Democrat Richard D. Freiman is counting on a voters' revolt in his race against Rep. Elton Gallegly in the 21st Congressional District.
"I have a lot of crossover support," said Freiman, 42, who is running an energetic, but low-budget, campaign. "There's an anti-incumbency feeling out there. This is a year for challengers. People out there are fed up with the status quo."
However, even at a time when pollsters say voters are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their congressional representatives, Freiman will have to win the support of several thousand GOP voters if he is to unseat Republican Gallegly, a former mayor of Simi Valley.
The 21st District, one of the heaviest Republican strongholds in California, stretches from Ojai to Sunland-Tujunga and covers some of the most conservative suburbs in northern and western Los Angeles County and southern and eastern Ventura County.
Of the 339,252 voters, only 36.83% are Democrats, while 52.5% are Republicans, and Gallegly easily defeated Democratic challengers in the last two general elections.
Yet Freiman, who is conducting what he calls a "real, old-fashioned, get-out-to-the-people campaign," remains optimistic about his chances.
"I think I've got a shot at it," he said. "I've been campaigning full time since May. I'm going from one end of the district to the other, door-to-door, standing in front of K mart, meeting the people. And they like it."
Freiman quit his job as a tax attorney with a Camarillo firm last spring after his bosses told him to choose between working or campaigning full time.
To support his family, Freiman, who is married and has two young sons, returned to his previous vocation as a television writer. His earnings helped him pay for a cable television commercial that will air before the election.
"I wrote the whole thing and shot it myself," he said. "It only cost me $250."
In all, Freiman said he has raised about $11,300 for his campaign, a far cry from the more than $200,000 his opponent has amassed for the Nov. 6 election.
For his part, Gallegly, 46, has campaigned very little, preferring to remain in the nation's capital where lawmakers are wrestling with the complexities of the federal budget.
Gallegly, who was first elected in 1986, has good reason to be complacent about his chances of retaining his job. In the 1988 general election, he trounced his Democratic opponent, Donald E. Stevens, 69% to 29%.
In the June primary, Gallegly fought back a challenge from wealthy developer Sang Korman for a second time, even though Korman spent about $250,000. After campaigning hardly at all, Gallegly spent $14,800 on last-minute cable television commercials to counter Korman's TV spots attacking the incumbent's voting record. In the end, Gallegly received 68.4% of the vote to Korman's 31.6%.
But the congressman, who has a solid conservative voting record, has revealed no plans for any similar eleventh-hour efforts in his campaign against Freiman. So far, he has declined to appear at any candidates' forums with his opponent.
The two candidates differ on many issues and Freiman has attempted to capitalize on those differences. For example, Freiman favors abortion rights unconditionally.
Gallegly said the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion makes abortions too freely available. He also said that he "will continue to oppose measures that would encourage or facilitate abortion through federal funding."
"He's out of the mainstream," Freiman said of his opponent. "As we approach the 21st Century, my opponent's still living in the 19th Century."
The issue closest to home on which the candidates differ is the controversial proposal to exchange National Park Service land in Cheeseboro Canyon for private land owned by entertainer Bob Hope so developers can build an expensive housing project.
Gallegly repeatedly has refused to take a stand on the issue, saying he doesn't believe federal officials should become involved in local land-use planning.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian Peggy Christensen, a cardiovascular care consultant from Granada Hills.