Two incumbent Democrats, despite running well-financed campaigns in the heavily Democratic 24th and 34th districts, say they are taking nothing for granted in their bids to win reelection to the state Senate.
Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino), whose 34th District stretches from Pomona to San Bernardino, has spent about $30,000 with "a lot more to spend if we need it" to extend his 13-year incumbency.
Ayala is being challenged by Republican Steve E. Turner, an accounting coordinator from Rialto, who says he has spent about $10,000 in a "grass-roots" campaign to defeat the veteran legislator.
Solid Hold on District
At the other end of the San Gabriel Valley, Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), running for a second four-year term, seems to have a solid enough hold that he has not yet spent any money on his campaign in the 24th District, which includes South Pasadena, East Los Angeles and Eagle Rock.
His two opponents, Republican Lee D. Prentiss, a Los Angeles Police Department detective from South Pasadena, and Libertarian Laura G. Brown, an English tutor from Los Angeles, have each spent less than $500 in campaigning.
The only other state Senate race in the San Gabriel Valley features Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), who is running unopposed in the 26th District, which includes Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead, La Puente and Baldwin Park.
The two incumbents being challenged said they have plans to campaign actively until the Nov. 4 election.
Ayala, 63, said that he is using billboards, direct mailers and radio advertisements to show voters the leadership he says he has exerted in Sacramento, particularly on the issue of bringing supplemental water supplies to Southern California.
'Never a Safe Race'
"There's never a safe race," Ayala said. "I'm taking this fellow like he was (President) Reagan running against me."
Turner, 38, who is running for public office for the first time, said he thought Ayala's grasp on the 55.7% Democratic district was "one of the easier ones" to break because of changing demographics in San Bernardino County.
"A lot of our citizenry have been new families who don't know him, who don't know his record," Turner said. "He has sat back on what he has done in the past and figured he was relatively secure."
Turner also criticized Ayala for "ineffectiveness" in providing local leadership, especially over water issues that he said the senator should have had the clout and expertise to tackle.
A recent clash between local water districts that resulted in the development of two water treatment plants in the Inland Empire could have been prevented if Ayala had intervened and recommended that one plant be constructed to service the entire area, Turner contended.
"We need leadership that represents our district and not Sacramento," Turner said.
Ayala, however, said that he involves himself in local disputes only if he is asked by local agencies to participate.
"Apparently, Mr. Turner is not aware of the different levels of government," Ayala said. "If he wants to get so heavily involved, he ought to be running for one of the local water boards instead."
The issue of water ultimately is a statewide responsibility, Ayala said, adding that he would continue his efforts to transfer water, possibly by means of a new canal, from Northern California to the Southland.
"I'm convinced that unless supplemental water is brought down here by the turn of the century, we're going to be in deep trouble in Southern California," Ayala said. "If there's no water, there's nothing."
Both candidates said they are opposed to the confirmation of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, but they differ on Proposition 63, the measure to declare English the state's official language.
Turner said that "we should have one language," and that "while we all have a heritage from somewhere else, as Americans we have to assume a new life style and new ways of doing things."
Ayala said that he supports "the idea of making everyone learn English" but opposes the measure because he thinks it is poorly written and could invite excessive litigation.
Despite running in a district with nearly 68% of the voters registered as Democrats, Torres said that he is not taking his seat in the 24th District for granted.
Torres, 40, was uncontested in the primary election.
"Whether a district is safe or unsafe, people are accountable to their constituents," Torres said. "You're still vulnerable."
Prentiss, the Republican challenger, who also serves as mayor of South Pasadena, conceded that Torres may be unbeatable but said he is running to protest a district alignment that is basically "unfair."
"I object to the philosophy of lopsided gerrymandering," Prentiss said. "It becomes extremely obvious to anybody that you can't possibly win. He could do virtually anything and not be defeated."