SACRAMENTO — Veteran state Sen. Ralph C. Dills has decided to bow out of what is shaping up to be a hotly contested Democratic primary in a newly drawn district that spans parts of Southeast Los Angeles County and the South Bay.
Dills, whose current 30th District has been chopped up by reapportionment, had announced earlier this month that he would run for election this year in the newly drawn and heavily Democratic 25th Senate District, which includes parts of Compton, Lynwood, Paramount and Willowbrook in Southeast Los Angeles County, and Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale and Lennox in the South Bay.
But this week, the Gardena Democrat changed his mind.
The district, which has a large minority population, has already attracted the attention of three well-financed black politicians who have declared their intentions to run. Dills, who is white, said he wants to avoid ending his 50-year political career on the sour note of a divisive campaign in the black community.
The other candidates are Democratic Assembly members Curtis Tucker Jr. of Inglewood and Teresa P. Hughes of Los Angeles, and Lynwood City Councilman Paul Richards.
It was just one more change of direction for Dills, 81, who for the last year has anticipated that his district would be destroyed by reapportionment--the once-a-decade redrawing of political boundaries to distribute population evenly. The final boundaries were released Monday by the state Supreme Court.
Dills has sent up a number of political trial balloons as he plots out how to save his government career.
He considered running for Congress.
He flirted with running for reelection in a heavily Latino district in the Norwalk area.
Now Dills says he has his sights focused on the newly drawn 28th Senate District because it includes many areas that he views as part of his longtime political base, including parts of Long Beach and Compton, Harbor City, Wilmington, Carson and Harbor Gateway, where he makes his home in the district. Other communities in the new district are Lomita, Manhattan Beach and Torrance.
Besides the divisiveness of a campaign in the 25th District, Dills cited several other factors in his decision to drop out of that contest.
He said a campaign would have been costly and taken him away from his legislative duties in the Capitol.
He also considered new voter-imposed term limits that restrict senators to two four-year terms. Under the limits, lawmakers elected in even-numbered districts in 1990 could run once again in 1994, stretching their terms to 1998. But legislators with odd-numbered districts would be forced to leave office in 1996.
Currently, Dills, who easily won reelection last year to the 30th District, can serve until 1994. He is eligible to seek another four-year term--possibly in the newly drawn 28th District--which would enable him to stay in office until 1998. However, if he had captured the 25th District, he would have been able to serve only through 1996.
Moreover, Dills said that if he had won the new 25th District seat, his current 30th District would have become vacant, prompting an expensive special election to fill out the rest of his term.