Statewide Republican fund-raisers, who labeled Assemblyman Tom Hayden an unrepentant radical and a primary target for defeat in two previous campaigns, said there may be no major opposition to his candidacy this year.
Directors of two of the most influential Republican political committees said no one from the GOP has emerged as a serious contender for Hayden's seat. They said a candidate with strong credentials could materialize before the March 7 filing deadline, but added that the Santa Monica Democrat would be very difficult to beat.
The Republican organizers said that Hayden, who is expected to announce his candidacy for a third term as the 44th District representative soon, has benefitted from the heavily Democratic makeup of his Westside area. They said the liberal assemblyman also has proved that his ability to raise funds is virtually unlimited, thanks in large part to the resources that his wife, actress Jane Fonda, controls.
"We haven't spoken to anybody about running," said James R. Grubbs, director of the Free Market Political Action Committee. "I would like to see someone who's really strong and credible enter the race . . . but most people understand that he's in a very liberal district."
'No Anointed Candidate'
Richard Temple, director of the Assembly Republican Political Action Committee, which works on behalf of GOP Assembly candidates, said California Republicans would gladly support a strong anti-Hayden candidate. But he added that there is none at this point.
"Any candidate who ran against him, unless he was a total boob, would probably find it easy to raise money (statewide)," Temple said. "But there's no anointed candidate. There's nobody out there leading the pack."
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) did not respond to inquiries about the race.
Hayden, 45, said he was unaware of any serious opposition, but cautioned that a surprise candidate could enter the campaign during the next two months. On the other hand, Hayden said Republicans may focus most of their attention on the U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, Supreme Court and other Assembly races.
'Not Too Late'
"They could very well be looking for someone now," Hayden said. "It's not too late. But there are a lot of people they want to replace or hold in office. I don't believe that even Republican money is infinite, and they're looking at spending enormous amounts of money on other important races."
Grubbs' organization and other Republican groups continue to invoke Hayden's name in fund-raising efforts.
In an unsuccessful effort to wrest control of the Santa Cruz City Council from Hayden allies last October, Grubbs said in mailer, "We've got Tom Hayden and the left liberal political element on the run! . . . We can seriously hurt Hayden's and that political element's plans to gain political power." But organizers said they a leery of waging another costly campaign against Hayden himself, who has beaten them twice before.
Hayden's first campaign, in 1982, was marked by bitter rhetoric and record spending. Bill Hawkins, a Republican insurance man, hammered away at Hayden's role as a Vietnam-era anti-war activist. He also charged that Hayden's Campaign for Economic Democracy, a political organization, was "socialist in viewpoint."
Hayden accused Hawkins of "mudslinging." He won the race with about 53% of the vote, but not before spending $1.7 million. Hawkins spent more than $900,000 in what is regarded as the most expensive Assembly race in history.
In 1984, Hayden was challenged by Republican David M. Shell, an attorney who represented landlords in cases against the Santa Monica Rent Control Board. Shell established himself as a serious candidate with the support of prominent politicians such as former President Gerald R. Ford, Sen. Pete Wilson and Deukmejian and received financial backing from statewide organizers.
But that race also turned nasty when Hayden revealed that Shell had been court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor for drug abuse while serving in the Air Force. Shell reponded by calling Hayden "Mr. Sleaze" and the "Criminal's Friend," citing his voting record on crime issues. Each candidate spent about $400,000 in the race, which Hayden won with about 56% of the vote.
Race Ruled Out
Hawkins has since moved to the San Fernando Valley and Shell has ruled out the possibility of a rematch. Stan Robbins, a Westside Republican political organizer, said it is difficult for any GOP candidate to make inroads in the 44th District because about 70% of the voters are Democrats. Robbins said Republicans are recruiting more voters, but added that any challenger would have a tough time winning a race against the well-entrenched Hayden.
Santa Monica City Councilman David G. Epstein, a Republican, considered entering the race in 1984. He said he has ruled out a battle with Hayden this year because the odds are overwhelmingly in Hayden's favor.