Municipal Judge James Rogan, elected to the Assembly only hours earlier in a special election, was joined by powerful Republican Party allies Wednesday in an attempt to persuade two GOP rivals to drop out of the race for the next two-year term for the 43rd District Assembly seat.
According to sources in Los Angeles and Sacramento, GOP Assembly Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga will urge Julia Wu and Peter Repovich to bow out of the June 7 GOP primary, now that Rogan will be the Republican incumbent on the ballot.
But that effort will apparently be wasted on Repovich, a Los Angeles Police Department officer who has raised a $300,000 war chest.
Repovich said Wednesday that he plans to go the distance. "I'm worried about this seat going to the Democrats if we Republicans field a candidate like Jim Rogan," Repovich said, launching a campaign to paint Rogan as too conservative. Wu could not be reached for comment.
On Tuesday, Rogan, who received campaign contributions from wealthy Christian conservatives, surprised himself and pundits by winning 53.9% of the vote in a seven-candidate race to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Assemblyman Pat Nolan. Nolan pleaded guilty Feb 18 to one count of political racketeering and is now in prison.
Many had expected Tuesday's voting to be indecisive with no candidate getting a majority and the replacement process thus requiring yet another election on June 28 between the top vote-getters from each party.
But due in part to a relatively strong Republican turnout in his Glendale base, Rogan surprised the handicappers and on Tuesday won the job of filling out the remainder of Nolan's term, which expires Dec. 5.
Tuesday's victory does not end Rogan's political odyssey. On June 7, the primary election will be held to fill the new two-year term for the 43rd District seat that begins after Dec. 5.
Set to run in that GOP primary against Rogan are Wu, a prominent Asian-American activist and a member of the Los Angeles Community College board of trustees, and Repovich, a community relations officer in the LAPD's Hollywood Division.
"Obviously I'd be delighted if the others agreed to get behind me," Rogan said Wednesday. "But right now I'm not focused on that. For the last few weeks I've been a full-time campaigner. Now I'm ready to be a full-time legislator."
Still, Rogan's win Tuesday prompted the GOP leadership to begin the process of trying to unify the party around its newfound incumbent. "If not Brulte, someone else in the leadership will make the calls to Wu and Repovich urging them to step down," said Brulte spokesman Phil Perry. "Now that we've got an incumbent, the leadership will go all out for him."
Others in the party spoke about the need for the GOP to rally behind Rogan and not engage in a costly and divisive June 7 primary battle at a time when Democrats are talking about the possibility of capturing the 43rd District.
Long a bastion of Republicanism, the political dynamics of the district have been altered by Nolan's resignation, changing demographics and the 1990 reapportionment plan.
Earlier this year, Wu was persuaded by Brulte not to run against Nolan, when it appeared that the incumbent would seek reelection even as he fought the criminal charges that sent him to prison. At that time, Brulte failed to persuade Repovich not to enter the race against Nolan.
Some sources in the GOP said they expected Wu again to defer to the party leaders and suspend her campaign. Her campaign manager, Jot Condie, said Wednesday that he expected his client to wait a few days to make a decision. "Clearly, the (Tuesday poll) results were disappointing," Condie said. Wu got only 10.6% of the vote.
Repovich, meanwhile, was unswerving. Rogan's ties to the "Christian right" and to the antiabortion movement may drag the party to defeat in a race against a middle-of-the-road Democrat, Repovich argued Wednesday. Repovich is a supporter of abortion rights.
Keith Kall, his spokesperson, said that the 14% voter turnout in Tuesday's election was not a good barometer of the sentiments of Republican voters.
In any event, both Wu and Repovich will be on the ballot regardless of the success of Brulte's diplomacy. "What we'd be doing is asking them to drop their campaigning," said Perry. "We don't have anything to offer them but the gratitude of the party and its leadership."
Meanwhile, Adam Schiff, the main Democrat in Tuesday's race, who scored 25.6% of the vote and finished second, said Rogan's showing Tuesday and sudden incumbency do not faze his game plan.
"It's on to November--we saw this race (the May 3 election) all along as just a skirmish," Schiff said. "The big battle will be in November and it will be a very different election then."
In November, for example, the Schiff camp is counting on help from the leaders on the Democratic Party's state ticket who are running for governor and U.S. senator to get out the vote so that Tuesday's results--where the Republican turnout in Glendale appeared to dominate the returns--won't be repeated.
Glendale has about 40% of the registered voters in the 43rd District, with Burbank and the Los Feliz and Silver Lake areas sharing the rest about equally. According to Election Day observers, the turnout in Glendale was running 20% compared to rates of only about half that in Silver Lake.
Incumbency and the GOP leadership support that comes with it should strengthen Rogan's fund-raising abilities, Schiff acknowledged.
"On the other hand, by having to vote on issues in Sacramento, we'll see some of his true colors come out and that could hurt him," Schiff said. Schiff's campaign manager, Parke Skelton, has previously indicated that he would like to see his client stacked up against an antiabortion conservative Republican in the general election.
* State Assembly
Special Primary Election
(Unexpired term ending Dec. 5, 1994) 272 of 272 Precincts Reporting
CANDIDATE VOTE Ken Kulpa (D) 527 Willard Michlin (L) 427 Adam Schiff (D) 5,182 Joseph Paul Pietroforte (R) 317 James E. Rogan (R) 10,896 David E. Wallis, Jr. (R) 824 Julia L. Wu (R) 2,060