Allan Hoffenblum, a widely respected election-guide publisher who was one of the most influential players in California politics for more than a generation, died Friday at his home in West Hollywood, said his sister, Jeanine Blessing. He was 75.
The cause of death had not been established, but he had been in declining health in recent weeks, said friends and colleagues.
Politicians, journalists, and business and labor leaders relied for years on Hoffenblum’s nonpartisan California Target Book as the most comprehensive guide to the never-ending battles over the state’s congressional and legislative seats.
In Sacramento, players on all sides turned to the meticulously researched print and online guide to understand how California’s rapidly changing demographics were shaping hundreds of campaigns.
Once term limits started sweeping away the Legislature’s longtime incumbents in the 1990s, Hoffenblum’s candidate profiles served as a key introduction to a constantly changing cast of up-and-comers. His guide also detailed who was bankrolling their campaigns.
“Nobody knew who the candidates were, and the Target Book gave you all of that,” said Tony Quinn, a Republican co-editor of the guide. “Labor liked it, and the business people liked it, because you got straight info.”
Even as Hoffenblum gained trust across the political spectrum as a neutral analyst of California campaigns, he remained loyal to the state’s beleaguered Republican Party. For years, he had worked as a GOP strategist — training that was crucial for effectively handicapping elections.
“He knew the art of war, and he’d been a practitioner of the art of war,” said Darry Sragow, a Democratic co-editor of the guide. But Hoffenblum’s “credibility and honor were never questioned by anybody I know. He was sincere. He was guileless.”
In recent years, Hoffenblum often lamented the failure of his party’s old guard to adapt to the growth of the state’s Latino and Asian populations. Troubled by California’s ever more Democratic tilt, he would urge Republicans to abandon their hard line on illegal immigration and tone down their rhetoric on abortion and gay rights, calls that often went unheeded.
He was born Aug. 10, 1940, in Vallejo, Calif., and grew up mainly in Los Angeles and Alamogordo, N.M. His father was a rocket scientist, his mother an appointments secretary to Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California, Blessing said.
Hoffenblum earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications at USC, then served four years as an intelligence officer in the Air Force, including two tours in Vietnam. He rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star.
He had aspired to be a television producer, but decided after the war to enter politics instead, according to his sister. In 1968, he joined the staff of the Los Angeles County Republican Party. He was the county’s field director for Richard Nixon’s presidential reelection campaign in 1972.
Hoffenblum soon made his name as one of California’s more successful Republican strategists in an era when the Watergate scandal was damaging the party nationwide. He worked as staff director for the state Assembly’s Republican caucus and, in 1979, started his own consulting firm.
In 1994, Hoffenblum began publishing the California Target Book, sold by subscription. For the rest of his life, the publication was his chief passion.
“He was in this,” Sragow said of Hoffenblum’s dedication to politics, “because he loved it.”
Blessing is Hoffenblum’s only survivor.