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Challengers Hit Stone Wall in Local Races : Incumbents Map Easy Route to Lopsided Wins in 9 Districts

November 06, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

The advantages of incumbency proved unbeatable in Tuesday's local races for seats in Congress and the state Legislature.

Every incumbent representing the Glendale and northeast Los Angeles area was reelected with no less than 60% of the vote in his district. In five of the nine races, the incumbent received more than 70% of the ballots.

Most of the races were in districts that in 1980 had been carefully mapped--critics say gerrymandered--to give one major party or the other a lopsided advantage in voter registration.

Besides, challengers lacked name recognition and were vastly outspent in campaigning by incumbents, sometimes by a ratio of 100-to-1. The incumbents' war chests did very well from contributions by political action committees, PACS, while their opponents more often relied on small donations from individuals.

"Theoretically, your opponent can be dead or in jail and you still can't win," South Pasadena Mayor Lee D. Prentiss said about the plight of the challengers. Prentiss, a Republican, was beaten badly by incumbent Democrat Art Torres in a race for the state Senate seat in the 24th District. Prentiss said he entered the race as a statement against what he called the "pathetic" abuses of gerrymandering.

John G. Simmons, the Democrat who was resoundingly defeated by incumbent Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead in the 22nd District, complained that most incumbents, including Moorhead, have such tremendous advantages that they don't even participate in debates with opponents. It is impossible for most challengers to prevail, Simmons said, "unless you have an enormous amount of money and are able to spend two full years trying to change people's opinions."

John Vollbrecht, who was the Democratic candidate against Pat Nolan in the 41st Assembly District, agreed. "A lot of people called it a suicide mission," Vollbrecht said of his unsuccessful race. But he stressed that it is important to challenge even popular incumbents in safe districts "to have a platform for another side's ideology."

With all precincts reporting, these were the results:


22nd District: By more than a 3-to-1 margin, Carlos J. Moorhead, the Glendale Republican, won his eighth term in the House to represent a conservative area that includes Glendale, La Canada Flintridge and parts of Burbank, the San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys. His Democratic opponent, John G. Simmons, a retired Lutheran minister and hospital administrator from Burbank, ran a spirited campaign, attacking Moorhead's support of the Reagan Administration's military buildup and what Simmons said was Moorhead's lack of leadership. But Moorhead received 136,315 votes (74%), against 42,839 (23%) for Simmons.

Jona Joy Bergland, a computer-service technician from Glendale who was the Libertarian candidate, received 3,012 votes (2%), whereas Peace and Freedom Party candidate Joel Lorimer, an Echo Park gardener, got 2,845 (2%).

In 1984, Democrats had no candidate on the November ballot and Moorhead racked up 85% of the vote, the biggest victory of his political career. His only challenger then was a Libertarian, Michael Yauch. In 1982, Moorhead got 73.6% of the vote against Democrat Harvey Goldhammer.

24th District: Henry A. Waxman, the Los Angeles Democrat, had no Republican opposition this year and garnered 100,607 votes (88%) to win his seventh term in Congress. His liberal district includes Los Feliz, Atwater, Silver Lake and parts of Echo Park, Hollywood, West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Because Waxman received more than 60% of the vote in each of his last two outings, Republicans decided to skip the race this year and concentrate their efforts elsewhere.

George Abrahams, a Los Angeles stock investor, was the Libertarian candidate and received 8,490 votes (7%). James Green, a social-services worker from Los Angeles on the Peace and Freedom Party slate, got 5,205 votes (5%).

25th District: Democrat Edward R. Roybal, won an overwhelming victory in his bid for a 13th term in Congress. His GOP challenger was Gregory L. Hardy, a field representative for Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan. Hardy waged no visible campaign and gathered 16,763 votes (21%), contrasted with 60,959 (76%) for Roybal, who topped his 1984 victory by 4%.

On the Libertarian ticket, Ted Brown, an insurance adjuster from Highland Park, received 2,102 votes (3%). The strongly Democratic district includes Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Glassell Park and Elysian Valley as well as Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights and parts of Pasadena.


24th District: Art Torres, the Los Angeles Democrat, will be going back to Sacramento for a second four-year term in the State Senate after receiving 48,291 votes (72%). That was just about the same percentage he received four years ago.

Republican Lee David Prentiss, a Los Angeles Police Department detective and South Pasadena mayor, received 16,061 votes (24%). Libertarian Laura G. Brown, an English tutor from Los Angeles, scored 2,311 votes (3%).

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