Although confident of reelection to his third term in Congress, Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) is taking his challenger seriously enough to have raised a campaign chest of more than half a million dollars for this fall's general election.
Levine's opponent is expected to be Rob Scribner, a financial planner, part-time pastor and former football player who has not ceased to campaign against Levine since the incumbent beat him two years ago.
Before the two men square off again, however, Scribner must overcome a challenge in next month's Republican primary, where he faces Alfred Froelich, a publicity-shy candidate backed by Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.'s National Democratic Policy Committee. The group has been described as fascist although its leader sees himself as a modern-day Lincoln. It is not linked with the Democratic Party.
Scribner said he does not see Froelich's candidacy as a threat, because his rival does not live in the 27th Congressional District and has not appeared at any Republican functions.
'The Climate Is Favorable'
"Actually, I think the guy came in pretty late, and we're not doing anything we weren't going to do anyway toward the general election," Scribner said. "Basically we feel the climate is favorable, especially in the Republican Party, and we're looking toward November against Levine."
Froelich, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident who lists his occupation as construction sales executive, declined to talk about himself, about his stand on the issues or about what he thinks of the other candidates.
"Leave it blank when it comes to me," he said when reached on the telephone after several messages went unanswered. "I just don't want to give out my specific ideas. I'm going to keep it under the hat, believe it or not."
Froelich is one of 16 congressional candidates identified by the California Democratic Party as being backed by LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee, a list confirmed by Brian Lantz, LaRouche's Northern California coordinator.
LaRouche followers won the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in Illinois in March, but more recently his adherents failed to come close in 40 other races across the country.
Levine, who enjoys a high rating in the records kept by liberal groups such as Americans for Democratic Action, said he feels that neither Scribner nor Froelich will have much of a chance in the general election.
"We have two extremists running in the Republican primary," Levine said. "What we have is a LaRouche extremist running against another extremist."
He said that whoever wins will be "outside the mainstream of political thought in my district."
Scribner, who supports President Reagan on most issues, said he expects to follow the tactics of his 1984 campaign against Levine, a liberal who is running for a third term.
Scribner said Levine's voting record has favored "increased taxes and increased government," and Scribner vowed to take a tougher stand against opening the Santa Monica Bay for oil drilling.
The Scribner-Froelich race will be the only contest in the 27th District, where Levine and the standard-bearers of the Peace and Freedom Party and the Libertarian Party are all running unopposed.
When Scribner and Levine last faced each other, Scribner, a political neophyte, picked up 42% of the vote, a respectable showing in a district where only 33.4% of the voters are registered Republicans.
Levine won in 1984 with 54.9% of the vote, compared to a Democratic registration of 54.7% in the district, which includes much of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles and parts of Torrance and other cities in the South Bay.
After the votes were in on election night two years ago, Levine said that the margin of victory would have been more decisive had he spent more of his time and money on the campaign and less on fighting a statewide redistricting initiative.
He said that this time he will be more active, bolstered by a campaign fund of more than $517,000, much of it raised at a dinner last year. The event yielded about $200,000 more than Levine's previous fund-raiser in 1983.
"I felt there was no way of knowing whether the religious right would put a lot of money into the campaign, and that discretion is the better part of valor and that therefore I should be cautious and raise money," Levine said.
Campaign Fund Totals
Scribner said he thinks his current campaign is "going real well" despite federal reports that showed him with less than $4,000 available as of March 31.
Cash on hand now totals about $15,000, he said, and his total fund-raising for both campaigns has brought in about $300,000, much of which was spent during the 1984 effort and for overhead costs such as office rent.
Scribner said donations should increase once the primary is over, but he expects the major source to be business groups and local Republicans rather than the religious right.