Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) has every reason to approach his quest for a fourth term in Congress with confidence.
His 33rd Congressional District is considered safely Republican; he has no Republican opposition in the June 3 primary, and he won by a landslide two years ago. And although two Democrats and a Peace and Freedom candidate seek to run against him in November, Dreier said he doesn't expect to spend more than a fraction of the nearly $900,000 he has amassed in his campaign fund. Federal Election Commission reports show that Dreier has accumulated more money than any other House member except House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Texas).
The Democratic primary contest involves Monty Hempel, 35, director of the Program in Public Policy Studies at the Claremont Graduate School, and Paul Jeffrey, 34, a masonry contractor who is a supporter of political maverick Lyndon H. La Rouche Jr. In addition, Mike Noonan, 46, a hospital pharmacist who is running unopposed for the Peace and Freedom Party nomination, is seeking write-in votes in the Democratic primary.
The 33rd District includes Whittier, La Mirada, La Habra Heights, Walnut, Azusa, Bradbury, Charter Oak, Claremont, Covina, Diamond Bar, Duarte, Glendora, Hacienda Heights, La Verne, Pomona, Rowland Heights, San Dimas, and the Antelope Valley communities of Pearblossom, Little Rock and Llano.
Republicans outnumber Democrats, 132,059 to 120,600. The total registration of 277,350 also includes 2,841 American Independents, 1,187 Libertarians, 713 members of the Peace and Freedom Party, 328 persons in other parties and 19,622 who declined to state a party preference.
The chief issue in the Democratic primary has been Jeffrey's support of the La Rouche political program. Hempel has called upon Jeffrey "to either publicly renounce his allegiance to the neo-Nazi ideas of Lyndon La Rouche or withdraw his name from consideration for the Democratic Party nomination." He said Jeffrey has a right to run for Congress "but not under the label of a party whose basic values and ideals are firmly opposed to his own."
Noonan said the La Rouche movement is "tremendously demagogic" and "preys on people's fears."
And Dreier, too, has joined in criticizing the positions taken by La Rouche and his supporters. Dreier said the movement "represents the extremes of both the left and the right."
But Jeffrey said that as a La Rouche supporter, he believes he is part of a citizens' movement that is growing in strength. And, he said, it is Hempel, not himself, who should pull out of the Democratic primary "since it is obvious that his and the party's goal is not to offer the best candidate to go against David Dreier but instead to stop me."
Jeffrey received more than 15,000 votes in the Democratic primary two years ago, but lost by a 2-to-1 margin to former Claremont Councilwoman Claire McDonald.
Since then, Jeffrey said, the La Rouche movement has grown, most recently with surprising primary victories for statewide office in Illinois.
"It is an interesting phenomenon," Jeffrey said. "We've been out there for five years and the votes are finally coming in."
Jeffrey is in line with the La Rouche organization in advocating a laser-beam defense, denouncing the banking system and contending that "the most important issue facing voters this year is the AIDS epidemic." Jeffrey and other La Rouche supporters have circulated petitions to put an initiative on the November ballot to instruct the state Health Services Department to list AIDs as a contagious and communicable disease and to empower health authorities to quarantine AIDS victims, exclude students and teachers with the virus from schools and make it a misdemeanor to knowingly spread the disease.
Jeffrey, who recently moved from Glendora to La Verne, attended Glendora High School and Citrus College.
Hempel, who has lived in Claremont for 12 years, has taught government in high school, college and graduate school. He also served as a project manager for Oregon's coastal zone management program.
Hempel said he has been conducting his primary campaign "as a referendum on La Rouche," whom he regards as far outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Hempel has picked up endorsements from a number of Democratic leaders who share his abhorrence of the La Rouche movement, including Sen. Alan Cranston, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and Rep. George Brown (D-Colton).
Seen Attracting Interest
In some ways, the presence of a La Rouche supporter as a primary opponent is helpful to his own campaign, Hempel said. "It gives us some new hope in terms of getting people interested," he said.
If he wins the nomination, Hempel said he will face a difficult race against Dreier in November. "It's clearly uphill," he said, but not impossible. "The political trade winds are awfully changeable.