When the new 53rd Assembly District was created under reapportionment this year, it gave all sorts of aspiring politicians a fighting chance at higher office.
And now that the June 2 primary is almost here, the political hopefuls of the district are still fighting. Some even have a chance.
Here is a race that has something for everybody. One of the Republican candidates is a hand-picked standard-bearer for a statewide coalition of Christian fundamentalists. There are more Libertarians running than Democrats. And even the Green Party has found a niche in the district's rainbow political spectrum, which covers Venice, Marina del Rey, Westchester, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and part of Lomita.
Fittingly, the new district has attracted a disparate group of office hopefuls, ranging from a 24-year-old recent Long Beach State graduate to a two-time Redondo Beach mayor, to a veteran Republican political consultant with strong ties to the National Rifle Assn.
It also offers a political rarity: two Libertarians battling it out to be their party's candidate in the November election. Keeping to form, however, each of them has gone on the record praising the other's candidacy.
Although it stretches out to a liberal enclave in Venice, only one Democratic candidate is running in the district, which is seen largely as a Republican stronghold. And that explains why members of the Grand Old Party are staging a dogfight, with six candidates fighting for the conservative high ground in their bid to win their party's nomination.
Debra Bowen, a 36-year-old environmental lawyer, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, as is Green Party candidate Roger Donaldson, a 33-year-old management economist at Hughes Aircraft.
The stiff competition among Republican Party members features some well-known South Bay politicos and a few newcomers. Seeking the nomination are former Torrance Councilman Dan Walker, Redondo Beach Mayor Brad Parton, Redondo Beach Councilwoman Barbara Doerr and Marina del Rey political consultant George Young.
Others vying for the GOP nod include substitute teacher Marleah Sena and recent Long Beach State graduate Steven Zak.
Walker, Parton and Young have built up campaign war chests hovering near or above $100,000 to back their conservative platforms, which call for cutting costly business regulations, reforming the state's workers' compensation system and providing tax incentives for companies to spur business growth. All of the candidates say the economy is the top issue in the campaign.
Doerr is sounding a similar theme in her campaign, but is doing it on a shoestring budget. She had raised less than $2,000 by the last financial reporting deadline.
Walker is using his resources to run a slick campaign, relying on expensive mailers to get his messages of tough law and order and no taxes across to voters. This week he mailed an attack piece about Parton, blasting him for mixing his fundamentalist Christian beliefs with his political positions.
Walker also has tried to capitalize on the riots, using a dramatic picture of Los Angeles' ravaged streets to promote his anti-crime message. His challengers have called it a classic case of "political opportunism."
"I've taken on some major opponents over the years and I've shown that I'm a fighter," the 51-year-old Walker said. "Restoring economic viability to the state is the key to solving the majority of our area's problems. People in the South Bay realize that they need somebody who is experienced and dedicated who will go nose to nose with Willie Brown and the liberal majority."
But so far the combative Walker has been going nose to nose primarily with his fellow conservative Republicans.
"Brad (Parton) has a moral agenda that he is attempting to impose on the people of Redondo Beach, and now he is attempting to impose it on the people of the 53rd Assembly District," Walker said. "But religion does not have a place in politics."
Walker has been accused by other candidates of depending largely on the backing of special-interest groups. As in past campaigns, the bulk of his financing comes from Torrance developers, city employee unions, theater chains, trash haulers and small oil companies.
Parton, who has been controversial since he was elected mayor of Redondo Beach in 1989, said his campaign mirrors the national Republican platform on "all issues," including his opposition to abortion, a stance not shared by the other GOP candidates in the race.
"I'm pro-life; I'm not hiding from it," Parton said. "But people know I will speak my mind whether it's politically popular or not. I have received money from some religious groups, but the people that are supporting me have also raised a lot of money for President Reagan, President Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle and Gov. (George) Deukmejian.
"If people look at my record, they will see that I am the anti-tax, anti-spending candidate. Voters in California are tired of out-of-control spending."
Parton, 31, is one of 13 fledgling Assembly candidates statewide who has been handpicked for office by Christian fundamentalist political organizations. He has received $10,000 from several groups that espouse "traditional family values."
The financial planner recently gained attention for opposing a gay and lesbian group's desire to use a Redondo Beach park for an event because he does not condone their lifestyle. In the past he has also proposed restricting the sale of alcohol and removing vending machines that sell pornographic tabloids.
Young is the wild card in the race, a veteran of Republican Party campaigns whose experience, except for a bid for the Assembly 30 years ago, has all been behind the scenes. Ten years ago, he headed the NRA-backed campaign to defeat Proposition 15, which would have blocked the sale of new handguns. And although the pro-gun lobby is backing him, Young has tried not to make that association a focal point of his campaign.
Young, 55, said he hopes to capitalize on growing voter discontent with career politicians and would use the office to "make California more hospitable to business" by eliminating governmental regulations that make it difficult for companies to receive operating permits.
"We are losing jobs very rapidly, and because of it the state is going broke," he said. "The way to change that is to increase the number of taxpayers but not to raise taxes."
Doerr, likewise, has focused her low-key campaign on the South Bay economy, which has been hit hard by the sagging fortunes of the aerospace industry. A former two-term Redondo Beach mayor and a current councilwoman, the 49-year-old land-use planner has portrayed herself as the grass-roots candidate "who represents normal citizens and not special interests."
Although Doerr acknowledges that she faces an uphill climb against her better-funded competitors, she said people are tired of candidates running slick, expensive campaigns.
"I may be outspent and I may be an underdog, but I've got more experience in office than most of all of the others," she said. "I've generally been outspent in previous elections, but I've won. One thing I've learned in office is that how you get to somewhere you want is just as important as actually getting it, and we need someone with credibility in this job."
Rounding out the Republican field are long shots Sena, a 60-year-old substitute teacher, and Zak, a video merchandiser. Sena is pushing for more jobs for veterans and improved health care for senior citizens, and Zak wants to provide tax credits for companies that give internships to students as an incentive to stay in school.
The Libertarian candidates are campaigning for an end to "politics as usual," sounding standard party themes of eliminating unbridled government growth. William Gaillard, 40, a road construction material salesman, is vying for his party's nomination against Sal Princiotta, 43, an artist and massage therapist. The 53rd District campaign marks one of the first times that two Libertarians have run against each other in a race for state office.
"Everything that is wrong with government points in the same direction," Gaillard said. "We're very angry that the Constitution has been sidestepped or summarily ignored by elected government officials."
Princiotta said one way to address the problem was to encourage more public participation in the government process. He said the fact that two Libertarians are running shows the desire of people to change the system.
53rd Assembly District Candidates Six Republicans and two Libertarians are running for their parties' nomination for the 53rd Assembly District seat. Democrat Debra Bowen and Green Party candidate Roger Donaldson are unopposed for their parties' nomination. REPUBLICANS Dan Walker
LIBERTARIANS William Gaillard