Veteran Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, whose lingering disabilities from a stroke last year have prompted concerns about his capacity to serve, ended any doubts about his intentions Monday by reaffirming that he will seek a 10th four-year term.
Flanked by a politically powerful array of black ministers, labor and business leaders and elected officials, the 67-year-old Hahn opened a packed press conference at a Hawthorne hotel by saying, "I am going to run. . . . "
Hahn's words were immediately drowned out by his supporters' chants, "We want Kenny."
After announcing last summer that he would seek another term, the 2nd District supervisor recently has voiced frustration with the pace of his recovery and indicated he was reviewing his plans. But on Monday he said his mind is made up.
"A lot of people thought that, since I had my stroke, I should drop out and go into some convalescent home and just fade away," he said. " . . . The Lord willing, I will continue out the full term if the people of my district elect me."
Pitching his medical problems as a political plus, Hahn said there are 95,000 disabled people in the county for whom he can serve as a model. "I'm going to fight. . . . It's no fun to have a stroke. You get discouraged. You get depressed. You think: Can you make it or not? You've got to fight every day."
Hahn missed several months of work after his stroke in January, 1987, and has been absent from about half of the Board of Supervisors meetings since returning in August. He has recently increased his work schedule, but it is not yet back to full time. He has cut back his appearances in the community.
It was an affectionate, sometimes emotional scene as Hahn, paralyzed on his left side, was wheeled up a ramp to a table in front of television cameras and a roomful of longtime supporters, including officials from small cities in Hahn's district, former staff members, workers from past campaigns and leaders of neighborhood groups.
Pushing to the front of the room, Sweet Alice Harris, a member of a group called the Parents of Watts, shouted to Hahn: "God put you in that seat! You cannot give it up!"
A seasoned master of service-oriented, pothole politics, and consistent provider of health and welfare programs for his low-income constituents, Hahn has a huge, loyal base of support in his heavily minority district stretching from Culver City to Lynwood. Most observers of county politics say that unless his health deteriorates significantly Hahn is a cinch to win the June election.
Comes as No Surprise
Hahn's announcement was not a surprise. It was leaked to the press last week. But the display of unity at the announcement scene did not reflect the behind-the-scenes tension that was fermenting for weeks.
Hahn's district is seen as fertile ground for a new generation of black official to emerge and assume a top leadership role--one that will be crucially important when Mayor Tom Bradley, the area's top black political leader, retires.
Despite a major influx of Latinos and Asians in recent years, an analysis of 2nd District voting patterns for The Times by Caltech political science professor Bruce Cain shows that poor, middle-class and wealthy blacks and liberal whites still form a dominant and loyal core of Democratic votes, full of potential for a black candidate.
What some black leaders fear is that Hahn's candidacy--however strongly it is supported by the black community--may be inviting a setback for long-term black political interests. They note that should Hahn be unable to complete another term, Gov. George Deukmejian, a conservative Republican who has little support in Hahn's district, would be able to name a successor.
Mark Ridley Thomas, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is one of those who has been most outspoken in his doubts about the wisdom of Hahn's candidacy. "My concern all along has been, are not the stakes too high in this particular instance to gamble the representation of the black community?" Thomas said in a telephone interview after Hahn's announcement.
The issue is not Hahn, but rather "this whole (matter) of self-determination (for blacks). How is that ultimately achieved," Thomas said.
Prominently featured at Hahn's side Monday were two of his longtime black allies--Bishop H.H. Brookins of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Rev. Cecil Murray of the First AME Church--both of whom recently urged the supervisor to re-evaluate whether he should run again, citing interest in new leadership and concern whether Hahn could complete another term.