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California Elections : Opponents Target Rep. Dymally From Reagan's Ramparts

May 11, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Democrat Mervyn M. Dymally would seem to have little to worry about in his campaign for a fourth term in Congress.

Generally considered a shrewd operator who knows how to keep his political ducks in a row, Dymally, at 60, faces a field of political unknowns in this year's elections. He can, if necessary, flex his muscle as the incumbent and likely winner to nudge local leaders into line and raise whatever cash is needed to swamp his challengers.

The 31st Congressional District, one of the most heavily Democratic in the state, also tends to give a routine nod to party incumbents, and Dymally--who held a string of statewide offices before his first trip to Congress in 1980--can call on any support he needs from fellow Democrats throughout California.

But his opponents say they may have some surprises for the veteran officeholder on his intended romp to another term.

Kevin Zondervan, a Lyndon LaRouche follower and aerospace engineer, said he expects a repeat here of the upset achieved by the Democratic splinter group in Illinois' March primary.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 25, 1986 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 4 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in the South Bay section May 11 said that U.S. Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton) voted for the MX missile. Although Dymally voted in May, 1983, in favor of MX research and development work--some of which was done in his district--he was absent or voted against later measures to procure and deploy the MX.

And if Dymally defeats Zondervan in the June 3 primary, one of three Republican challengers and a Peace and Freedom Party candidate will be lying in wait at the November election.

A key theme among the Republican hopefuls is that Dymally's steadfast opposition to President Reagan's policies runs counter to a rising tide of patriotism. The voters, the outnumbered Republicans contend, also have lost faith in Dymally's efforts to deal with continuing economic and social problems in some areas of the district.

The district covers all or parts of Hawthorne, Gardena, Carson, Compton, Lynwood, Paramount and Bellflower and includes a piece of Los Angeles and a tiny section of North Long Beach. Its diverse population of about 550,000 is 31% black, 21% Latino and 8% Asian.

In an interview, Dymally, who served as California's lieutenant governor until his defeat for reelection in 1978, said he had heard the fighting calls of his challengers in two previous congressional campaigns and still breezed to victory. He received about 71% of the vote in both general elections.

At the same time, Dymally said he is not taking any chances that LaRouche lightning might strike his constituents.

"We're doing a lot of aggressive campaigning and I plan to come home every weekend" from Washington, Dymally said. "We're not taking anything for granted."

Dymally noted that the MX missile and other military contracts for which he has voted--albeit reluctantly because of his stated philosophical opposition to what he believes is excessive reliance on military force--have brought good times to aerospace industries in Hawthorne and other parts of his district.

But he acknowledged that voters in depressed areas may not be pleased with cutbacks in federal benefits since the last election two years ago.

"Given the limits we face in Congress, I have tried to respond to the needs of the district," he said. "But President Reagan's policies have in many ways inhibited the kind of movement I would like to see in economically depressed areas."

He blamed Reagan for cutting back on federally funded programs for jobs, housing and education.

Under Reagan, said Dymally, who lives in Compton, "the middle class is doing better, but the poor are doing worse. Compton is suffering more. . . . Conditions have actually gotten worse, especially among young people."

Unemployment in Compton, particularly among teen-agers, runs as high as 40%.

Proposed Remedies

But help is on the way, Dymally said, if several pending bills make it out of a deficit-wary Congress and escape a presidential veto. He mentioned measures to rehabilitate schools and public buildings and to provide funds for high school students to work in private industry.

He took credit for grants or pending aid for the Compton and Southwest community colleges to improve curriculum, and for changes in Postal Department regulations to extend job protection benefits to non-Civil Service employees.

Dymally said he is also working to have the Artesia Freeway designated as an interstate highway so federal funds can be provided to combat noise and pollution. And, he said, he is negotiating with the Navy to bring more federal shipbuilding and maintenance contracts to the Long Beach Harbor.

As for foreign affairs, Dymally noted that his preoccupation with international problems--he is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee--"can be a liability around campaign time. But we are living in a world community, and as long as taxpayer money is being spent overseas, some of us (in Congress) should be watching to see that it is used wisely."

Opposes Contra Aid

Dymally said he initially supported Reagan's bombing attacks against military targets in Libya, but later deplored damage in civilian areas. He has adamantly opposed U.S. support for the rebels in Nicaragua, maintaining that the contras "are not credible people."

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