rowland Heights, Diamond Bar and Pomona to San Bernardino and Orange counties, eight candidates are seeking their parties' nomination in the June 2 primary. Of the eight, six are Republican, one is a Democrat and one carries the banner for the Peace and Freedom Party.
The front-runners in the Republican race are former Assemblyman Charles W. Bader, 52, of Pomona; Diamond Bar Mayor Jay Kim, 53, who owns an engineering design firm; and businessman James V. Lacy, 39, who was an attorney with the U.S. Department of Commerce before moving to Yorba Linda to enter the race.
Also seeking the Republican nomination are John Hoover, 39, of Fullerton, who develops industrial training programs; George Henry Margolis, 60, of Yorba Linda, an unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate in the 1990 election; and James Todhunter, 47, of Irvine, a small-business owner.
One of Bader's greatest assets as he entered the race--his lengthy political record--is being targeted by his opponents as a liability.
Lacy, who holds his own credentials as a political insider, is nonetheless hoping to capitalize on voters' anti-incumbency fever by casting Bader as a career politician.
"He has run for office 20 times in the last 21 years," Lacy said. "I am convinced that the voters are sick and tired of seeing the same, tired old faces."
But Bader replied, "I won all except three elections," indicating to him that voters support his voting record.
He first served on the Pomona City Council beginning in 1971 and later held a seat in the state Assembly from 1982 to 1990. He left the Assembly for an unsuccessful bid for a state Senate seat in 1990.
In the contest for endorsements from political allies, Bader has won the support of former Gov. George Deukmejian, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), and a number of state officials, including Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra), 18 mayors and council members from within the district, and local police unions.
Bader said he supports political reform measures such as term limits for House members; opposes abortion rights except in the cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger, and opposes legislation requiring a waiting period to buy a handgun.
Pointing to his Assembly record as a barometer of his support for fiscal constraints on government, Bader said he does not support President Bush's proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families to help them secure health care, although he would support tax credits to small businesses so that they may provide coverage for employees.
Lacy is selling himself as the most conservative candidate in the race and one who has actively campaigned for term limits for House members.
Having held several managerial posts in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and Bush, Lacy also highlights his background as a former aide to the late Howard Jarvis during the Proposition 13 campaign and points to endorsements from the head of Americans for Tax Reform, the California Republican Assembly, and Orange County Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Long Beach). He also picked up an endorsement this week from Assemblyman Paul Horcher (R-Hacienda Heights).
Lacy supports another cycle of Reagan-style cuts in personal income taxes, opposes abortion rights, generally supports the President's health care plan (but would seek better care for senior citizens) and opposes legislation that would require a waiting period on the purchase of handguns.
Unlike the other two front-runners, Kim--who won his first City Council election two years ago--has positioned himself as the political outsider.
Kim said he entered the race because he resented the fact that non-residents of the district were seeking the Republican Party nomination, even though residency is not legally required. Lacy moved into the district recently and Bader lives in a section of Pomona that is just outside the district.
"It's pathetic," Kim said. "I am the only one who lives in the district and pays property taxes here."
While claiming to refuse the "political endorsement" contest waged by Bader and Lacy, Kim said he received unsolicited support from Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) and from U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.). A spokesman for Dreier said the congressman has not endorsed Kim but as leader of Republican efforts to recruit strong congressional candidates has encouraged Kim and others to run.
As for the issues, Kim said he strongly objects to abortion and does not believe it should be federally funded. But he said a woman's right to an abortion should not be dictated by government because "this is a moral issue, not a government issue."
Kim also has proposed a health care plan that includes a tax break for people who make annual contributions to a health care fund--similar to an individual retirement account; and supports a waiting period for the purchase of handguns.
If the 1992 political season is the year of the outsider, then Hoover hopes to be the Republican who runs against his own party--criticizing Republican stalwarts for "self-aggrandizement" while ignoring key social issues that he feels must be addressed to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
"For some of the candidates in this race," Hoover said, "going to Congress is the ultimate perk."
Margolis, who ran unsuccessfully in the 1990 Democratic Primary for the congressional seat currently held by Cox, said he switched parties last year because he felt more comfortable with Republican Party politics.
"I have a picture with Oliver North, so does that explain myself?" Margolis said.
Rounding out the Republican field is Todhunter, who promised to be an advocate for small-business owners.
Current officeholders, he added, are "from the planet Mars" because they have forgotten what it means to draw a paycheck from a small business.
In the Democratic primary in the 41st District, Bob Baker, 40, of Anaheim is running unopposed.
Baker, who works as an analyst for a major defense contractor, said his professional experience would allow him to "act as a surgeon and not a butcher," when defense budget cuts are decided by Congress.
Although voter registration in the district is 51% Republican to 40% Democrat, Baker said he hopes to be the recipient of anti-status quo voters.
The Peace and Freedom Party candidate is Mike Noonan, 52, a pharmacist who lives in Claremont. Noonan ran in five previous congressional races during the 1980s against Dreier.