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Boland’s Bid for Senate Gets a Boost : GOP primary: The decision by Assemblyman Bill Hoge to seek reelection may have averted an intraparty blood bath.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A seemingly problematic bid by state Assemblywoman Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) to forge a new political base in the Glendale area and run for a state Senate seat received a big boost this week when her main foe unexpectedly dropped out of the GOP primary.

State Assemblyman Bill Hoge (R-Pasadena) reversed himself and announced his plan to run for reelection in the Assembly rather than risk a head-to-head, and potentially bloody, GOP primary collision with Boland over the seat now held by state Sen. Newt Russell (R-Glendale).

Hoge had looked for months like he was in the race to succeed Russell, who is being forced to step down next year due to term limits.

“It was a surprise to us,” said Rob Stutzman, a top aide to GOP Senate leader Rob Hurtt (R-Garden Grove). “Rob [Hurtt] is disappointed that he’s lost the strongest horse in the race.”

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Hurtt had been actively supporting Hoge’s candidacy and seeking to discourage Boland, herself a term limits victim who saw Russell’s Senate seat as a way to stay in the Sacramento legislative arena, from entering the race.

Several weeks ago, Hurtt said he took a poll that convinced him that Hoge, whose Assembly district falls within Russell’s Senate district, was indisputably the top GOP candidate. Boland should defer to Hoge and spare the Republicans a messy primary in a seat where Democratic strength has been growing, Hurtt’s associates said.

Without the strongest Republican in the race, the seat might go to a Democrat, Hurtt had previously told The Times.

But Hoge claimed in a press release that he was persuaded by Gov. Pete Wilson and GOP Assembly caucus leader Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) to stay put in order to “preserve Republican control of the Assembly.”

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“This is good news,” said Bill Ukropina, chairman of the Tri-Cities Lincoln Club, a local GOP group. It avoids “a costly blood bath” in the GOP Senate primary that would drain party coffers and provide fodder for Democrats, he said.

Hurtt and Hoge both declined to be interviewed Wednesday.

Boland, meanwhile, reached after speaking Wednesday to a Glendale Republican women’s club, said she was elated by Hoge’s announcement. “This is great news,” Boland said. “I’m in this race with both feet.”

Boland, 55, an assemblywoman since 1990, said she was not bothered by Hurtt’s earlier statements that she would be a weak political transplant if she ran for Russell’s seat.

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“I didn’t listen to it then--so it didn’t faze me,” Boland said. She said she would seek Hurtt’s endorsement now that Hoge is out of the race.

Boland also denied that she would have criticized Hoge in the primary for his ties to gaming interests and that the prospect of having to endure such a campaign explained Hoge’s pull-out. “I always looked at this in terms of my being the best person for the job, not from a negative standpoint,” she said.

But some GOP political strategists speculated that Boland would have skewered Hoge, who has had Christian rightist support, for the massive contributions he has received from gaming interests.

Pasadena Republican businessman Robert Oltman, who ran for the state Assembly in 1992 and is now running for the Russell Senate seat, could not be reached for comment.

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Democrats are poised to put former federal prosecutor Adam Schiff up as their candidate in the Senate race. In 1994, Schiff ran for the state Assembly seat held by Pat Nolan until Nolan’s imprisonment on a corruption charge. Schiff lost to Republican Jim Rogan.

Meanwhile, Hoge’s decision to seek reelection disappointed candidates who had been laying groundwork to run for his Assembly seat, assuming he was running for the Senate.

One of those, Wilbert Smith, director of Wilson’s community relations office who ran for state schools superintendent in 1994, said it was unlikely that he would run against Hoge, a fellow Republican, but that he wanted to study the situation more before deciding. “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do,” Smith said.


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