Assembly Republican leader Patrick Nolan (R-Glendale), who says it takes $300,000 to $400,000 to run a winning campaign against an Assembly Democrat, threatened several months ago to sponsor that kind of effort against Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte).
But as the Nov. 4 election nears, Henry J. Velasco, the Republican nominee, says he is still waiting for the big money to flow into his campaign against Tanner. Velasco, a former El Monte councilman, has scraped together $22,000 to run a respectable campaign, but not enough to flood the district with mailers and an all-out media assault.
Velasco said he has received some help from Nolan and the Assembly Republicans, but "at this point it's still a waiting game. They will do a certain amount of tracking or polling to see how I'm doing. . . . They want to see how viable a candidate I am, see how much money I've raised, see how the campaign is moving. They have a lot of races and they want to put the money where it will do the most good."
Although Velasco still has hopes of major campaign assistance, the other challengers facing incumbent San Gabriel Valley Assembly members in the Nov. 4 election appear resigned to low-budget efforts.
One Assemblyman, Richard Mountjoy (R-Monrovia), is unopposed. Mountjoy, 54, has represented the 42nd Assembly District, which stretches across the foothills from Arcadia to Azusa, since 1978.
Six other Assembly members representing the San Gabriel Valley face varying degrees of opposition, but most interest has centered on the Velasco-Tanner contest.
Mike Pottage, director of communications for Assembly Republicans, said Nolan and other strategists are looking at 15 Assembly races where there seems to be some opportunity to upset the Democratic officeholder. Tanner is the only San Gabriel Valley legislator on the list of potential targets that Nolan announced several months ago.
Pottage said the first call on campaign funds is to protect Republican-held seats. A decision will be made soon, he said, on which other races will get a large infusion of campaign cash.
The 60th Assembly District, which takes in Baldwin Park, El Monte, the City of Industry, La Puente, Rosemead and part of West Covina, is overwhelmingly Democratic in registration, but is thought to offer some chance for a Republican, Pottage said. Voters there strongly supported President Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and backed Proposition 13, the property tax initiative, in 1978, he said. The Republicans also have the advantage of a nominee who is Latino in a district that is 54% Latino.
Velasco, who says he is spending 40 to 50 hours a week on his campaign, said he is not sure how his Latino heritage will affect the election.
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"A lot of Hispanics feel that we should have representation," he said. But, he noted, most Latinos also routinely vote Democratic.
"A lot of people feel at this point that if you're Hispanic, you've got to be a Democract. If you are Hispanic and have a problem, you go talk to a Democratic legislator."
Velasco is trying to convince Latino voters that it is in their interest to have a Latino in office on the Republican side. "I think it will open up the system and will be better government if you can have Hispanics on both sides of the floor," he said.
Tanner, who has been in the Assembly since 1978 and is of Polish heritage, discounted the importance of ethnic representation, saying she serves all the voters. "I represent my district," she said. "I don't sort out the ethnic backgrounds of people every time I cast my vote."
The Mexican-American Political Assn. endorsed Tanner at a regional meeting by a vote of 58% to 42%, even though Velasco was present and Tanner was represented only by aides. Velasco said the vote was encouraging since the group consistently endorses Democrats.
Tanner, 55, is chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. She has led efforts to clean up ground-water contamination in the San Gabriel Valley and wrote 1983 legislation that set up a state program to identify and control toxic air contaminants.
In addition to her work on environmental issues, Tanner is best known as the author of the "Lemon Law," a 1982 bill that requires new car dealers to refund the purchase price or replace a new car if they cannot fix a defect after four attempts or if the car is out of service for 30 days.
Before her election to the Assembly, Tanner worked as an aide to an assemblyman and a congressman.
Velasco, 53, served for 10 years on the El Monte City Council. He was defeated in April in a campaign in which one of the issues was the fact that he was running for the state Assembly and the council at the same time. Velasco worked as an engineer in broadcasting for 30 years, many with radio station KFI, where he became known as the engineer for the radio team of Lohman and Barkley. He left the radio station earlier this year and has been working as a real estate agent.