At least four Democrats and one Republican have expressed an interest in running for the Assembly seat held by Speaker Pro Tem Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower), who announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection.
Vicencia, 54, who has represented the 54th Assembly District since 1975, said he was stepping down to devote more time to his family and insurance business.
Compton Mayor Walter Tucker, a Democrat, said he is considering the race but has not made up his mind.
If Tucker decides not to run, businesswoman Doris Davis, a former Compton mayor and city clerk, said she would enter the campaign. Otherwise, Davis, also a Democrat, said she would support Tucker.
A third Democrat stepping forward was Kent A. Spieller of Bellflower, a Beverly Hills lawyer. An aide to Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton) said the congressman is backing Spieller.
The fourth Democrat who said he is interested is retired Compton Municipal Court Judge G. Tom Thompson.
The lone Republican who said he would run for Vicencia's seat is Lakewood Councilman Paul E. Zeltner, a retired Sheriff's Department captain.
The 54th Assembly District includes Bellflower, Paramount, Compton, Lakewood and part of Long Beach. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by nearly 3 to 1, with 92,307 Democrats, 36,340 Republicans and 7,776 unaffiliated voters, according to county records.
Those expressing an early interest in the Assembly seat said in interviews that they expect more candidates to enter the race.
"I'm sure you're going to have a lot of people. It's like throwing meat in the forest," Tucker said.
Tucker, 61, said he was surprised by Vicencia's decision to retire and has not decided whether to run. "Right now I've got my hands full" with the part-time job of Compton mayor and his dental practice, Tucker said.
Tucker won election last April by an 8-to-1 margin but lost a November referendum on two Charter amendments that would have created a full-time mayor's position and given Tucker the proposed $73,452-a-year job.
'Strong Voice' for Compton
Davis, 46, was Compton city clerk from 1965 to 1973, when she was elected mayor. She held that office until 1977, and now is president of Heritage Unlimited Inc., an office and computer supply company, and owns Daisy Foundation Inc., a child-care and counseling service.
"Compton needs to get a strong voice in state government because we need government funds to match the many needs of the community," Davis said. She praised Vicencia's work in the Assembly, as did Tucker and Spieller.
Spieller, 34, was chairman of Californians for a Fair Index, a citizens' group that opposed Proposition 7, the income-tax adjusting initiative of Howard Jarvis that was approved in 1982 by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
Spieller said he would seek the Democratic nomination for Assembly, saying: "I'm more serious than I think I've ever been. It's an opportunity I'm glad has come my way."
Spieller has the "definite" support of Dymally, said Lonnie Sanders, an aide in Dymally's Compton office.
Thompson, 44, of North Long Beach--who was a professor of business and law at California State University, Dominguez Hills, before he became a judge--said he is "positively" interested in running but is concerned about his health because he has a nerve disorder from an auto accident. Thompson said he would have to consult with his doctor before deciding whether to enter the race.
Zeltner, a deputy sheriff for 26 years who retired as a captain, said he "would expect a hot race" to fill Vicencia's post. Zeltner, 60, said he picked up nominating petitions and began soliciting support from officials in neighboring cities after he heard "Frank's seat might be up for grabs." He said he was running because his experience as a deputy and council member would make him an effective state legislator.
GOP 'Not Interested'
Zeltner, however, should not expect too much financial support from his party, said a member of the Assembly's Republican leadership, who asked for anonymity.
"I don't see any chance of the Republicans winning," the assemblyman said, adding that Republican leaders had reviewed the race in a weekend strategy session. "That's a Democratic seat. We're not interested in it. We're not going to put any money into it."
However, Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill) said Republicans had a chance to win a "tough" district.
"I think it's an opportunity. There's a shot," Brown said, adding that Zeltner was an attractive candidate, though Brown stopped short of endorsing him.
Richie Ross, chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown (D-San Francisco), said he does not expect his boss to support a candidate in the June 3 primary election.
Although the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, he said, "it's never been our style to take anything for granted in November."
Indeed, in 1984, after Dianne Xitco of Cerritos captured the Democratic nomination for Assembly in the adjoining 63rd District, Brown dispatched campaign aides to help direct Xitco's general election campaign, which she lost to Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk).
Candidates may file declarations of intention to run for the June 3 primary from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5.