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ELECTIONS '88 SOUTHEAST / LONG BEACH : Hawkins Runs Quietly Against GOP's Franco

November 03, 1988|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins is running for reelection. But he doesn't plan to erect any signs, send any mailers, spend much money or do the things associated with traditional political campaigns.

Instead, the 81-year-old Los Angeles Democrat and senior member of Congress from California said he will merely run on his record--because that is usually all it takes for him to win.

Hawkins, best known as co-author of the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill of 1978, will seek his 14th consecutive term on Nov. 8 when he faces Republican Reuben Franco in the 29th Congressional District.

The district covers a large part of South Los Angeles, South Gate, Huntington Park and a portion of Downey.

Hawkins Plans Talks

Except for placing a few political ads in local newspapers, Hawkins said he will spend the last few days before the election speaking to church and residents' groups, vowing to continue the fight in Congress for more jobs and training for minorities and women.

"My campaign is based on keeping in touch with my constituents," said Hawkins, who was elected to Congress in 1962.

As in recent election bids, Hawkins said he has not met his Republican opponent.

"He is just a name to me," said Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Hawkins said he is not taking his opponent for granted, but he believes his time is better spent tending to the needs of his district.

Franco Has Shoestring Budget

On the other hand, Republican Franco--making his first bid for public office--is campaigning full time although it is on a shoestring budget of less than $6,000.

In contrast, Hawkins has $146,000, according to the latest financial filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

Franco, a 28-year-old Huntington Park resident, said he has been on leave for more than a month from his job as fleet manager for a Chrysler-Plymouth car dealer in Van Nuys.

He and a handful of volunteers are concentrating on walking precincts. They have targeted about 150 of the district's 348 precincts, almost half of them in South Los Angeles, Franco said.

"Just the fact we are out knocking on doors gives us an edge," the challenger contended. "People are saying they will vote for me because I came to their door."

As of October, there were 209,078 registered voters in the mostly low-income, blue-collar district. Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 7 to 1.

Franco is single and was born in East Los Angeles. He was graduated from Pius X High School in Downey and has earned credits toward an economics degree from UCLA.

Unopposed in Primary

Franco received 6,964 votes in the June primary, but he was unopposed. Hawkins received 90%, or 60,656, of the votes cast in the Democratic primary. He was opposed by Mervin Evans, who got 6,504 or 9.6% of the vote. The Libertarian Party candidate, Gregory Gilmore, received 29 votes.

Franco said jobs, education and crime are the major issues facing the district. He acknowledged that many of his positions are similar to Hawkins'. But if elected, he said, his focus would be different.

For example, Franco said Hawkins' support to raise the minimum wage "is just a bandage to a larger problem. The problem isn't wages but raising the skill-levels of workers."

Franco said raising the minimum wages only hurts the people it is supposed to help.

"Raises will lose jobs. . . . The employers will not be able to afford those workers," Franco said.

Hawkins disagreed, adding: "Besides, in California it is a moot point since it (a recent minimum wage increase) has already passed. The fact that the minimum wage failed to pass at the federal level is tragic."

Hawkins said he would continue to push for a federal minimum wage. Congress recently failed to pass a wage increase from $3.35 an hour to $4.55 over three years. The new state minimum wage passed in September went from $3.35 to $4.25 an hour.

Seeks Training Programs

If reelected, Hawkins said he intends to push for more job-training programs for minorities and women. He said he hopes to introduce legislation in Congress that would provide such technical training in the aerospace industry. He said he wants to hold hearings at the beginning of the year on proposed legislation in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C.

Hawkins said he is proposing that every federal defense contract contribute one-half of 1% of the value of each contract to a fund to help educate minorities and women for defense jobs. He said that almost $1 billion a year could be raised.

Next year, Hawkins said he also wants to submit a proposal updating a jobs bill he co-authored in 1983. The bill, Hawkins said, would provide more money--about $4.5 billion--to train people, especially those in need of remedial education or those who have lost their jobs through plant closings.

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