Three Republicans--Simi Valley Mayor Elton Gallegly, Tony Hope, a lawyer and son of comedian Bob Hope, and stock brokerage executive Tom La Porte--are competing in the June 3 primary race in the 21st Congressional District.
The district extends from eastern Ventura County through parts of the western San Fernando Valley to the Sunland-Tujunga area. It also dips into the Pacific Ocean to include Santa Catalina.
Because the district is overwhelmingly Republican, the winner of the GOP primary will most likely become the 21st District's next congressman. The scramble for that privilege was touched off when the incumbent, Rep. Bobbi Fielder (R-Northridge), decided to run for the U.S. Senate.
Profiles of the three candidates follow.
Comic's Son Relies More on Fiscal Acumen Than Laughs
A recent fund-raiser held in the San Fernando Valley for congressional candidate Tony Hope began like so many other political affairs.
First, supporters lined up at the door to shake hands with Hope and his wife, Judy. Then they lined up at the cash bar. When the caterers brought out chafing dishes, they lined up for the hot hors d'oeuvres.
But, halfway through the evening, the crowd grew momentarily silent in expectation before erupting into applause. Those seated jumped to their feet. Everyone seemed mesmerized as an elegant elderly gentleman wearing a tweed jacket with a splash of color in his breast pocket slowly entered the room with his son, Tony.
Of course, it was Bob Hope.
It was the entertainer's first public appearance for his son, a Washington insider who recently returned to the San Fernando Valley to run for Congress. The son's strategists had intentionally kept the famous father away from the campaign until its waning hours.
"Tony is going to be judged on his own," promised George Young, Hope's political consultant, early in the campaign. "There is no concern about father overshadowing the son."
If Bob Hope has been mostly invisible in this contest, his influence has not. Political insiders think the Hope name, along with the support of family friends like former President Gerald R. Ford and J. Peter Grace, an industrialist and head of the Grace Commission, will improve the candidate's chances.
But Bob Hope isn't so sure. "I don't know if it will help him or hurt him," he told reporters before delighting the crowd at the fund-raiser with an irreverent, 15-minute comedy routine.
The Hope name, however, has not always been a magnet on the campaign circuit. When Tony Hope sent out hundreds of invitations to a "town hall" meeting at the county library in Valencia, for instance, 11 people showed up. Hope has had to fight the same voter apathy that is facing his two GOP opponents--Simi Valley Mayor Elton Gallegly and Tom La Porte, a stock brokerage executive from Thousand Oaks.
Forte Is Numbers
What Tony has not gotten from his father is his priceless wit. When the candidate cracks a joke, he is lucky if he musters a few chuckles. But the candidate is affable and warm with voters and shows none of the pretensions associated with growing up as a star's child.
Hope's public speaking still needs polishing, but he says his forte is "number crunching." Most of Hope's previous jobs have required financial acumen, whether it was renegotiating the Batmobile contract as an executive with 20th Century Fox or determining price tags for federal government landholdings while on the Grace Commission.
Two presidents have taken advantage of Hope's financial ability. In 1976, President Ford appointed Hope as financial vice president to the Overseas Private Investment Corp. At the time, Hope was president of a consulting firm involved in rehabilitating television and radio stations in the Caribbean and Central America, which were broadcasting with decrepit, World War II-vintage equipment.
On President Reagan's Grace Commission, created to find ways to cut government waste, Hope wrote a sizable part of Volume 36, which explored ways that private industry could take over some of the federal government's unprofitable enterprises. Hope recommended, for instance, that the federal government sell Dulles and National airports in Washington.
Harvard Law Graduate
Hope, 45, who was trained at Harvard Law School, gets high marks from Grace, chairman of W. R. Grace & Co., for his work on the commission.
"He did a very good job," Grace said. "He is very intelligent. He has all the right ideas."
Hope's experience in Washington has become an issue in the campaign. Gallegly has portrayed Hope as a lobbyist, a profession supposedly held in low esteem by voters. There remains some confusion about the nature of Hope's most recent jobs.
For several years, Hope, a partner in a major accounting firm in Washington, headed the firm's legislative liaison office, which helped 20,000 corporate clients when they encountered trouble on Capitol Hill or with federal agencies. But Hope maintains that he always referred clients to lobbyists if what they wanted were changes in the law.
When asked his biggest weakness, Hope, a conservative Republican, said he might be too sympathetic to those who disagree with him politically. But, he says, he does not plan to change.
Views 'Too Balanced'
"My views are probably a little too balanced," he said during a recent interview. "I'm too understanding of all sides of an issue."
Judy Hope, a trial attorney and partner in a bicoastal law firm, said her husband understands the pressures of working mothers. When they moved to Washington 10 years ago, she said, they chose to live in the District of Columbia instead of the suburbs so they could spend more time with their two children. Tony Hope washes dishes, carts the kids around and has always arranged his schedule so that one of the parents would be home at night, she said.
Hope, who has hankered to run for public office for more than 20 years, waited until his children were teen-agers.
"A lot of men are scared to deal with professional women," Judy Hope said. "Tony isn't that way."