A heated battle between two front-runners in a Northeast Assembly district and a lively race with 11 contestants in a Southwest Assembly district will highlight balloting in Central Los Angeles for congressional and legislative seats in Tuesday's primary.
In most area races, incumbents are facing little or no opposition. But the two open Assembly seats have sparked spirited races. Also, a battle for a vacant seat in the 22nd state Senate District pits a veteran legislator against a longtime legislative aide making her first run for public office.
In the 45th Assembly District, Democrats Bill Mabie and Antonio Villaraigosa are locked in a bitter contest to fill a seat being vacated by Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), who is running for the open Senate seat. Both Mabie and Villaraigosa, vowing to focus on the issues, are charging that the other is running a dirty campaign.
The district stretches from Highland Park to Boyle Heights, including Mount Washington, Silver Lake, Echo Park and parts of Hollywood. Latinos make up 63% of the district's 370,000 residents but only 36% of its 83,311 registered voters. Democrats make up 62% of the voters.
Mabie, 32, who is Polanco's chief of staff, is touting his community work and knowledge of the legislative process. Villaraigosa, 41, who was born and raised in the area, is stressing his 25 years of community work ranging from union activism to voter registration. Both were confident that they would come out on top.
"The response has been very positive," said Mabie, who was raised in the eastern San Gabriel Valley and moved to the area about five years ago. "I feel like we reached an incredible number of voters."
"I think we worked really hard," said Villaraigosa, whose campaign has attracted dozens of area activists. "I feel good about our prospects."
According to recent campaign statements, Villaraigosa had raised $206,456, and Mabie had collected $115,198.
Villaraigosa has accused Mabie and Polanco of maliciously spreading rumors that he was arrested in 1977 for a felony assault.
Los Angeles police records recently obtained by the Times show that Villaraigosa was initially arrested on a felony charge in the case. But he was tried on a misdemeanor assault charge and was not convicted.
Villaraigosa says the case stemmed from an attack on his mother by a man during a "big melee" at a local restaurant. "What is so despicable is that they would drag my dead mother into this," Villaraigosa said. "These are tactics of a desperate, floundering campaign."
Mabie and Polanco deny that they have sought to taint Villaraigosa's reputation. "I'm running a good, clean campaign," said Mabie, who added that Villaraigosa is trying to ruin his reputation by saying he is behind the rumors.
Mabie, however, says he believes that Villaraigosa's arrest is a legitimate campaign issue. "I think it does reflect on his character," Mabie said.
The election also has taken on racial overtones, with some Latino politicians upset that Polanco is endorsing Mabie, who is white, for a seat that has been held by Latinos since 1972. But both candidates and many district voters say that ethnicity is not an issue.
Other candidates are Democrats Spencer Burton, a businessman; teacher Gonzalo Molina and businessman Brian Quintana. Republican Robert K. Jung, an engineer, is unopposed for his party's nomination, as is Libertarian Pam Probst, a teacher.
In the 47th Assembly District, 11 candidates are seeking to replace Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles), who is running for secretary of state. The district stretches from Mid-City through Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights. It was drawn to favor the election of an African American, and all but two of the candidates are black. African Americans comprise 40% of the residents in the district, where the electorate is 75% Democrat.
Five Democrats have significant money, endorsements or grass-roots support. They are attorneys Geoff Gibbs and Kevin Murray, congressional aide Ed Johnson, community activist Valerie Lynne Shaw and teacher and union activist Jimmie Woods Gray. The other Democratic contenders are attorney Marsha F. Kimble, writer Neil Liss, businessman Leslie Roberson and Rudolph Valentino Thompson. The Republicans are businessman Jonathan Leonard and attorney Kathleen Lee Brundo.
Johnson, a longtime aide to Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), won the endorsement of the state Democratic Party at its convention last month. Murray is backed by his father, veteran Assemblyman Willard W. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount) and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), among others.
In the campaign for another open seat, former legislative aide Yolanda Gonzalez is waging a battle against a well-financed Polanco in the 22nd Senate District. Polanco has raised more than $172,949; Gonzalez said she has raised about $20,000.
The district stretches from Highland Park through Echo Park and Silver Lake to South-Central, including portions of the Eastside, Mid-City and Hollywood. The vacant seat resulted when the district was reconfigured after court-ordered reapportionment in 1992.
Much of the area includes Polanco's current Assembly district, which he has represented since 1986.
"I think that, given my track record, I will be given an opportunity to move on to the Senate," Polanco said.
But Gonzalez accuses Polanco of flip-flopping on important issues such as immigration and a failed effort to build a prison on the Eastside.
"The community knows his voting record," Gonzalez said. "I'm going to win the election because the people want change."
Gonzalez has worked in the state Senate for 20 years. Nine of those years were with former Eastside Sen. Alex P. Garcia. Before running for the Senate, Gonzalez was the director of Hispanic Affairs and Minority Outreach in the Los Angeles office of Sen. David A. Roberti. (D-Van Nuys).
Other races in Central Los Angeles are:
30th Congressional District--Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) is being challenged by physician Oscar C. Valdes.
Police officer David A. Ramirez is running in the Republican primary.
31st Congressional District--Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) faces three opponents--a former aide, David Romero, business executive Maria Escalante and businessman Bonifacio Garcia.
Tom Dominy and transportation worker John V. Flores are running in the Republican primary.
32nd Congressional District--Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles) is opposed by businessman Peter J. Duvall and retiree Gordon Yaker.
Businessmen Laurence J. Ardito, Mike Cyrus and Ernie A. Farhat are running in the Republican primary.
33rd Congressional District--Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) is being challenged by retiree Charles E. Greene.
Teacher Ruben Murillo is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
35th Congressional District--Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) is unopposed.
Businessman Nate Truman is running in the Republican primary.
37th Congressional District--Rep. Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton) faces businessman Lew Prulitsky.
Merchant seaman Guy Wilson is running on the Libertarian ticket.
26th State Senate District--Sen. Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles) is unopposed.
Restaurant manager Lynne Davidson and businessman Joe Piechowski are running in the Republican primary.
30th State Senate District--Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier) is unopposed.
Secretary Patricia Ann Gerges is running for the Peace and Freedom Party.
Businesswoman Araceli Gonzalez and retiree Ken Gow are running in the Republican primary.
46th Assembly District--Assemblyman Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles) is unopposed.
Businessman Yongchul Yang is running in the Republican primary.
Retiree William R. Williams is running for the Peace and Freedom Party.
48th Assembly District--Assemblywoman Marguerite Archie-Hudson (D-Los Angeles) is unopposed.
50th Assembly District--Assemblywoman Martha M. Escutia (D-Huntington Park) is unopposed.
Gladys O. Miller is running in the Republican primary.
Printer Alma B. Strowiss is running for the Peace and Freedom Party.