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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 58 : 5 Struggle to Fix Identity With Voters : Politics: In the GOP primary, there have been exchanges of finger-pointing regarding ties to special interests, fund-raising, the environment and abortion. The man they hope to replace, Dennis Brown, remains neutral.


LONG BEACH — With five Republicans pursuing the GOP nomination in the 58th Assembly District, their primary race has evolved into an often-frustrating search for money and a sometimes-scrappy quest for identity.

Like the predominantly Republican coastal district they seek to represent, the candidates are split between Los Angeles and Orange counties. Three--City Council members Jan Hall and Jeffrey Kellogg, and physician Seymour (Sy) Alban--are from Long Beach. The Orange County contenders, developer Peter von Elten and Mayor Thomas J. Mays, are from Huntington Beach.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Luanne W. Pryor and Libertarian Scott Stier in November. Democrat Joel R. Bishop will be listed on the primary ballot, but he has withdrawn from the race.

All five of the Republicans were hampered by Los Alamitos Republican Dennis Brown's unexpected and late announcement that he would rather do God's bidding than continue in the seat he has held for 12 years. Since then, Brown, who is studying to be a lay minister, has declined to become involved in the June 5 primary leaving his would-be heirs to fend for themselves.

Mays and Von Elten have in particular have engaged in an exchange of finger-pointing regarding their ties to special interests and their fund-raising efforts, while Alban, one of the best financed of the candidates, has gone after Kellogg and Mays with a flurry of mailers assailing their stands on abortion.

A freshman councilman with celebrity good looks, Kellogg has been hobbled by a lack of money and a ruptured Achilles' tendon that has left him limping through his campaign wearing a cast.

Hall, a 12-year veteran of the City Council and former director of the Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD), has also been hurt by a low campaign budget in a city where three local runoffs are soaking up campaign contributions and diverting them from the Assembly race.

"It's tough," lamented Hall, whose 3rd District base of support is one of those areas engaged in an expensive runoff match between the two men who want to replace her on the council.

Alban, a prosperous 66-year-old orthopedic surgeon, and Von Elten are pouring their own money into their campaigns, giving them an advantage over their less well-heeled competitors. Hall, 47, recently joked with a tinge of envy that Alban was sending out so many mailers that he must own a printing press.

The boyish-looking Mays has attacked von Elten for a dinner hosted by two Orange County planning commissioners who entertained representatives of South Orange County developers whose projects must receive commission approval.

Von Elten in turn has blasted Mays for a fund-raiser held at the home of a Huntington Beach planning commissioner and attended by about 90 people, including a major developer with a project due to come before the commission.

Von Elten accused Mays of engaging in a "developer shakedown," by allowing the $150-a-couple event to be held at the home of Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner Kenneth Bourguignon.

"The only thing (Bourguignon) did was provide his home and some hors d'oeuvres and that was it," Mays responded, insisting that the fund-raiser "was aboveboard. . . . It was strictly put on by COR-PAC," the conservative Republican Political Action Committee. Mays also got an from the Huntington Beach city attorney indicating that the dinner was not improper.

Von Elten too defends his event. "I maintain there was nothing wrong with what I did. . . . It was simply an opportunity to meet me and get to know me. . . . Mine was not a fund-raiser where any money was requested, no money was given to me, and I have yet to receive any money."

Mays, a 36-year-old analyst for McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Co., has charged that Alban and Von Elten would have difficulty acting independently in the Assembly because of the financial support they are receiving. Mays asserted that Alban will be compromised by money from the medical community, while von Elten, executive vice president and general counsel of Mola Development Corp. in Newport Beach, will be under the sway of the development community.

Von Elten, 46, has fired back by branding Mays a hypocrite who has, during his four-year Huntington Beach council career, been helped extensively by development interests that have contributed directly to his campaigns and mounted independent campaigns on his behalf.

Alban's mailers have infuriated Kellogg, who grumbles that Alban is distorting his positions on oil drilling and abortion. Alban has repeatedly characterized Kellogg as anti-abortion because Kellogg personally opposes abortion and opposes government funding of abortions. But Kellogg, a 36-year-old Roman Catholic, has consistently said he would not vote to outlaw abortion.

Alban, probably the most liberal of the five contenders, says he has targeted Mays and Alban because their conservative stands differ the most dramatically from his.

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