Pledging to fight big government, Robert K. Hammer, a banking consultant from Newbury Park, announced Monday that he plans to run in the 1994 Republican primary for the 24th Congressional District seat now held by U. S. Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills).
“I wouldn’t go back to Washington to enact laws, but to repeal laws,” the 44-year-old Hammer said at a news conference in Reseda. Among the biggest targets of Hammer’s ire were recent votes by Beilenson to support President Clinton’s five-year economic plan and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But Hammer, a Vietnam veteran and California resident since 1985, will first have to triumph in what may be a lively Republican primary in June.
Several other Republicans are seriously exploring the seat held by Beilenson, including Richard Sybert, 41, a former senior aide to Gov. Pete Wilson. Sybert, an attorney, moved last summer to keep the financial ante in the GOP primary high when he loaned $310,000 of his own money to the political committee that is looking into the feasibility of his candidacy.
Hammer predicted that his campaign would need to raise $200,000 to $300,000 to be competitive and said he would contribute some of his own money to the effort.
In an interview Monday, Hammer said his firm, R. K. Hammer, advises banks that are acquiring new properties, including credit card portfolios. Hammer worked at First Interstate Bankcard Co. from 1985 to 1990, resigning there as a business development manager, according to the bank’s holding company. He is married and has two daughters.
Hammer said he chose to hold his inaugural news conference outside the graffiti-scarred Reseda outlet of a hardware store chain that’s going out of business to dramatize the effects of Democratic economic policies. “Taxing and spending is a lifelong pattern with the congressman,” Hammer said.
Hammer predicted a taxpayer uprising next spring when the higher, retroactive income tax provisions of the Clinton economic plan take effect. “Poll the small business community on April 16. I’ll bet there’s going to be a revolt on our hands,” Hammer said. Anti-business taxes and government regulations are primarily to blame for the state’s recession, he said.
As of Monday, Hammer could not lay claim to endorsements by any major or well-known figures or groups.
Meanwhile, state Assemblywoman Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) became the latest Republican elected official to endorse Sybert. State Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) and U. S. Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-Glendale) have previously endorsed him.
Earlier this month, Sybert resigned as director of Wilson’s Office of Planning and Research to move to Woodland Hills and prepare for his congressional bid. “It’s expected,” Sybert said Monday of Hammer’s move. “He’s been running hard for a while.”
In her endorsement statement, Boland urged that the party avoid a bruising primary. “Mr. Beilenson is a wily career politician, and Rich Sybert is the only Republican candidate in this race that has the right stuff to defeat him,” Boland wrote.
Beilenson was involved in a lively reelection fight in 1992 but finally won a convincing victory over former Assemblyman Tom McClintock in a Republican-leaning district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to Malibu and Thousand Oaks.
The 1992 race was Beilenson’s first in a district that, due to reapportionment, was shoved deeper into the San Fernando Valley.
Other Republicans reportedly eyeing the Beilenson seat are Mike Spillane, a Thousand Oaks pilot, and Mark B. Benhard of Agoura, a former aide to ex-U. S. Rep. William K. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton).
Spillane and businessman Sang Korman ran in the spirited 1992 GOP primary but were defeated by McClintock. McClintock eventually was beaten by Beilenson by a 56% to 39% margin.
Forty percent of the district’s voters are registered as Republicans, 46% as Democrats.