The prize for winning the Democratic primary in the 28th Congressional District on Tuesday is the chance to face a Republican incumbent in November who has $1.8 million in campaign cash and holds a significant advantage in party registration.
Not a promising prospect, but the three Democrats seeking the nomination say they can overcome the odds and defeat Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) in the fall.
Dreier, who has been in Congress 12 years, is unopposed in the Republican primary. Voter registration in the district, which stretches from Temple City to La Verne, is 48.4% Republican and 41.7% Democratic, with the remainder independent or affiliated with minor parties.
The Democratic contenders are Kevin Dockery, a businessman; Tommy L. Randle, a real estate developer, and Al Wachtel, a professor of English and world literature at Pitzer College in Claremont.
Dockery said Dreier's record on women's issues makes him vulnerable, and Wachtel said he would seek to exploit the fact that Dreier recently voted against a bill to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to riot-damaged Los Angeles even though the bill was supported by President Bush and of vital interest to his constituents.
Dreier said he opposed the bill because it would do little to relieve poverty in South Los Angeles and "might serve to reward those who took part in the lootings."
Dockery, 30, is a real estate marketing executive who graduated from Edgewood High School in West Covina and studied business at Mt. San Antonio College and Cal State Fullerton, where his performance as a wide receiver on the football team earned him a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.
He has worked for a real estate title company and formerly owned an escrow company in Diamond Bar. He has plastered the district with signs that carry his slogan: "Save the Middle Class."
Dockery said he is concerned about overtaxation of the middle class, the widening gap between rich and poor, inadequate spending on education and the easy availability of guns. Just by comparing massive expenditures on prisons with the shortage of funds for education, he said, "you can see where our priorities are mixed up."
Dockery lives in Phillips Ranch, which is just outside the congressional district, but uses a voting address at a home in Walnut inside the district. Candidates are not required to live in the district.
Randle, 49, who lives in San Dimas, said he has operated a real estate development company for seven or eight years. His emphasis in the campaign is on steps to promote economic growth.
Randle said the United States has focused so heavily on armaments that it has slipped behind other nations, particularly Japan, in consumer goods. Now, he said, it needs to rebuild its manufacturing base.
He favors the creation of enterprise zones and other means of giving tax incentives to businesses to create jobs. Special tax breaks should be given to companies that hire people who have been unemployed, he said.
Wachtel, 52, who lives in La Verne, has taught at Pitzer College since 1974.
He favors a massive building program to stimulate the economy and improve the environment. He would build high-speed trains, sewage treatment plants, roads and bridges, and fund recycling and energy conservation programs.
"In the short run, we're talking
about work, health and safety," he said. But in the long run the plan would spur the economy, create jobs and generate more tax revenue without increasing the tax rate.
Wachtel also supports national health insurance, child care for working mothers and full funding for Head Start.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Randle had raised $1,800 in campaign contributions as of March 31 and Dockery and Wachtel had not reported their contributions. Candidates are required to report contributions only after raising $5,000.
Also on the primary ballot are candidates who are running unopposed for the Libertarian and Green party nominations. The Libertarian candidate is Thomas J. Dominy of Rosemead, a pharmaceutical representative. The Green candidate is Walter Sheasby of Sierra Madre, a labor economist.