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Hahn Holds Back on Victory Claim


Kenneth P. Hahn apparently won election as Los Angeles County assessor late Tuesday night. And Wednesday morning, he laid claim to his own political name.

Many observers attributed Hahn's 51.5% to 48.5% advantage over incumbent John Lynch to the name he shares with County Supervisor Kenneth F. Hahn. But Hahn, the assessor, said he has heard enough of that.

"It's my name and I'm happy to share it with the other Kenny Hahn," he said Wednesday, with a laugh. "I've done this on my own."

Although Hahn celebrated--and his home phone machine answered "Assessor-elect Kenneth Hahn"--he declined to claim victory outright Wednesday. The 10-year veteran of the assessor's office said he thinks his 42,000-vote lead will hold, but added he is being cautious because about 100,000 absentee ballots still remain to be counted.

Lynch stayed home Wednesday and declined to speak to the press. His spokesman, Robert Knowles, said Lynch "expects to make a concession statement today or tomorrow. He just feels it wouldn't be prudent to make a statement before the absentee ballots are counted."

The county registrar's office said it will not have absentee results until next week, at the earliest.

Both sides agreed, however, that Lynch would be hard pressed to close the margin, since a large percentage of voters fail to vote in the assessor race.

While he may have been reluctant to claim victory Wednesday, Hahn, who is not related to the county supervisor, acted very much the winner in every other way.

After staying up the entire night tracking results, the political neophyte received congratulatory calls Wednesday morning and then toured the assessor's offices in the County Hall of Administration. He received a hero's welcome, as more than 200 employees flooded a hallway to cheer and slap their new boss on the back.

Workers said the spontaneous demonstration was a mark of disdain for Lynch, who had a reputation for volatility. "Everyone was just extremely happy and relieved," said one worker, who asked not to be named.

Hahn, 51, also toured city and county offices Wednesday, receiving congratulations from Mayor Tom Bradley, Supervisor Ed Edelman, City Controller Rick Tuttle and Councilman Richard Alatorre.

It was a heady day for Hahn, who spent most of his career as an appraiser specialist answering public complaints at the assessor's Santa Monica office.

On Dec. 3, he will move from a tiny office cubicle in Santa Monica, with its view of a used car lot, to the assessor's expansive executive offices downtown. Hahn will leave a job in which he supervises no one and is paid $42,000 yearly, to one that controls 1,600 employees and draws a salary of $130,869.

He will oversee the largest property-tax jurisdiction, in land value, in the United States.

"The enormity of the task is mind-boggling at this time," Hahn said, as his victory began to settle in. "But what it needs is a clear head."

Hahn said he is not intimidated by the task and his supporters pointed out that he holds a higher rank than Lynch did when he rose from the ranks of the assessor's office to the top job in 1986.

Observers credited the victory of the then-unknown Lynch to his endorsement by tax crusader Howard Jarvis.

The last time around, seeking the office vacated by Assessor Alexander Pope, Lynch said he surprised himself by defeating several better known candidates. He even managed to beat a Hahn--Gordon Hahn, the former assemblyman and brother of the county supervisor.

Kenneth P. Hahn may think he has made a name for himself, but the man who manages the county's mail is not so sure. Mac McConnell, chief of mail services, said he will insist that the assessor use his middle initial to make sure his mail reaches his third-floor offices.

Otherwise, he said, it will end up on the eighth-floor offices of the other Kenny Hahn.

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