Republican Paul E. Zeltner, a Lakewood city councilman, jumped off to an early lead Tuesday night over Democrat Edward K. Waters, the son of Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), in a race that could produce the first mother-son combination in the Legislature.
Zeltner's lead was based on early returns, including traditionally conservative absentee ballots, as voters went to the polls throughout California to decide crucial legislative races.
Republicans, battling to cut into Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate, were holding a slim lead in one of the races that they considered crucial, the battle for an open Senate seat in Kern County between Assemblyman Don Rogers (R-Bakersfield) and Kern Community College Chancellor Jim Young, a Democrat.
Kopp Trails Papan
Farther north, San Francisco County Supervisor Quentin L. Kopp, an independent backed by Republicans, narrowly trailed Democratic Assemblyman Louis J. Papan of Millbrae in a knock-down, drag-out brawl for another open Senate seat, according to early returns.
One of the incumbent Democratic senators said to be in trouble before Tuesday's vote, Sen. Leroy F. Greene (D-Carmichael), took a strong early lead over Sacramento County Supervisor Sandy Smoley.
Another Democratic incumbent, Sen. Dan McCorquodale of San Jose, was running neck and neck with Republican Tom Legan, who took McCorquodale's place on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors when the Democrat was elected to the Senate in 1982.
In Santa Barbara County, another Republican target, state Sen. Gary K. Hart appeared to be fending off a challenge from his Republican opponent, Santa Barbara County Supervisor DeWayne Holmdahl.
On the Assembly side, Republican Bev Hansen held a substantial early lead over Democrat Mary Jadiker in a hotly contested race for an open GOP Northern California seat. Both are businesswomen from Santa Rosa.
Democrats were doing better in another key lower house race for an open GOP seat with Democratic attorney Tom Fallgatter of Bakersfield slightly out in front of Republican Trice Harvey, a Kern County supervisor, in the race to succeed Rogers in the Assembly.
Griset Trails Long
But in Orange County, Democrat Daniel E. Griset trailed Republican businessman Richard E. Longshore for an open Assembly seat.
Across the line in Los Angeles County, a last-minute mailer from President Reagan for Republican businessman Roger E. Fiola accusing Democratic incumbent Richard E. Floyd of Hawthorne of being soft on anti-drug legislation added fuel to a closer-than-expected race. The two candidates were running virtually even in early ballots.
The letter, which started arriving in voters' mailboxes Monday, charged: "Dick Floyd chose to give in to the powerful underworld drug industry when he sat in the California state Assembly and refused to vote on legislation to toughen our anti-drug laws." The letter did not mention specific votes.
Ray Cordova, Floyd's campaign manager, said: "We didn't expect anything that dirty. I think the voters in the 53rd Assembly District are smart enough to see through it. They know (Floyd) didn't give in to the drug underworld."
All told, thirteen open seats were up for grabs in the election--11 in the Assembly and two in the Senate--because of retirements or incumbents' decisions to seek higher office.
In all, 80 Assembly seats and 20 of the 40 Senate seats were on the ballot.
Democrats control both houses and were expected to emerge from the election still in charge of the Legislature. The existing Democratic margins are 26-14 in the Senate and 47-33 in the Assembly. The 1987-88 session begins Dec. 1.
Throughout the state, Republicans coordinated their campaigns by focusing on the popularity of GOP Gov. George Deukmejian and the unpopularity of Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, who was charged with not enforcing the state's death penalty law. Deukmejian appeared at numerous campaign fund-raising events for GOP candidates. He also loaned $200,000 to Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate to help defeat Democratic candidates.
Help From Brown
On the Democratic side, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) provided substantial monetary help to Waters, whose mother, Maxine, is part of Brown's inner circle at the Capitol. The 54th Assembly District in southeastern Los Angeles has been represented by veteran Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower), who is retiring.
Two of the hottest Senate races developed over open seats.
In the sprawling 16th Senate District, Rogers went into the election an early favorite, but Democrats spent more than $1.2 million on Young's campaign to try to save the seat. It has been occupied since 1958 by retiring Sen. Walter W. Stiern (D-Bakersfield), the dean of the Legislature.
The four-county district stretches from Kings County south into Pasadena, but the majority of voters live in the Bakersfield area.