Money may be called the mother's milk of politics, but two San Fernando Valley congressional challengers had soured on the prospect of squeezing much of it from contributors as their uphill bids reached Labor Day, the traditional campaign kickoff.
Democrat Donald E. Stevens, who called campaign fund raising inherently corrupting, and Republican G.C. (Brodie) Broderson, who characterized his efforts as largely futile, both face shoestring races. Stevens of Westlake Village opposes Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley); Broderson of Burbank faces Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City).
Two others candidates, Republican Jim Salomon and Libertarian John Vernon, are raising larger, but still modest, sums in their bids to dislodge veteran Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles). Beilenson swamped Westside businessman Val Marmillion in a June primary even though he was outspent, $137,850 to $98,291.
Salomon, 32, a Beverly Hills financial consultant, said he has raised nearly $60,000 toward his goal of $300,000. He has numerous small fund-raisers scheduled this month and hopes to line up well-known national figures for big-ticket events in October.
"This will be critical to our success," Salomon said. "We still have a substantial fund-raising challenge ahead of us."
Vernon, 48, a Van Nuys caterer, said he has raised $20,000 and hopes to double that amount by the Nov. 8 election. He plans to begin airing a 60-second cable television ad on Sunday urging viewers to "break the habit of voting for the same old politicians" who depend "on government to solve every problem," have piled federal debt on future generations and meddled "in the affairs of every nation around the world."
Beilenson's 23rd District, which extends from the West San Fernando Valley over the Santa Monica Mountains to West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Malibu, is moderately Democratic. Beilenson, who prefers to raise only what he believes is essential to repulse challenges, reported $8,885 on hand after the primary. That figure has changed little this summer, an aide said.
Salomon's and Vernon's totals are well short of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that challengers generally need to mail voters enough brochures to compete with better-known incumbents, particularly a 12-year representative, such as Beilenson. But they already have raised far more than Stevens or Broderson expect to garner for their entire campaigns.
$500 in Contributions
Stevens, an attorney and Democratic activist, said he has received less than $500--all in unsolicited contributions. The first-time candidate called for a spending limit of $5,000 for the race on July 1 but Gallegly has declined to respond to the proposal.
"I view campaign expenditures as a waste of money at best and a conflict of interest," Stevens said. "I think it detracts from the issues."
He cited the recently disclosed FBI "sting" operation aimed at a possible link between campaign contributions for Sacramento lawmakers and their support of legislation as an example of the pitfalls of high-powered fund raising.
Stevens, 56, said he hopes to communicate with the 21st District's 310,000 registered voters through public forums and press coverage. The sprawling district, which includes southern Ventura County, parts of the West San Fernando Valley and Santa Catalina Island, is one of the state's most Republican.
Another 21st District candidate, Libertarian Robert Jay, 54, a commercial properties agent from Westlake Village, said, "I'm not even attempting to do any fund raising. You can tell all my adversaries they have nothing to worry about."
Gallegly, who trounced well-financed challenger Sang Korman in a June GOP primary, reported closing that campaign with a treasury of $44,224 and debts of $27,662. Overall, he spent $216,054 on the primary, according to his July 12 campaign statement filed with the Federal Election Commission. He has held no fund-raisers this summer.
But Gallegly has a $50-a-person fund-raiser scheduled in Westlake Village on Sept. 18 and a $300-a-person dinner at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel in Woodland Hills Sept. 24. The ex-Simi Valley mayor has been heavily supported by real estate developers, contractors and brokers and various special interest political action committees (PACs).
Korman, a Korean-born real-estate developer from Newbury Park making his first bid for public office, reported spending $384,213 on a campaign that won only 15% of the vote. He invested $245,000 of his personal funds through loans that he does not expect to be repaid.
Unlike Stevens, Broderson has actively solicited campaign contributions. But the character actor, who is featured in a Kellogg's cornflakes television ad, bluntly bemoans his inability to raise even $2,000 thus far.