STATE ASSEMBLY / LOS ANGELES COUNTY : Shake-Ups Draw Swarm of Newcomers : Turnover: Term limits and reapportionment have winnowed out many veterans, drawing the most contenders for vacant seats in decades.

This article was reported by Times staff writers Howard Blume, Sam Enriquez, Ken Garcia, Jill Gottesman, Richard Holguin, Greg Krikorian, Nancy Hill-Holtzman, Amy Pyle, Jim Quinn, George Ramos and Mike Ward. It was written by Patt Morrison

Like two blades on a combine harvester, reapportionment and Proposition 140, the term limits initiative, have slashed through the state Assembly, cutting up old districts and cutting out veteran legislators.

That--in combination with voters who react to incumbents with as much enthusiasm as they welcome killer bees--means an open primary field. More people are running for more vacant Assembly seats than have sought office in decades.

Of the baker's dozen "hot" races below, only six have incumbents, and even some of those were squeezed out of their original districts, forcing them to scramble in newly drawn ones.

Several races will test the sway of two major Latino camps, Supervisor Gloria Molina vs. state legislators Art Torres and Richard Polanco. In two seats, where Latino incumbents have stepped up to run for Congress, new Latino hopefuls have moved into the breach. Redistricting and retirement have made two other districts possible Latino gains.

36th District

Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita

55% Republican, 34% Democrat

Four Republicans are duking it out in a new Republican district that takes in some of Los Angeles County's newest boom towns.

Out here, candidates argue over how to attract more housing and industry, how to keep urban gangs from moving north and how to undercut air quality regulations to woo and keep business.

Hunt Braly leads the four in financial backing, starting with a $10,000 donation from his boss, state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita). He hopes to raise $200,000 before June 2. Other candidates have tried to portray Braly, Davis' district chief of staff, as practically an incumbent, and thus worthy of this year's anti-incumbent scorn.

Trailing Braly in funds but not necessarily support are William J. (Pete) Knight, a former Palmdale mayor, 70% of whose funding comes from developer interests, and Forrest L. McElroy, superintendent of the Palmdale Elementary School District. Nipping at their heels is John Drew, a political science instructor at Santa Clarita Community College. The city slow-growth initiative he co-wrote was badly defeated this spring, but he hopes that his views will attract like-minded voters.

Democrat Arnie Rodio is unopposed, but the Republican nominee is expected to win in November.

40th District

North Hollywood, Studio City,

Van Nuys

54% Democratic, 35% Republican

Out ahead in the four-way Democratic race for a seat left vacant by the retirement of Tom Bane is Assembly member Barbara Friedman, who moved into a condominium here after her Hollywood-based district was obliterated by reapportionment.

The freshman member of the powerful Westside Waxman-Berman political machine won a special election last year by a 31-vote margin in the primary but a 3-1 victory over her Republican opponent.

With little money or name recognition, her primary opponents--Jim Aldrich, Dan Coen and Joel B. Kelman--are not likely to offer too much of a fight.

Republican candidates include Horace Heidt Jr., the music director for the Los Angeles Raiders, as well as second-generation mortician Jon Robert Lorenzen, and businessman Brian H. Perry.

41st District

Calabasas, Malibu, Pacific Palisades,

Santa Monica, Woodland Hills,

Westlake Village, Tarzana,

Agoura Hills, Brentwood

49% Democrat, 40% Republican

The name-brand candidate here is unopposed Democrat Terry B. Friedman, whose Republican opponents are being winnowed in a demanding campaign that reflects GOP hopes for this new district and its affluent hinterlands.

Although voters here chose Michael S. Dukakis over George Bush in 1988, and two years later preferred Dianne Feinstein over Pete Wilson for governor, "it's a winnable district," said leading Republican candidate Christine Reed, a former Santa Monica City Council member and board member of the Metropolitan Water District. "It's not a walkaway for either party.'

She is the best known, best financed and most moderate of the five Republicans. Her stance as a fiscal conservative and a moderate on environmental and social issues, including abortion rights, has led to frequent attacks from her conservative challengers.

A crowded field of Republicans seeks to carry the party's banner in November. They are: retired engineer Fred Beteta, accounting professor Paul Foote, attorney Scott Meehan and recent USC graduate Stefan (Stu) Stitch.

Beteta tried to paint Reed as "comfortable with the left fringe" because she took money from "ACLU types." As proof, he pointed to a donor with the same name as an ACLU staff lawyer. The contributor, who had no American Civil Liberties Union connections, was Reed's neighbor.

Aside from finger-pointing over who is the better Republican, candidates have targeted GOP bread-and-butter issues such as business regulations, welfare and workers' compensation reform.

44th District

Pasadena, La Canada Flintridge,

South Pasadena, Sunland, Tujunga,

Lake View Terrace

46% Republican, 43% Democrat

Reapportionment has created this Pasadena-based, Republican-leaning district. Without an incumbent Republican to forestall them, 10 Republicans are running for the nomination in what is shaping up as an ideological struggle between moderates and hard-liners.

Chief among the conservatives are Lee David Prentiss, a Los Angeles Police Department detective supervisor and former South Pasadena City Council member, and Pasadena insurance broker Bill Hoge, a political tyro who leads the pack in fund raising. He has been endorsed by two Republican Assembly members running for reelection in adjacent districts.

Among the moderate candidates are Barbara Pieper, a former La Canada Flintridge City Council member, now a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education; Wilbert L. Smith, a bank executive and Pasadena school board member, and Stephen Acker, a lawyer and former Pasadena city director.

Rounding out the GOP field are Roy Begley, Bob Bell, T.H. Choi, Robert Oltman and Maurine Petteruto.

Democrats seeking the nomination are Jonathan S. Fuhrman, a Pasadena food company executive; Daniel I. Hurst, a Pasadena computer consultant, and John Vollbrecht, an Eagle Rock general contractor.

46th District

Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles

64% Democrat, 22% Republican

A step up the legislative staircase by Lucille Roybal-Allard has left this seat vacant. She is running for Congress, and two Latinos are waging a spirited race to succeed her in the realigned district.

Slugging it out are Bertha (Bert) Saavedra, Roybal-Allard's top aide, and West Point-Harvard Law School-educated Louis Caldera, on leave from his job as deputy county counsel. It is also a classic matchup of Molina's influence against the clout of Assemblyman Polanco and state Sen. Torres, both Los Angeles Democrats. Molina supports Saavedra, and Polanco and Torres endorse Caldera.

Saavedra, 49, has stressed her community involvement, including her local work with the Southwest Voter Registration and Educational Project in the late 1980s. She makes no secret of the fact that she got Molina's endorsement over Caldera, who also sought it.

Caldera is downplaying Molina's support and talks up his candidacy as a fresh voice that isn't tied to the "old politics" of Los Angeles' Latino Establishment. He accuses Roybal-Allard and, indirectly, Saavedra of being liberals "who throw money at problems."

Both have touted their own credentials and criticized each other during the campaign.

Downtown and the mostly Latino Eastside are still part of this district--but so are the immigrant neighborhoods of Pico-Union, Westlake, Mid-Wilshire and Koreatown. Latinos make up 70% of the population but only 35% of the voters.

Republican David M. Osborne is unopposed.

49th District

Alhambra, Monterey Park,

San Gabriel, Rosemead

60% Democrat, 28% Republican

Another steppingstone vacancy, created when Assemblyman Xavier Becerra (D-Monterey Park) chose to run for Congress.

The favorites look to be former MALDEF attorney Richard Fajardo and Garvey School Board member Diane Martinez, daughter of Rep. Matthew Martinez.

Fajardo, 40, is campaigning as a "fighter for us all" who will take on special interests. Martinez, 39, is portraying herself as a single mother who understands what life is like for ordinary residents, far better than her rivals, who are all attorneys.

Martinez was laid off as director of telecommunications for API Security in a company cutback in January. Some, including her mother, thought she should keep that to herself. But she said a political consultant told her: "Don't be embarrassed. There are a lot of people in that boat."

Most of the big political endorsements have gone to Martinez and Fajardo. The latter has the backing of Molina and Becerra.

Richard Amador, 29, a business attorney, is running as the voice of "independent leadership," advocating political reform and campaign contribution limits. Robert Gomez, 57, a senior deputy county counsel, is stressing his community service and an impressive resume that includes a stint as deputy assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The candidates have found few differences apart from the death penalty, which Fajardo and Gomez oppose and Amador and Martinez support. All favor abortion rights.

Two Republicans, Beth Fujishige and Sophie C. Wong, are competing for the GOP nomination in a district that is 28% Asian and 55% Latino. Wong, 54, is an Alhambra school board member; Fujishige, 28, is the assistant to the Monterey Park city manager. Their highest-profile dispute is over abortion. Fujishige is for preserving abortion rights; Wong would restrict abortion to cases of incest, rape or danger to the woman's life.

50th District

Bell Gardens, Huntington Park,

Maywood, Cudahy, South Gate,

Walnut Park, Vernon,

City of Commerce

67% Democrat, 23% Republican

With the retirement of veteran state Sen. Cecil Green, four Latinos--three of them women--are wrangling for the Democratic nomination in a mostly Latino and Democratic district. Pat Acosta, Green's field deputy, and United Way Vice President Martha Escutia are considered the leading contenders. Each is well funded and tied in to established local Latino political circles. And each plans to spend nearly $100,000 on the race.

Escutia, an attorney who worked with the National Council of La Raza in Washington, is backed by Torres, Polanco and Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre. Acosta has Green's and Molina's endorsements, as well as that of pioneering Latino politician Edward R. Roybal, who is retiring from Congress this year.

Virginia R. Belmontez and Joseph R. Ruiz are also Democratic contenders, and with the exception of Belmontez, who ran for the Assembly in 1986, all the Democrats are first-time candidates.

The winner will face Republican Gladys O. Miller in November, but the Democratic primary winner will probably win in the fall.

The district is full of young, working-class families, overcrowded schools with high dropout rates, unemployment between 10% and 12% and a climbing gang-related crime rate.

52nd District

Lynwood, Paramount, Gardena,

Compton, South-Central Los Angeles,

South Gate

80% Democrat, 13% Republican

Republicans aren't even bothering to field a candidate in this Democratic and minority district. But two-term incumbent Willard H. Murray Jr., 61, has a fight on his hands.

Lynwood City Councilwoman Evelyn Wells and first-term Compton City Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore--both visible and active, particularly during this month's civil unrest--are applying the heat.

The thrust of their anti-Murray campaign is that he is out of touch with constituents in the redrawn district.

Moore, 43, has made friends and enemies by taking on causes beyond her city's borders. She testified at state hearings on insurance rate discrimination against blacks and led protests against the Latasha Harlins sentence, in which a Korean-born grocer was given probation in the teen-ager's shooting death.

She criticized Murray's opposition to gun control. "When people were dying in the streets because of assault rifles, Murray refused to be sensitive to the their hardship," she said.

Wells--backed by retiring Rep. Mervyn Dymally--blasted the state legislator for proposing an Institute for the Preservation of Jazz, an idea that initially brought Murray favorable publicity.

"It is ridiculous for Murray to advance such a proposal at a time when the ashes of our cities are still warm," Wells said. "Jazz is a major African-American cultural contribution to America, but . . . he is fiddling with jazz while Compton and Lynwood burn."

Murray must also overcome bad publicity from a California Journal survey of the Sacramento press corps, lobbyists, legislators and staff members. Murray ranked last among Assembly members in integrity, intelligence, effectiveness, energy and potential.

Murray said the results are unreliable because of the low 14% response rate. His staff produced a long list of bills that Murray co-authored on issues he said were at the heart of constituent concerns, including graffiti and crime control, education funding and health care.

"They are the ones that will have to overcome," Murray said of the challengers. "I have an outstanding record."

53rd District

Hermosa Beach, El Segundo,

Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey,

Redondo Beach, Torrance, Venice

43% Republican, 42% Democrat

This race offers something for everyone: Republican hard-liners and traditional conservatives at loggerheads. One candidate is a handpicked standard-bearer for a coalition of Christian fundamentalists; another is a veteran political consultant with strong ties to the National Rifle Assn. It is a sufficiently Republican district that two Libertarians are duking it out for the November honors.

Former Torrance City Councilman Dan Walker, Redondo Beach Mayor Brad Parton, Redondo Beach City Councilwoman Barbara Doerr and Marina del Rey political consultant George Young are up against substitute teacher Marleah Sena and recent Cal State Long Beach graduate Steven Zak.

Walker, Parton and Young have built up campaign funds of about $100,000 each to back their conservative platforms--cutting business regulations, reforming the workers' compensation system and offering tax incentives to business.

Debra Bowen, an environmental lawyer, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

55th District

Carson, Compton, Artesia,

Long Beach, Wilmington

68% Democrat, 21% Republican

In this district, too, the Republicans aren't even bothering to field opposition; the Democratic primary winner is a virtual sure thing in November.

But that's the only sure thing about it. Two incumbent Assembly members, 14-year veteran Dave Elder of Long Beach and 12-year veteran Dick Floyd of Carson, will battle it out with Juanita McDonald, Carson's first black woman City Council member and the only minority running in this election.

Elder and Floyd must split a solid constituency of support from Democratic stalwarts like organized labor. McDonald figures to cash in on anti-incumbent fever and the demographic mix in the working-class district that is 41% Latino, 23% African-American, 17% white and 16% Asian.

With two longtime incumbents grappling to survive--and a newcomer hoping to benefit--the campaign could get expensive: The two incumbents may spend as much as $750,000 by one reckoning. And it could get personal. Floyd, who over the years has earned a reputation for never shrinking from a good political fight, said: "I think it's going to get very nasty."

57th District

Azusa, Baldwin Park, El Monte,

La Puente, Irwindale,

Hacienda Heights

56% Democrat, 33% Republican

Assemblywoman Sally Tanner gave up a seat that could very likely be filled by a Latino--but perhaps not the one Tanner wants.

Tanner has endorsed La Puente City Councilman Edward L. Chavez, 28, who is up against Hilda Solis, 34, a Rio Hondo College trustee. They have split the major endorsements--once again, Molina against Polanco. Molina endorses Solis and Polanco endorses Chavez.

Both have an advantage in a 64% Latino-populated district.

But Anthony (Tony) Fellow, 43, a university professor and water board member long active in Democratic Party politics, has made this a three-way race, with help from volunteers who worked with him on past Tanner campaigns. Although Fellow is not a Latino, his wife and many supporters are, and he could benefit if Chavez and Solis split the vote.

All three Democrats grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and their campaigns stress experience and commitment to the community. Fellow and Chavez are trying to appeal to Tanner's supporters. Meanwhile, Solis says people tell her she's got what voters are looking for: "People tell me you're a woman; you're a school board member; you're somewhat middle-aged. You're electable."

The outgunned Republicans in this 2-to-1 Democratic district are Michael K. Stark and Gary Woods.

58th District

Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera,

Whittier, Santa Fe Springs,

Walnut, South El Monte

64% Democrat, 28% Republican

Another classic Molina vs. Torres/Polanco endorsement duel pits front-runners Norwalk CityCouncilwoman Grace M. Napolitano and Montebello lawyer Armando Duron.

This is a likely Latino seat, open since incumbent Bob Epple opted to move into another district with what he said were more of his "kind of people."

Five Latinos are vying for the Democratic nomination, and all agree that the 58th needs more jobs, better education and less crime.

Napolitano and Duron have sought to distance themselves from the field by key endorsements. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) has joined Polanco and Torres in supporting Napolitano. Duron is endorsed by Molina.

Also running are Raul Pardo, Albert Perez Jr. and Rick D. Sanchez.

The Democratic primary winner is expected to coast to victory in this lopsidedly Democratic district. Republican Ken Gow, a research engineer, is unopposed.

60th District

Diamond Bar, La Mirada,

West Covina, Hacienda Heights,

Whittier, Pomona, Rowland Heights

46% Republican, 43% Democrat

Abortion rights and the backing of Gov. Wilson are big influences in this Republican-leaning district.

Diamond Bar City Councilwoman Phyllis Papen said six conservative GOP legislators urged her to run against Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher--a former Diamond Bar City Council member. "Everyone said go for it," she said.

But when she sought campaign contributions, she said she was turned aside.

The problem was her support of abortion rights, she said. Although Horcher, too, favors abortion rights, Papen said that "because I am pro-choice, the decision was made not to give me any money."

But sources said donations have been withheld because conservative leaders don't think Papen can beat Horcher, given his incumbency and strong support from Wilson, for whom Horcher cast the crucial 54th vote for Wilson's budget last year, earning him the gratitude of the governor and the disapproval of anti-tax conservatives.

Early on, Horcher had raised 20 times more money than Papen.

Papen, a real estate agent, has attacked Horcher for accepting nearly $20,000 in contributions from the California Trial Lawyers Assn. For his part, Horcher has accused Papen of voting on a Diamond Bar trash contract to benefit a client of her "live-in boyfriend." Papen, who shares a condominium with a consultant to trash companies, said she keeps her money separate from his, and her vote was not a conflict of interest because she does not benefit from his business.

Democrat Stan Caress is unopposed.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World