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Redistricting: This Time It's a 'Revolution' for Candidates : Politics: New district boundaries have caused some legislators to move, some to drop out and others to become virtual strangers to their new constituents.

February 23, 1992|TINA GRIEGO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOUTHEAST AREA — Every 10 years, as the population of the state grows, lawmakers redraw the boundaries of their political districts. And every 10 years, the redistricting changes cause a political shake-up.

But the redistricting plans unveiled this year figure to alter the Southeast area's political landscape dramatically.

Political bases have been jerked out from under state legislators. Some now find themselves running as virtual strangers in newly drawn districts. Other lawmakers are packing their briefcases and heading to neighboring districts in search of friendlier voters. A couple of legislators are preparing to square off against each other. And a handful of state legislators and congressmen have decided to drop out of the race altogether.

At the same time, local elected officials, seeing an opportunity that is too good to pass up, have jumped into the race for higher office.

"For the first time in probably 20 years, we are in a competitive situation," said Leroy Hardy, a Cal State Long Beach professor and redistricting expert. "It's a major change. It's really a redistricting revolution."

State legislators must redraw district boundaries every 10 years to accommodate the growth in population and to ensure that the voting power of minorities is not diluted. This time, however, the Legislature could not agree on a plan, so the task was handed over to the state Supreme Court, which appointed three retired judges to draw new boundaries.

The judges erased a few old districts, created a couple of new ones and meshed some together.

"It's shaken up things horribly,' said Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro), whose district was moved west to encompass much of Long Beach and Lakewood. "A few of us got lucky--we didn't have to move around too much--but many Democrats had to move."

Assemblywoman Teresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles) is one of the incumbents who found that her political base had been carved up. Hughes represented Huntington Park, Bell, Cudahy and parts of southeast Los Angeles for 16 years, but when the new plans were released she found that her district had been combined with pieces of districts served by Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Marguerite Archie-Hudson (D-Los Angeles).

Hughes' new district, the 50th, is also 89% Latino. So Hughes, who is black, moved from Los Angeles to Inglewood to run in the 25th state Senate District. Roybal-Allard decided to run for Congress in the new 33rd District, which stretches from downtown Los Angeles southeast to Huntington Park. Archie-Hudson is running for reelection in the neighboring 48th Assembly District in Los Angeles.

That left the 50th Assembly District seat ripe for plucking, and six candidates have indicated they plan to enter the June 2 primary. They include Bell City Councilman George Cole, who plans to make his first run for the Assembly.

The three assemblywomen are among several legislators who found themselves in unfamiliar waters.

After redistricting, Assemblyman Bob Epple (D-Norwalk), who is white, found himself in a district that is 62% Latino. Although the 58th Assembly District, which includes Whittier, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs, is also 64% Democratic, Epple moved south to Cerritos and the 56th Assembly District. His new district has fewer Democratic voters, but Epple said he believes he has a stronger base of supporters there.

Epple is moving to a district in which 42% of the voters are Republican, and he will face a slew of challengers, including Republican Wayne Grisham, a realtor who lost to Epple in a nail-biting race four years ago.

Though the battle to win the 56th District is expected to be hard-fought, political observers say it may pale in comparison to the tug-of-war between Democratic Assemblymen Dave Elder of San Pedro and Richard Floyd of Carson.

Reapportionment left them in the same district, and so far neither has shown an inclination to bow out and find someplace else to go. Both have filed papers to run in the 55th Assembly District, which runs from Compton south into Long Beach. Both have won easy victories in their old districts and have had little trouble holding onto their seats, although their personal styles could not be further apart. Floyd is an outspoken lawmaker with a rebellious streak, whereas Elder is considered a more reserved legislator.

"Between now and June we will try to tell the voters who we are, what we've done and what we plan to do, and no doubt large numbers will become confused and disgusted and say the hell with it," Floyd said.

The political picture has been clouded further by the decisions of several lawmakers to bow out this year. Reps. Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) and Glenn Anderson (D-San Pedro), as well as state Sens. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles) and Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk) have decided not to run again.

"Candidates have never had as good an opportunity," said Terry Coleman, president of the United Democratic Club of Inglewood. "It's the best I've ever seen."

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