Assemblyman Bob Epple (D-Norwalk) had just declared victory early Wednesday morning when he laid out his legislative agenda for his second term in Sacramento--fight drugs and gangs.
"I'm going to work to make sure we have the resources in (the 63rd District), that includes law enforcement and education," Epple said at his victory celebration in Santa Fe Springs.
The race for the 63rd District Assembly seat was supposed to be a battle but turned out to be more of a massacre as Epple easily defeated Republican Diane P. Boggs.
The 63rd District includes Artesia, Cerritos, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Santa Fe Springs, most of Norwalk, and parts of Lakewood, southern and eastern Whittier and Long Beach.
Epple won his first term two years ago by a mere 220 votes over then-Assemblyman Wayne Grisham. The race was so close that it took election officials two weeks to count all the ballots.
Republicans were expected to push hard to recapture Epple's seat because of the slim margin. The conservative nature of the district's Democrats also makes the 63rd District attractive to Republicans. Democrats outnumber Republicans 55.7% to 36.3% in the district, but have provided crossover votes in the past that accounted for GOP victories.
Epple, 41, had geared up for a tough fight, amassing more than $291,000 for the race, according to campaign disclosure statements.
The former Cerritos College trustee spent his evenings during the past couple of months walking precincts in the district and attending community functions. He ran as a law-and-order candidate and called attention to his "drug-free zone" legislation, which stiffens penalties for anyone convicted of selling, using or possessing drugs near schools.
Boggs, a Downey councilwoman, acknowledged she was running uphill when she announced her candidacy earlier this year. She used $50,000 of her own money to jump-start her campaign and hoped to pick up strong Republican Party support.
That appeared to be the case when the California Republican Party sent out a mailer, signed by Gov. George Deukmejian, listing the 63rd District race as one it would target. But strong party help never arrived--Boggs was able to raise only $74,876, including her own $50,000, according to a campaign disclosure statement.
Four other incumbents and four new assemblymen--two Democrats and two Republicans--scored easy, and anticipated, victories Tuesday in area races. The newcomers won seats that were vacated by incumbents, who moved on to higher offices and other endeavors.
The much-ballyhooed prediction that voters, tired of the status quo, were going to oust incumbents never materialized.
Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount) easily won a second term in the 54th District. Republican Emily Hart-Holifield, a 49-year-old Compton College trustee, had the breakdown of registered voters and a lack of funds working against her.
Democrats account for 64.1% of the registered voters in the 54th District, while Republicans represent 28%. Murray, 59, raised $80,953, while Hart-Holifield had $17,145, according to campaign disclosure statements.
Libertarian Arthur C. Olivier and Peace and Freedom candidate Norman E. Lynn finished well back.
The 54th District includes Compton, Paramount, Lakewood, Bellflower and a small part of Long Beach.
In the 57th Assembly District, incumbent Dave Elder (D-San Pedro) won a seventh term in Sacramento by beating Republican challenger Rodney D. Guarneri.
Guarneri, a welfare case worker from Long Beach, surprised some of his supporters by disclosing at an Oct. 25 candidates' forum that he had used and sold drugs as a youth.
But the poorly funded and little-known challenger's chances of victory were already slim. The longtime incumbent raised more than $120,000, while Guarneri raised less than $5,000.
Elder also benefited from the district's voter registration: Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.
The 57th District covers much of Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington and Harbor City.
Party registration and fund raising also weighed decisively in four area districts that had no incumbents seeking reelection.
The most bitter of those races was in the 52nd District that stretches from La Mirada and Whittier into the San Gabriel Valley.
Republican Paul V. Horcher, a Diamond Bar councilman, used more than $300,000 of his own money to score a victory over Democrat Gary Neely, a marketing consultant from Diamond Bar. The seat was vacated when Frank Hill (R-Whittier) was elected to the state Senate.
Voter registration in the district is 48.1% Republican and 42% Democrat. But a bitter primary left Republican voters fragmented and Horcher tried to unify the party. Two Republican groups came out in opposition to Horcher, whom they accused of flip-flopping on various issues. In addition, three of Horcher's Republican primary opponents refused to endorse him, saying he had alienated them with his campaign tactics.