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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 63 : GOP Underdog Likes Her Chances in Assembly Race

May 13, 1990|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She may be an underdog, but Republican candidate Diane P. Boggs likes her chances of unseating Assemblyman Bob Epple (D-Norwalk) in the November election.

"I realize it's a tough race and it would be considered an upset if I win," the Downey councilwoman said in a recent interview. "But I like to consider myself the stuff that upsets are made of."

For his part, Epple is confident of reelection as he approaches the end of his first term. But the former Cerritos College trustee also said he is taking Boggs seriously.

"I think that she has her strengths in Downey," Epple said. "I think if she were to receive enough financial backing that it would be a very tough race, one I'm sure I can win."

Epple, 41, and Boggs, 57, have not yet revved up their campaigns; neither faces a challenger in the June 5 primary. Epple will begin setting up his campaign headquarters this week, while Boggs said she will wait until after the primary to get rolling.

The race could be key for the Republicans as they try to boost their numbers in the Legislature. Democrats outnumber Republicans 45 to 32; there are three vacancies.

Republican political strategists view Epple's 63rd Assembly District seat as one they may be able to capture. Epple outpolled former Assemblyman Wayne Grisham by a scant 220 votes in 1988. It was one of the closest legislative races recently in Los Angeles County.

The district's voters are 55.8% Democrat and 36.3% Republican, but they have conservative leanings and have provided Republican candidates with plenty of crossover votes. The district has become more Republican since 1988, when 57% of voters were Democrats and 35.5% Republicans.

"The seat was formerly held by a Republican and can be retaken with an aggressive campaign," Minority Floor Leader Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) said through a spokesman.

But Ross said it is too early to tell if the seat is one Republicans will fight for wholeheartedly.

"Epple is a possible target, but we won't make a decision until after the June primaries," Ross said. "To some extent, it also will depend on our candidate, Diane Boggs. If she puts together a strong grass-roots organization, we're prepared to back her in a big way."

Epple and fellow Democrats said they anticipate a Republican assault.

"I think the Republicans are going to come after him, because they haven't forgiven him for defeating an incumbent," said Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), who helped Epple with his 1988 campaign.

A pair of highly emotional statewide issues could decide the election. Epple, a member of the National Rifle Assn., angered some constituents when he voted against legislation that banned assault weapons.

Boggs supports the ban. "I think people should be allowed gun ownership for self-protection, but I don't think there is any need for us to have war weapons," she said.

The candidates' also have different positions on abortion rights.

Boggs supports the rights of women to have first-trimester abortions. She said she supports the right to abortion in more advanced pregnancies only under special circumstances, such as when a mother's life is in danger.

Epple said he is personally opposed to abortion but supports the law.

"That's a very strong personal feeling," Epple said. "At the same time, it's a constitutional right in this state."

Epple said he will be campaigning on his record of assisting the cities in his district. He has been visible in the district, showing up at city council meetings for one local issue or another.

For example, Epple recently helped Norwalk secure a $1-million state grant to build a community sports center.

The assemblyman applied pressure to help Downey reach a compromise with the county to limit the amount of pesticides that will be stored in a new warehouse on the west end of the city.

And he has been a particularly vocal opponent of aerial spraying against the crop-destroying Mediterranean fruit fly.

"I've represented the people of the district," Epple said. "I've taken on issues that they've felt are important."

In Sacramento, Epple has kept a fairly low profile, common to rookie legislators. But he has taken on some major issues.

He sought legislation to reform school textbook purchases, for example. Gov. George Deukmejian signed into law a parallel bill by state Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) that enables quality textbooks to make it into the state's classrooms more quickly.

But Boggs suspects that Epple is trying to win over her natural constituency in Downey by opposing the pesticide warehouse, which drew protests from many residents, and by taking a stand against malathion spraying.

Boggs also opposed the county's plans to store pesticides in Downey. She favors aerial spraying as a last resort.

"I think he's trying to serve this particular community," said Boggs, who describes herself as a moderate on social issues and a conservative on business issues.

Boggs is a former business owner and president of the Downey Chamber of Commerce who is the administrative director of an obesity clinic in Norwalk. She was first elected to the Downey City Council in 1984.

She said her greatest accomplishments on the council involve family-related issues. For example, she helped establish a child-care program in conjunction with the local school district. She also helped set up a local reading program for adults.

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