ELECTION ROUNDUP : Familiar Faces, Spirited Challenges : Elections: Some incumbents are likely to be returned to office, but not without being given a run for their money.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Voters across southeast Los Angeles County are expected to return several familiar faces to office next week, but challengers in some races are making spirited bids.

Topping the list of close matchups is the 38th Congressional District contest between Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach) and Democrat Peter Mathews, who hopes to buck what many political observers predict will be a banner year for GOP candidates.

Registration figures in the district--where 52% of voters are Democrats and 36% Republicans--appear to favor Mathews. But the figures themselves do not tell the whole story. Political observers say that conservative Democrats in the district do not hesitate to cross party lines. Horn, who has won support for his moderate brand of politics, may have the advantage because of his appeal to such voters.

In two other closely watched races, state Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-El Segundo) and Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) are facing stiff challenges by well-organized Republican candidates.

In the 28th Senate District race, Republican David Barrett Cohen, an attorney from Redondo Beach, has tried to paint Dills as an entrenched politician tied closely to special interests. Dills, 84, who has served longer than any lawmaker in California history, has focused on Cohen's missteps, including erroneous allegations that Dills collected a legislative pension while in the Senate. Karnette is facing Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Steve Kuykendall, the Republican candidate in the 54th Assembly District, in which Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans.

A race-by-race breakdown of congressional and legislative contests in the Southeast area:

HOUSE / 33rd District

Area: Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Maywood, South Gate, Huntington Park, Vernon, Florence, Walnut Park, parts of Downey, Los Angeles, East Los Angeles.

Registration: 68% D / 19% R

Background: Freshman Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) has a virtual lock on her reelection bid. Roybal-Allard is a popular figure in the district, which her father, Edward R. Roybal, represented for three decades. Peace and Freedom candidate Kermit Booker, who received just 34 votes in June, provides the only opposition Tuesday.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Lucille Roybal-Allard, incumbent.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Kermit Booker, teacher.

HOUSE / 34th District

Area: Montebello, Pico Rivera, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Industry, Whittier, La Puente, Bassett, East Los Angeles, Hacienda Heights, Los Nietos, Rosemead, South San Gabriel and Valinda.

Registration: 62% D / 28% R

Background: Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente) faced no challengers in the primary and appears headed for a seventh term in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one. Republican challenger Albert J. Nunez, a Whittier tax preparer, describes Torres as a typical tax-and-spend incumbent.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Esteban E. Torres, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Albert J. Nunez, tax preparer.

LIBERTARIAN: Carl M. (Marty) Swinney, X-ray technician.

HOUSE / 37th District

Area: Compton, Long Beach, Lynwood, Carson, Wilmington, Watts, Willowbrook, Athens, East Torrance, eastern Gardena.

Registration: 77% D / 13% R

Background: Rep. Walter R. Tucker III is the overwhelming favorite despite facing charges that he took $30,000 in bribes during his tenure as Compton's mayor. He is opposed by a write-in candidate, San Pedro businessman Lew Prulitsky, whom Tucker swamped in the Democratic primary, and a Libertarian opponent who received 45 votes in gaining his party's nomination in the June contest. Tucker, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has directed most of his energy to his legal defense.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Walter R. Tucker III, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Guy Wilson, merchant seaman.

HOUSE / 38th District

Area: Long Beach, Lakewood, Bellflower, Paramount, San Pedro, Downey.

Registration: 52% D / 36% R

Background: Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach) is facing an aggressive challenge from Democrat Peter Mathews, a Cypress college associate professor. Democrats think Mathews may have an advantage because of the district's strong Democratic registration. Mathews would become the first American of Indian descent in Congress since 1963. Horn, seeking his second term in the House, believes his moderate views and a reputation for tending to local issues will help him win.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Peter Mathews, professor of American government.

REPUBLICAN: Steve Horn, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Lester W. Mueller, project engineer.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Richard K. Green, project manager.

HOUSE / 39th District

Area: Whittier, La Mirada, Cerritos, Artesia, Lakewood, Long Beach, La Habra Heights, La Palma, Cypress, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Fullerton, Buena Park, Brea, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Anaheim, La Habra.

Registration: 39% D / 48% R

Background: Freshman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) appears to have the advantage in this Republican-dominated district that straddles Los Angeles and Orange counties. Nevertheless, Royce's Democratic challenger, R.O. (Bob) Davis of Buena Park, thinks he will find support among moderate Republicans angered by Royce's opposition to the national crime bill and other important legislation. Royce says he voted for the original version of the crime bill but opposed a watered-down plan that emerged after congressional negotiations.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: R.O. (Bob) Davis, businessman.

REPUBLICAN: Ed Royce, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Jack Dean, small-business owner.

ASSEMBLY / 52nd District

Area: Lynwood, Paramount, Gardena, parts of Compton, Long Beach and South Los Angeles, and unincorporated areas including Willowbrook and eastern Rancho Dominguez.

Registration: 80% D / 11% R

Background: Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount) has a lock on his fourth term. Murray's only opponent, Republican Richard A. Rorex of Gardena, withdrew in July after deciding to take a job with the U.S. Postal Service. Federal employees are prohibited from holding partisan public offices. Rorex's name will still appear on the ballot. Murray will have to relinquish his seat at the end of his next term because of voter-mandated term limits.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Willard H. Murray Jr., incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Richard A. Rorex, engineer.

ASSEMBLY / 54th District

Area: Long Beach, Hawaiian Gardens, Signal Hill, San Pedro, Santa Catalina Island, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, portions of Palos Verdes Estates, Lomita and Wilmington.

Registration: 46% D / 41% R

Background: First-term Democratic incumbent Betty Karnette of Long Beach is facing a serious challenge from Republican Steve Kuykendall, the mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes, in a district in which Democrats have an edge over Republicans. As of Sept. 30, the end of the most recent campaign reporting period, both had raised more than $150,000. Two years ago, Karnette upset 14-year incumbent Gerald Felando in the newly redrawn district.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Betty Karnette, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Steve Kuykendall, businessman/mayor.

LIBERTARIAN: Alan J. Carlan, aerospace engineer/businessman.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Patrick John McCoy, teacher/video producer.

ASSEMBLY / 55th District

Area: Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Rancho Dominguez, Harbor Gateway, Harbor City, Wilmington.

Registration: 69% D / 19% R

Background: Juanita M. McDonald (D-Carson) is a virtual shoo-in for a second term in this district where Democrats hold an overwhelming edge over Republicans. A primary bid by former Assemblyman Richard Floyd never materialized, and her current challenger, Libertarian Daniel Dalton, has invested less than $1,000 in the race.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Juanita M. McDonald, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Daniel Dalton, businessman.

ASSEMBLY / 56th District

Area: Cerritos, Long Beach, Lakewood, Hawaiian Gardens, Bellflower, Artesia, Downey.

Registration: 51% D / 37% R

Background: Voters in this district may feel a sense of deja vu. Assemblyman Bop Epple (D-Cerritos) once again is facing Republican Phil Hawkins, a Cerritos real estate broker who lost to the incumbent two years ago. Epple is seeking his fourth and final term in the Assembly.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Bob Epple, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Phil Hawkins, businessman.

LIBERTARIAN: Arthur M. Hays, certified professional parliamentarian.

ASSEMBLY / 58th District

Area: Norwalk, Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, Whittier, unincorporated areas of South Whittier and Los Nietos.

Registration: 64% D / 26%R

Background: Incumbent Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk) is the strong favorite to win a second term in this heavily Democratic district. Napolitano, a former Norwalk mayor, sailed through the primary without opposition and faces two lower-profile candidates: Republican James Brett Marymee, who is making his first bid for public office, and Libertarian John P. McCready, who ran for the seat two years ago.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Grace F. Napolitano, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: James Brett, Marymee engineer/technical manager.

LIBERTARIAN: John P. McCready, high school teacher.

ASSEMBLY / 60th District

Area: La Mirada, Whittier, La Habra Heights, Diamond Bar, Walnut, West Covina, Covina, Pomona, Rowland Heights, Valinda, Hacienda Heights, Industry.

Registration: 43% D / 43% R

Background: Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher (R-Diamond Bar) hopes to win a third term in a district that is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Horcher, who calls himself a "mainstream candidate," thinks his appeal to moderates and conservatives will make the difference. He faces Democrat Andrew M. (Andy) Ramirez, a political consultant who has raised less than $4,000 but says he is walking precincts to introduce himself to voters. Ramirez says Horcher's defeat recently in a special election to fill a vacant state Senate seat showed Horcher's limited voter base, but Horcher says he maintains widespread support in the Assembly district.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Andrew M. (Andy) Ramirez, political consultant.

REPUBLICAN: Paul V. Horcher, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Michael L. Welte, engineer.

SENATE / 28th District

Area: Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Wilmington, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Palos Verdes Estates, Redondo Beach, Mar Vista, El Segundo, Marina del Rey, Venice, Westchester, Playa del Rey, Harbor City.

Registration: 53% D / 33% R

Background: This race is shaping up to be a classic contest between an upstart challenger and an entrenched incumbent. Republican David Barrett Cohen hopes to unseat veteran state Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-El Segundo). Cohen has hammered Dills on his long tenure, his pensions and his special-interest contributions, which include funding from liquor, gambling and tobacco interests. Dills, meanwhile, has seized on his opponent's fumbles. Cohen's charge that Dills collected a legislative pension while in the Senate turned out to be false, and Cohen sent a letter of apology.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Ralph C. Dills, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: David Barrett Cohen, business owner/educator.

LIBERTARIAN: Neal Arvid Donner, private teacher.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Cindy V. Henderson, customer service representative.

SENATE / 30th District

Area: Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South Gate, Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Maywood, Huntington Park, Cudahy, South El Monte.

Registration: 65% D / 24% R

Background: Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Montebello) appears headed for a second full term despite recent controversy over campaign finances. Investigators for the state Fair Political Practices Commission found he had improperly dipped into his campaign treasury to pay for personal items, including tennis clothes. Calderon's only opponent, Republican Ken Gow, said he decided not to raise the issue of campaign finances because he doesn't expect to win. He has raised less than $1,000.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Charles M. Calderon, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Ken Gow, retired aerospace engineer.

Staff writers Ted Johnson and Gordon Dillow and correspondent Psyche Pascual contributed to this story.

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