Familiar Names Dominate Primary

Times Staff Writer

The outline of California's June 6 election sharpened Friday as a crowd of ambitious newcomers joined such old-timers as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown on the roster of candidates who met the deadline to get their names on the statewide ballot.

As the field of top-tier candidates became clear, it affirmed once again that a familiar name, incumbency and a big stash of money remain the surest paths to high public office in California, where campaigns can cost tens of millions of dollars.

"All things being equal, I'd rather have a candidate that's well known and has a lot of money, but that's a rare thing," said veteran Republican strategist Ken Khachigian, a San Clemente lawyer.

For those who have it, it can scare away rivals: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fame and money deterred any major Republican from challenging his nomination for reelection, even as he prepares to combat a Democrat -- as yet unselected -- in the fall.

Feinstein, a rich and popular U.S. senator, not only drew no major Democratic opponent, she also faces a minimal threat in November. Even Republicans say her apparent GOP rival, former San Gabriel Valley state Sen. Richard Mountjoy, has no chance of removing her from the Senate.

"That race is over," said Republican Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book election guide.

For Democrats, hotly contested primaries are in store for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, controller and secretary of state. In an era of state and local term limits, most of the leading contenders -- as on the Republican side -- are elected officials trying to elbow their way to higher office.

Republicans are more united, with the only big GOP nomination fights for treasurer and possibly controller. Republican leaders hope the absence of serious primaries for Schwarzenegger and at least four other GOP candidates will help the party fare relatively well in California despite its broad political troubles nationally.

But the GOP faced a last-minute surprise when, just before the deadline, Rep. Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley announced that he would retire from Congress. That led a Republican candidate for controller, former state Assemblyman Tony Strickland of Ventura County, to try to jump into the race for Gallegly's seat. Election officials refused to accept his papers because he was already on the ballot for controller, an advisor said.

For a decade, California has strongly favored Democrats, but the GOP ticket starts in stronger shape than the party's lackluster 2002 statewide slate of contenders, all of whom lost.

Schwarzenegger and GOP Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, appointed to replace a Democrat who resigned, both have the clout of incumbency at their disposal. Fiscal conservative Tom McClintock, the party's sole candidate for lieutenant governor, is widely known from his run for governor in the 2003 recall race.

And Steve Poizner, a Republican Silicon Valley tycoon, has millions to spend in the fall on his race for insurance commissioner against Democrat Cruz Bustamante. The lieutenant governor's paltry 31% of the vote for governor in the recall suggests potential difficulty in his 2006 race. Bustamante is also low on cash; his last finance report showed his campaign had just $85,000 at the end of the year.

Overshadowing all the primary contests is the Democratic race for governor. State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly already have poured millions into television ads and the race is growing more contentious by the day: On Friday, the Angelides campaign hammered Westly for his investments in oil stocks and questioned his coastal protection pledge. Westly's team called Angelides "miserly in his charitable giving" and accused him of investing in a real estate partnership that was caught "cheating on its taxes."

Also grabbing attention this spring will be Proposition 82, filmmaker Rob Reiner's plan to increase income taxes on the richest Californians to provide free preschool to every 4-year-old in the state. Business groups trying to defeat the measure say allegations that the Reiner political team misused taxpayer money to promote the measure could damage its prospects.

The other statewide ballot measure up for a June 6 vote is Proposition 81, a $600-million bond proposal for library construction.

Also up for election this year are the state's 53 congressional seats, half of the 40 state Senate seats and all 80 Assembly seats. Democrats are expected to maintain their solid majorities in the House delegation and both chambers of the Legislature. Gallegly's seat is all but certain to remain Republican.

In the legislative races, all but a handful of districts were drawn to protect incumbents of their respective parties. As a result, the primary races will determine many of the winners. The biggest campaign battles are expected to be in Democratic primaries.

Of the statewide contests, one of the most visible will be the Democratic primary for attorney general. Already, the battle between Oakland Mayor Brown and L.A. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo is turning harsh.

Delgadillo's spokesman this week blamed the former governor for the skyrocketing homicide rate in Oakland, saying it "looks like the mayor's been asleep at the switch." Brown campaign manager Ace Smith accused Delgadillo of "doing favors for a slumlord" and called him a hypocrite.

The main Republican candidate, state Sen. Chuck Poochigian of Fresno, dodged a primary challenge and can savor the battle between Brown and Delgadillo.

In the state treasurer's race, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer is the presumed Democratic nominee. At last count, he had more than $9 million in the bank, making him a runaway favorite in the fall contest against one of the Republican primary candidates: state Assemblyman Keith Richman of Northridge or state Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish.

In the Democratic primary for secretary of state, two state senators are running: Debra Bowen of Marina del Rey and Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento. In the party's contest for lieutenant governor, two other senators -- Jackie Speier of Hillsborough and Liz Figueroa of Fremont -- are competing against Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.

The controller's job, which Westly is vacating to run for governor, has drawn competitive primaries in both major parties.

The Republican race was clouded by uncertainty Friday because of Strickland's attempt to switch to the congressional race. An advisor said Strickland was still weighing his options. His opponent in the GOP primary for controller would be state Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria.

In the Democratic race for controller, the candidates are state Sens. Joe Dunn of Santa Ana, Assemblyman Dario Frommer of Glendale and state Board of Equalization member John Chiang.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, a Democrat seeking reelection, drew no well-known opponent for the nonpartisan post.

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A full list of candidates who have applied for spots on California's June 6 ballot is posted on the secretary of state's website, www.ss.ca.gov.

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