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Retirements Unleash a Scramble for Several Seats

March 10, 1990|MARK GLADSTONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Decisions by five legislators and one congressman to retire or run for higher office have drawn a field of candidates that could trigger one of the most contentious primary election seasons of the last decade in Los Angeles County.

The retirement of Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins, the senior black member of the House, has lured Democrat Maxine Waters out of her safe Assembly district based in South-Central Los Angeles. By Friday's filing deadline for the June primary, it appeared Waters would have only token opposition.

Meanwhile, her pending departure from the Assembly has pulled City Councilman Robert C. Farrell into the race for Waters' seat in the state Capitol. In a recent interview, Farrell, first elected to the nonpartisan council in 1974, said he wants to be in the Legislature because many thorny regional issues are being dealt with in Sacramento. Also, he said, he was attracted by the "opportunity to function in a partisan environment."

Elsewhere in the county, veteran Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) is facing a stiff primary challenge from Hunt Braly, an aide to Sen. Ed Davis (R-Chatsworth). And in what is shaping up as one of the state's most hotly contested Senate races in the November general election, Assemblyman Charles Bader (R-Pomona) is challenging longtime Sen. Ruben Ayala (D-Chino) in the fast-growing and increasingly suburban 34th Senate District, which includes the Pomona area.

In the San Gabriel Valley, two Latinas--one of them the daughter of Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Montebello)--are emerging as front-runners in the contest to succeed Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier). Calderon is seeking the Senate seat of Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), who resigned after being convicted in a federal political corruption case.

In Calderon's 59th Assembly District, Diane Martinez, a member of the Garvey school board, and Marta Maestas, an aide to Calderon , are seeking to line up support among Latino elected officials.

The neighboring 52nd Assembly District has nine candidates lined up to run for the seat of Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier), who is seeking a Senate seat in a special election on April 10. One of candidates is Wayne Grisham, who in 1988 narrowly lost a reelection bid in the 63rd Assembly District. Now, Republican Grisham has moved back to La Mirada and wants another shot at the Assembly.

"I represented the 63rd Assembly District because the Republican leadership asked me to run there," Grisham said. "Now, I'm back where I belong."

While Grisham wants to return to Sacramento, two veteran GOP Assembly members--Marian W. La Follette of Northridge and Dennis Brown of Los Alamitos--are leaving the state Capitol. As a result, filing for both contests will be extended until next Wednesday.

La Follette announced her retirement last week and endorsed Robert Wilcox, one of her aides, to succeed her in the San Fernando Valley's 38th District.

Brown on Monday abruptly decided to drop out of the campaign in the 58th District, which includes Long Beach and part of Orange County. Among those expected to run for his seat are Long Beach City Councilwoman Jan Hall, Huntington Beach Mayor Thomas J. Mays and possibly Long Beach Councilman Jeffrey Kellogg.

In the Assembly, Brown was a conservative bellwether and close ally of Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who was Republican leader until the GOP lost three seats in 1988. Nolan is now a target of the FBI corruption investigation and faces the toughest election test of his 12-year career. Two Democrats are competing for the right to challenge Nolan in November in the 41st Assembly District.

Other lawmakers who are also are under investigation by the FBI--Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana)--are considered clear front-runners for reelection despite the continuing investigation. So too is Hill, also being investigated by the FBI, in his bid to step up to the Senate.

Another lawmaker with a potential political problem is Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), who since his last election in 1986 has been arrested twice on suspicion of drunk driving. In January, Torres was sentenced to 14 days in jail and fined $1,330 after pleading no contest. He has drawn two Republican challengers in the 24th Senate District.

Times staff writer Cathleen Decker contributed to this story.

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