SACRAMENTO — Assembly Republicans, outnumbered 47 to 33 by the Democrats, hope to parlay a reelection victory by Gov. George Deukmejian and voter rejection of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird into a slight boost in their ranks in the Nov. 4 election, GOP strategists say.
Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, are accusing Republicans of being slow to act on toxic waste cleanup--a page borrowed from the strategy book of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in his campaign against Deukmejian.
Deukmejian, Bird and the toxics issue all are providing the backdrop for California politics this year and, as such, they are affecting partisan campaigns even at the local level. Still, many of the legislative races, as usual, will be decided largely on the basis of local issues and voting patterns, the personalities of candidates--and who has the most money to spend.
Campaign Can Cost $1 Million
A successful Assembly campaign can cost $1 million or more, and contested races two years ago averaged about $450,000.
There will be at least 11 new faces in the 80-member Assembly after the election, replacing incumbents who are either retiring or running for higher office.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) also may face a challenge to his Republican leadership, even if he doesn't think so now. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and the Democrats expect to retain their control.
Privately, both sides are hoping to pick up two or three additional seats.
But the recent indictment of former Democratic Assemblyman Bruce E. Young of Norwalk in connection with the W. Patrick Moriarty political corruption scandal, plus the continuing investigation of possible involvement of other lawmakers, also poses the potential of an anti-incumbent backlash.
Mail Fraud Charges
Young was charged by a federal grand jury with 28 counts of mail fraud for allegedly filing false financial disclosure statements stemming from payments he received from Moriarty and a Los Angeles cable television firm. Now a Sacramento lobbyist, Young has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Moriarty was sentenced to seven years in prison last February on charges of money-laundering, fraud and bribery of public officials.
The 11 Assembly incumbents who are not seeking reelection are leaving the Lower House for a variety of reasons.
Three of them--Wally Herger (R-Rio Oso), Ernie Konnyu (R-Saratoga) and Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove)--are running for Congress. Two others--Louis J. Papan (D-Millbrae) and Don Rogers (R-Bakersfield)--are seeking state Senate seats. Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) won the Democratic nomination for state controller.
Prestige on the Line
Robert W. Naylor (R-Menlo Park) ran and lost in the U.S. Senate primary. Don Sebastiani (R-Sonoma) and Alister McAlister (D-Fremont) lost in their respective primaries for state controller. Jean M. Duffy (D-Citrus Heights) is taking a job as a lobbyist, and Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower) is retiring.
Republican leader Nolan placed his political prestige on the line last June when his political allies poured more than $750,000 into the campaign war chests of five conservative candidates in contested GOP primaries. But only two of Nolan's candidates won.
An anti-Nolan faction, led by Assemblyman Stan Statham (R-Oak Run), promptly started discussing the possibility of overthrowing Nolan after the general election.
"I think he's (Nolan's) doomed," Statham said. "It's just a matter of time. As minority leader, he just has too many liabilities to last.
"The caucus is not going to forget that he wasted almost a million dollars. His fatal mistake was not to admit that he made a mistake."
Is Statham a candidate for the GOP post? "That's possible," he said. "But I don't care who it is. We have to find \o7 someone\f7 ."
Nolan discounted Statham's remarks. "I don't expect a challenge," he said. "The vast majority of the caucus are very satisfied. They think I have given both leadership and direction to the caucus.
"Statham is all sour grapes. . . . The rest of the members of the caucus laugh at him."
Meanwhile, Speaker Brown figures that it will cost about $5 million to run Democratic Assembly campaigns this year, $2 million more than what Nolan estimates that the GOP campaigns will cost.
Brown will hold a $650-a-plate fund-raising dinner at the Beverly Hilton on Wednesday that is expected to raise more than $1 million. Sammy Davis Jr. and his Las Vegas show will provide the entertainment. It is billed as Brown's "major" fund-raising event of the year.