Gov. George Deukmejian's appointment Wednesday of Rep. Daniel E. Lungren as state treasurer shattered the political gridlock that has kept ambitious South Bay politicians in place for nearly a decade.
Like dominoes falling, the governor's choice of the Long Beach Republican for the treasurer's post immediately set in motion a GOP primary battle for Lungren's congressional seat between Assemblymen Gerald N. Felando of San Pedro and Dennis Brown of Signal Hill.
Poised to Jump
And one step behind them, a handful of other candidates are poised to jump into the race to replace Felando in the Assembly if he succeeds in winning higher office.
For the normally stable South Bay, the coming political season is shaping up as the most freewheeling since 1978, when Lungren was elected to Congress and Felando was sent to Sacramento.
"From January to June, the South Bay will be very active politically," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Los Angeles-based political consultant who has run all of Felando's legislative campaigns.
Both Lungren's congressional district, which stretches from Torrance around the affluent Palos Verdes Peninsula through Long Beach and into coastal areas of northern Orange County--and Felando's smaller Assembly district are considered safe Republican territory. Some observers, therefore, believe the real showdown will be in the GOP primary in June.
"The only race that counts is the primary," Hoffenblum said. No potential Democratic candidates for the congressional seat have emerged.
But the full extent of the political reshuffling will not be known until the Legislature decides whether to confirm or reject Lungren. Under the State Constitution, the Legislature has 90 days to decide.
If Lungren is confirmed, Deukmejian would have 14 days to call a special election to fill out the remainder of Lungren's congressional term.
Depending on the length of the confirmation process, a special primary election could be held as early as April. The regular June 7 primary also would be held to choose candidates for the next two-year congressional term.
Brown, in a telephone interview, confirmed that he plans to seek Lungren's job. Felando could not be reached for comment but Hoffenblum said the assemblyman will run and that Hoffenblum will manage his campaign.
Other Potential Candidates
Others who have been mentioned as potential candidates for the congressional seat are Rolling Hills City Councilman Thomas F. Heinsheimer, who ran against Lungren in the 1982 Republican primary, and Orange County Supervisor Harriett Wieder.
Lungren said Wednesday he will not endorse any of the Republicans seeking his seat.
The political vacuum that would be created by Felando running for Congress is expected to lead to a crowded Republican primary race in his Assembly district, which runs from Hermosa and Redondo Beach through Torrance, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and part of San Pedro.
At least four Republicans and two Democrats are interested in the seat. They are:
Torrance City Councilman Dan Walker, 47, who switched political parties and became a Republican three years ago. He said his main goal is winning reelection to the City Council next March. But Walker also has retained Hoffenblum, amassed a substantial campaign war chest and scheduled three $500-a-plate fund-raising dinners next month.
"I'm not going to make any comments about the other races until the Legislature confirms Lungren and until there is a vacancy in Felando's seat," Walker said. "My focus is the City Council election."
Deane Dana III, 35, assistant director of the state Department of Aging in Sacramento and son of the Los Angeles County supervisor. "I am very interested in running for the Assembly seat if Jerry should give it up to run for Congress," Dana said.
The political gridlock was one of his reasons for joining the Deukmejian administration since the South Bay was "almost made off-limits to politics" by the lack of election opportunities. Although he lives in Sacramento, he has maintained his voter registration at his father's home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Ken Bell, 36, principal assistant in Sacramento to Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale. He maintains a Redondo Beach voting address.
Bell said he intends to run, but "I don't think anything is a certainty until Dan Lungren is confirmed and Jerry Felando decides whether he is going to run for Congress and vacate the Assembly seat."
A former Redondo Beach planning commissioner and unsuccessful candidate for City Council and the El Camino Community College District board, Bell expects a spirited battle for the Republican nomination. "This is going to be a high-profile race," he said.
William Beverly, 37, a Torrance attorney and son of state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach). "It's an option that I'd consider," Beverly said. "I would just have to sit back and talk to my family and think about it."