The stage has been set for a scrappy Republican primary fight between veteran Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando and challenger Deane Dana III in a South Bay Assembly district that stretches from Hermosa Beach to San Pedro.
As expected, both Felando and Dana, the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, declared their intent to run in the solidly Republican 51st Assembly District by the close of filing Wednesday.
Other incumbent South Bay legislators up for reelection also filed their required declaration of intent with the county registrar of voters, but no others except Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood) face a primary contest.
The competition between Felando and Dana is likely to dominate the area's legislative races this spring.
Skips Congressional Race
The showdown was set up last week when Felando abruptly announced that he would not run after all for the congressional seat of Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach), who has been nominated for state treasurer.
Dana, assistant director of the state Department of Aging, was the only one of a half-dozen prospective candidates who decided to stay in the Assembly race and challenge Felando, a five-term incumbent with a reputation as a tough campaigner.
"Mr. Felando opened the door himself," Dana said at a campaign kickoff party Monday night in Redondo Beach. "This is not a hostile attack on an incumbent seat. I was invited in. He changed his mind."
Dana looked and sounded like a candidate as he worked the crowd of well-heeled supporters, but he left the door open to drop out of the race if a new public opinion poll shows "some dramatic hurdle" that he can't overcome.
'I Will Go for It'
"I am not out to create a blood bath," he said. "If I see an opening, an opening at all . . . I will go for it."
Although he filed his declaration of intent, Dana could withdraw before the March 11 deadline for filing an actual declaration of candidacy.
As his father looked on, Dana told supporters that he does not underestimate the difficulty of unseating Felando. "I know that we face an uphill battle," he said. "But I come from a tough political family."
Dana's campaign got an initial boost from a $20,000 loan from his father's campaign treasury. The younger Dana said his campaign would stress educational, environmental and transportation issues and a need for new leadership in Sacramento.
But Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime political consultant for Felando, said: "If Jerry is challenged, it will be based on personality reasons and ego and not any real serious philosophical differences."
Hoffenblum blamed the competition on "an amalgamation of dissident liberal Republicans" upset over Felando's defeat in 1982 of Assemblywoman Marilyn Ryan and his campaign in 1986 against a slate of candidates for the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee.
"More often than not, if an incumbent is challenged, it is petty personality conflicts which the voters at large don't want to get involved with," Hoffenblum said.
Dana, who moved from the South Bay to Sacramento about five years ago, has rented a home in Hermosa Beach. Felando lives in San Pedro.
Torrance City Councilman Mark Wirth, a telephone installer for GTE, is seeking the Democratic nomination in the district. Libertarian Rodney Dobson of Redondo Beach also filed a declaration of intent to run in Felando's district.
Elsewhere in the South Bay, longtime state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) filed his intent to seek reelection in the sprawling 29th Senate district, which runs from El Segundo and the beach cities around the Palos Verdes Peninsula through San Pedro and parts of Long Beach.
Democrats Jack Hachmeister of Manhattan Beach and Frank Wong of El Segundo will challenge Beverly along with Libertarian Steve Kelley of Hermosa Beach.
In the 53rd Assembly District, which includes Gardena, Lawndale, Hawthorne, Carson and parts of the Harbor City-San Pedro area, incumbent Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne) is seeking a fifth term. Hawthorne City Councilman Charles Bookhammer will run as the Republican challenger to Floyd.
And in the 57th Assembly District, which encompasses Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, incumbent Dave Elder (D-Long Beach) will face Republican David Ball of Long Beach. Two Peace and Freedom Party candidates, Justine Bellock and David Delano Blanco, filed in that district.