As in many elections past, campaigning for the state Assembly districts covering Glendale and northeast Los Angeles is proving uneventful as all three incumbents apparently head comfortably toward victory on Nov. 6.
In the only race with any suspense, the anticipated assault by Democrats in the staunchly Republican 41st District, which includes Glendale and much of Pasadena, fizzled this summer as its main asset--a federal investigation of incumbent Pat Nolan--dragged on without resolution.
Meanwhile, Democrat Richard Polanco has no Republican opposition in the 55th District, stretching from Pasadena to Atwater Village, and powerful Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos faces only a token challenge in the heavily Democratic 46th District, which encompasses Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
In spite of an apparent statewide tide of sentiment favoring term limitations, it took the possibility of a criminal indictment to raise what has proved to be an elusive opportunity for a challenger to unseat an incumbent.
Nolan, 40, was one of four legislators whose offices were searched by the FBI in August, 1988, after a Capitol sting operation in which payments were made by a phony company seeking favorable legislation.
Two elected officials have since been convicted on racketeering and corruption charges. The Justice Department is pursuing its case against Nolan, but the grand jury is not expected to conclude its investigation until after the election, sources said.
Democratic nominee Jeanette Mann planned to exploit the cloud over Nolan to reshape the voting habits of the district, which is only 49% Republican but routinely delivers large majorities to Nolan.
Mann, 54, a trustee of Pasadena City College, hoped to draw financial support from the Democratic Party to blast Nolan on ethics and his equivocal stand on the right to abortion, which she favors.
However, after spending about $30,000 in a tough primary victory over USC professor Rod McKenzie, Mann made little further headway in her goal of raising $100,000.
At the close of the Oct. 5 filing period, her campaign reported total contributions of $50,035, with only $9,580 added since July. Nolan's campaign, meanwhile, has raised $410,291 this year.
Only two weeks before the election, Mann sought to invigorate her campaign by challenging Nolan to return his about $135,000 in unspent funds to the taxpayers or victims of the Lincoln Savings failure. At a news conference Tuesday on the vacant lot where the thrift's Glendale branch used to stand, Mann castigated Nolan as the author of the 1982 state deregulation bill that opened the door to risky investments by savings and loans.
Citing a report by Common Cause, Mann said Nolan has received $154,000 in campaign contributions from the savings and loan industry. At her side, Mann had Evangeline Ivy, a Glendale resident and lifelong Republican, who also appealed to Nolan to return those contributions.
Nolan's campaign responded even as the news conference was under way, handing out a statement in which Nolan blasted Mann for "cynical manipulation" of the suffering of those such as Ivy and accusing her of hypocrisy for not naming Democrats who received larger contributions from the thrifts.
"Jeanette Mann has benefited directly from the million-dollar Democrat registration drive funded by Charles Keating," he said.
In his own campaign, Nolan has focused on sophisticated voter contact in recent weeks. His campaign telephoned 20,000 households--Democrat and Republican alike--and financed mailings of endorsement letters from the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California and the Greater L.A. Metro Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, campaign manager Jeff Flint said.
Callers are raising issues that Nolan considers his strong points, such as anti-crime legislation and education, but not bringing up the FBI investigation, Flint said.
"We don't hide from it either," Flint said. "If somebody is interested in it, we make a note of it."
He said the notes are passed on to Nolan.
"He'll call them personally and explain his side of the story," Flint said.
Flint said the voter surveys show continued strong support for Nolan in spite of the threat of indictment.
Apparently drawing a similar conclusion, Mann's campaign dropped its initial plans to contact large numbers of Republicans. "If the indictment had come down and we had reason to believe 30% to 40% of the Republicans would switch or stay home, we would have loved to go door-to-door," organizer Fred Register Jr. said.
Without an indictment and the infusion of campaign money that it would have brought, Mann's camp this summer shifted strategy, joining the party's Pasadena headquarters' registration and get-out-the-vote drives on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein.
"It's much easier to get Democrats out to vote by focusing on the ones who are on TV every night," Register said.
Mann's campaign entered the final month of the campaign with $12,407 still on hand, compared to Nolan's $136,914.