In Southeast Los Angeles County, Republican challengers in three state Senate districts have their work cut out for them as they try to stir voter interest in lopsided races.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 in the 24th, 26th and 30th districts, which cover Bell Gardens, Commerce, Maywood, Montebello, Pico Rivera, Paramount, Lynwood and parts of Long Beach.
Republicans and minor party candidates, such as Libertarians, are given little chance of breaking through the demographic barrier and toppling a Democratic candidate.
In the 30th District, which includes Paramount, Lynwood and parts of Long Beach, Long Beach Republican Timothy Poling is attempting to unseat veteran incumbent Ralph C. Dills of Gardena.
Poling, a 25-year-old McDonnell Douglas engineer, accuses Dills of wasting tax money by supporting increased spending on big government programs such as public education. California, he says, needs legislators willing to find ways to scale back government.
Poling's battle remains a battle of words, however. He has notified campaign officials that he expects to raise less than $1,000, while as of Sept. 30, Dills had amassed a war chest of $217,000.
Dills, 80, has served as a state senator since 1966. He said his opponent has been vague on exactly where state spending should be cut. And California, he says, must provide its fast-growing population with more public services, not less.
"People don't want to realize that California is a growing giant," Dills said recently. "The services we render have to be paid for. I am devoted to (government) doing for people what they can't do for themselves."
In the race for the 24th and 26th District seats, Republican and Libertarian candidates face a similar uphill struggle against incumbents.
In the 24th District, which includes Maywood, Commerce, and Bell Gardens, Republican Keith F. Marsh, 47, is hoping to score some points against his Democratic opponent Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) by putting out a mailer that touches on Torres' drunk-driving convictions.
Torres, 44, who is seeking a third term, is facing his first election since he was arrested twice on suspicion of drunk driving and obtained treatment for alcoholism. However, he has a substantial fund-raising advantage and is expected to win handily.
"If he wants to drink, that's fine," Marsh said, "but he shouldn't be drinking and driving."
Torres said he has been open about his alcoholism and recovery efforts. "I hope people realize that this is behind me," he said. "I think people have seen that I have dealt with it."
Torres said he hopes to concentrate on such issues as plans for the Los Angeles River basin, educational reform and the search for alternatives to the extension of the Long Beach Freeway through South Pasadena.
David L. Wilson, 54, a carpenter who lives in Los Angeles, is the Libertarian candidate in the race. Wilson said his platform is simple: "no taxes." He described himself as a "paper candidate" who is not actively campaigning but is on the ballot to give voters a choice.
Also expected to win is Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier), who is running for his first full term in the 26th District after winning a special election in April. The seat was held by Democrat Joseph B. Montoya of Whittier until he was convicted of political corruption charges and sent to federal prison.
Calderon's ballot opponents are Republican Joe Aguilar Urquidi and Libertarian Kim Goldsworthy, the same candidates Calderon defeated in April.
Calderon, a 40-year-old attorney, grew up in Montebello, served on the school board there and was elected to the Assembly in 1982. He was part of the so-called "Gang of Five" that unsuccessfully challenged the leadership of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1988.
A political moderate, Calderon has authored legislation on interstate banking, landfills, open meetings and relief for earthquake victims. He supports abortion rights and capital punishment.
Urquidi, 64, a businessman who lives in Montebello, saw military service in World War II and Korea, held administrative positions in government manpower agencies, has been married 42 years and is the father of nine children.
Urquidi is running on an eight-point platform that includes insurance reform, opposition to abortion, education reform to prepare students for jobs in technologically advanced industries and protection of pension funds. He said he favors mandatory 10-year prison sentences for participants in gang shootings.
Goldsworthy, 34, is a computer programmer and has lived in Rosemead for 25 years. He has served as county chairman of the Libertarian Party, given talks on the U.S. Constitution to more than 100 organizations and is a member of Mensa, the high IQ society.
Times staff writers Mike Ward and George Hatch contributed to this story.
24TH SENATE DISTRICT
The district: Bell Gardens, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Maywood, South Pasadena, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles.