A multi-candidate, multi-issue election that has the potential to redefine the political agenda of the '90s in Santa Monica, and a high-stakes referendum over legalized gambling in West Hollywood are the big local concerns as Westside voters prepare to go to the polls on Tuesday.
Throughout the Westside, voters also will be selecting repre sentatives in Congress and the state Legislature, but veteran Democrats are well entrenched in every seat, and the defeat of any incumbent would be a big surprise.
In Santa Monica, nine candidates are competing for three seats on the City Council, and there also are contests for the Rent Control Board, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees and a municipal judgeship.
Much of the attention in the city, however, has been focused on the ballot measures. Among the nine propositions on the city ballot (there is also a school district bond issue) are questions dealing with development, crime and the homeless, and rent control.
One thing the election will require of Santa Monica voters is stamina. The city ballot was so long that it could not be consolidated with the even longer state ballot. Voters will thus have to sign in twice and cast separate state and city ballots.
All told, a Santa Monica voter wishing to cast a vote on every office and issue on Tuesday will be making 89 decisions.
If this voter averages 10 seconds per decision, he or she will spend 14 minutes and 50 seconds in the voting booth. Small wonder that 6,000 of the city's 54,000 registered voters have already requested absentee ballots.
In West Hollywood, by contrast, the election could hardly be simpler. There is a single issue going before city voters, Proposition AA, which asks whether card-club gambling should be legalized in the city.
The initiative is sponsored by a group of investors seeking to open a poker casino similar to the large clubs found in Commerce and Bell Gardens.
The argument in favor is purely financial: Backers of the proposed casino say it would generate $10 million a year for the city, a sum equal to one-third of the current year's budget.
Although West Hollywood faces a financial pinch, and projects a budget gap for next year that will have to be covered by cuts in services or a new source of revenue, the gambling measure is opposed by every elected city official and all major community groups. Most of the opposition is based on the traffic and congestion a card casino would generate and the crime the critics say it would attract.
Sponsors of the initiative have attempted to circumvent the official opposition by appealing directly to West Hollywood by mail and phone. They sent 10,000 copies of a videotape extolling the virtues of the proposed casino to residents targeted as likely voters. As of late last week, they had spent nearly $300,000 to try to make their case.
Elections also are taking place Tuesday in five Westside congressional districts, five Assembly districts and three state Senate districts.
Registered Democrats substantially outnumber Republicans in each district, and few Republican candidates have been able to raise the money it would take to seriously challenge well-heeled Democratic incumbents.
In two of the congressional districts, however, the challengers are making a particularly determined effort of it.
In the 23rd Congressional District, which includes such communities as Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood, Malibu and parts of the San Fernando Valley, GOP candidate Jim Salomon of Beverly Hills has campaigned almost nonstop since losing to Democratic Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson two years ago. He has attracted financial backing from many local Republican business people and has been warmly endorsed by the district's most famous Republican, Ronald Reagan. Even so, an upset of seven-term incumbent Beilenson would be a shocker.
In the 27th Congressional District, which hugs the coast from Santa Monica to the South Bay, West Los Angeles attorney David Barrett Cohen has stumped vigorously against Democratic incumbent Mel Levine. Even the most optimistic Republicans would be astonished by a Cohen victory on Tuesday, but a good showing by the GOP candidate would position him well for 1992, when Levine is widely expected to leave the seat open and run for the U.S. Senate.
CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS Democratic incumbents are strongly favored for reelection in every Westside legislative and congressional district. Here is a brief overview of the choices before the voters on Tuesday.
23rd District: Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Westwood, Bel-Air, Century City, Beverly Hills, Rancho Park, Palms, northwestern San Fernando Valley.
* Incumbent Democrat Anthony C. Beilenson of Los Angeles is in a rematch with well-financed Republican rival Jim Salomon of Beverly Hills and Peace and Freedom candidate John Honigsfeld. Beilenson easily defeated both challengers two years ago.