Just back from an official trip to Spain, state Sen. Diane E. Watson said she is ready to campaign hard for the Nov. 4 election.
However, instead of working for her own reelection against a long-shot Republican in the 28th District, she said she will be spending much of her money and energy working for those Democrats whose victories are less certain.
Armand Vaquer, Watson's 32-year-old Republican challenger from Hawthorne, would be the first to admit that he has little chance of preventing Watson, a 52-year-old liberal Democrat, from winning a third four-year term.
A Conservative Viewpoint
One reason, he said, is that "I'm a Reagan conservative, running in a district with one of the highest percentages of Democratic voters in the state. I'm so far to the right that I'm just about over the edge."
The 28th District encompasses Inglewood, Hawthorne and portions of western Los Angeles. It includes the communities of Venice, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Westchester, Los Angeles International Airport, Ladera Heights, View Park, Baldwin Hills, Hancock Park and the Crenshaw District.
They Have Never Met
Watson and Vaquer have never faced each other in a debate nor have they met accidentally out on the stump. They have, however, traded political shots in response to a reporter's questions.
Vaquer recently accused Watson of being soft on crime and criticized her for supporting California Chief Justice Rose Bird.
Watson admitted that she is a staunch supporter of Bird. "I oppose efforts of those who seek to take away the court's independence," she said.
"I'm not soft on crime," she said "I'm a member of the (state Senate's) Judiciary Committee, my father was a cop, my uncle was a cop. I'm a cop's kid and I have a great respect for law and order."
Watson's experience as an elective official spans more than a decade. She became the first black woman elected to the state Senate in 1978. She won reelection in 1982 against Republican challenger Oscar Wright with 68% of the vote. Prior to her election to the state Senate, Watson served on the Los Angeles Board of Education.
Health Committee Head
In the Senate, Watson serves as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. She also is a member of committees on education, judiciary and business and professions.
Watson recently returned from Barcelona, Spain, where she was a member of an official delegation representing the State of California at a Spanish celebration honoring Gaspar De Portola, first Spanish governor of the Californias in 1769 and 1770.
Watson said she has been campaigning for reelection by holding house parties in the district and seeking donations for her race and those of others.
According to her campaign reports through Sept. 30, Watson has raised more than $94,000 in contributions. She said she plans to spend $5,000 to $10,000 on her reelection and donate much of the rest to the campaigns of other Democrats. She said she plans to donate $20,000 to Mayor Tom Bradley's campaign for governor.
Vaquer, an insurance claims adjuster, plans to spend no more than $500 on his campaign. Vaquer has been active in the Republican Party in Hawthorne, campaigning for President Reagan since 1976. He is a member of the 53rd Assembly District County Republican Central Committee.
A conservative who advocates a reduction in government spending, support for the death penalty and the free enterprise system, Vaquer said he felt obligated to run when asked by Republican party members.
He said his decision to run is part of an effort by conservatives to force Democrats in normally safe districts to spend money on their own reelection, rather than on helping other candidates.
"I was contacted by phone by someone who said that several people were asked to run and no one wanted to do it," he said. "They (the Republican Party) wanted candidates to run in every district and nobody else came forward to run. I said, 'If you cannot get anybody else, I'll do it.' "
Vaquer said that four days after the race he plans to put the election behind him and get married in Las Vegas.