Those searching for safe bets can find three among the four Los Angeles County races on Tuesday's election ballot.
But the fourth contest offers more than its share of uncertainty: The office may disappear before the winner can claim victory.
The chancy race pits 12 mostly little-known candidates for the position of county assessor, replacing Alexander Pope, who is running for a seat on the state Board of Equalization. Anyone receiving a majority vote would win outright, but the more likely scenario would see the two highest finishers battle each other in November.
But on the same ballot is a county Charter amendment that could make the whole race moot. Proposition B, if approved, would nullify the election and allow the Board of Supervisors to appoint the next assessor.
If family ties mean anything, one of the front-runners will be Gordon Hahn, 67, former assemblyman and Los Angeles councilman. Hahn--whose brother, Kenneth, is a supervisor and whose nephew, James Kenneth, is Los Angeles city attorney--has emblazoned the county with bright orange billboards nearly identical to those used by his relatives in their campaigns.
Aggressively battling Hahn is businessman Jim Keysor, 58, a former four-term San Fernando Valley assemblyman who has charged that Hahn's candidacy smacks of "nepotism."
Frank A. Hill, 65, a property tax consultant who nearly upset Pope in the 1978 assessor's race, is the third proven vote-getter in the race.
Also running are Sid Delgado, 47, a Pope assistant; Webster Guillory, 42, a manager in the Orange County assessor's office; Glenn Buchanan, 63, a commissioner on a Los Angeles city building advisory board; Craig (Freeze) Freis, 42, who lists his occupation as a "tax-reduction advocate"; Joe Gardner, 55, a retired county government administrator; John L. Lynch, 49, a field appraiser in the assessor's office; Gary Passi, 30, a businessman; Henry E. Vagt, 56, an escrow agent who ran against Pope in 1978, and James H. Withycombe, 59, an appraiser in the assessor's office.
The three other races--two for county supervisor and one for sheriff--are campaigns in name only.
Incumbent Supervisors Ed Edelman and Pete Schabarum, both seeking their fourth terms, have spent the campaign season raising money and doling it out to other candidates.
Edelman, who faces three relatively unknown and poorly financed competitors, has raised $346,000 since the beginning of the year and has more than $937,000 in the bank, according to campaign-finance statements filed in mid-May. The politically moderate Edelman represents parts of the San Fernando Valley, the Westside, Hollywood and East Los Angeles.
Schabarum, who in 1980 helped fashion the board's conservative majority by pumping money into the campaigns of fellow Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Deane Dana, faces no opposition. Nonetheless, he has collected more than $503,000 this year and has $564,000 in hand, campaign reports show. He represents the eastern county.
Also expected to breeze to easy victory is incumbent Sheriff Sherman Block, whose three opponents are given little chance of unseating the career law enforcement official. None of the three--retailer Lance Lukenbill, custodian Joseph G. Senteno or former Compton police detective Saul E. Lankster--has mounted an aggressive campaign.
Only three men, including Block, have served as Los Angeles County sheriff in the last 54 years and all came up through the ranks, as Block did.