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Redistricting Redefines Campaigns : Politics: In the newly drawn 41st District, for example, Republicans may have a chance to capture what was once considered solid Democrat territory.

CAMPAIGN '92: ASSEMBLY: Second in a series examining the candidates and the new legislative and congressional districts.

March 15, 1992|NANCY HILL-HOLTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Political redistricting makes for strange bedfellows.

Artsy, urban Santa Monica and bucolic Hidden Hills, communities seldom spoken of in the same breath, will share a legislator in the state Assembly for the next decade.

It's the newly drawn 41st Assembly District, one of four new Westside districts up for grabs this November.

The district runs west from the San Diego Freeway (405), and then south of Sunset Boulevard it cuts farther west to take in Santa Monica; it then stretches northwest to the Ventura County line, taking in huge chunks of the West San Fernando Valley.

It is Westlake Village and Pacific Palisades, Calabasas and Brentwood, Malibu and Tarzana. About half the voters are north of Mulholland Drive.

The 41st appears to be a swing district. Democrats outnumber Republicans 49% to 40% among registered voters, but Republicans tend to be more loyal to their party's nominees and more likely to vote, so many observers rate the district as a tossup. In 1988, the voters of the 41st area narrowly went for George Bush over Democrat Michael S. Dukakis, but in 1990 they favored Democrat Dianne Feinstein over Republican Pete Wilson in the gubernatorial race.

Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) has taken himself out of the picture, opting instead to run for the state Senate. So Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles), running in what is mostly a new district for him, is all alone on the Democratic side.

Sensing a chance to capture what has been Democratic territory, five Republicans are competing for the right to take on Friedman.

"It's a winnable district," said Republican candidate Christine Reed. "It's not a walkaway for either party."

The other three Westside Assembly districts appear less likely to generate suspense in a general election. Two are solid Democratic territory, and the other appears to be safely Republican.

Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) is running in one of the Democratic districts, the 42nd, in which 58% of the registered voters are Democrats and 29% are Republicans. The district consists of most of the Westside north of Wilshire Boulevard and east of the San Diego Freeway.

Even safer turf for Democrats is the 47th Assembly District, with a lopsided 75%-to-16% edge in party registration. Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) will seek to return to Sacramento representing this area, which includes Culver City, Palms, Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw.

Venice and Mar Vista have been cut loose from their Westside moorings to become the north end of the 53rd Assembly District, a mostly South Bay district that takes in Torrance and the southern beach cities. Republicans outnumber Democrats 44% to 42%.

In the hotly contested Republican primary in the 41st Assembly District, the candidates are:

Reed, 48, a former four-term Santa Monica city councilwoman who calls herself a pro-choice, pro-environment fiscal conservative who is moderate on social issues. She calls Friedman a "tax-and-spend liberal," and, like all challengers, plans to make his incumbency an issue if she wins the primary. "Voters are asking for changes," she said.

Former Santa Monica College trustee Fred Beteta, 62, a retired engineer who challenged Tom Hayden two years ago and offers a conservative plank of "reforms, reforms, reforms," stressing education and tightening up illegal immigration as a drain on resources. Beteta favors the voucher system, under which students attending private schools would receive public subsidies.

Santa Monica attorney Scott Meehan, 31. A conservative who is active in Heal the Bay, Meehan says he will mount a grass-roots effort in his first bid for office. He already has 100 volunteers canvassing the district, and he says they have told him that the economy is the overriding issue in the race. "In Westlake Village," he said, "people wake up on a daily basis and wonder, 'Is my job secure?' " Meehan promises to ease regulations and red tape to make the state friendly to business.

Accounting professor Paul Foote, 45, of Agoura Hills. He assisted Beteta in his bid to oust Hayden two years ago and was itching to take on Hayden this year. Foote, a conservative, is interested in giving a boost to business and clamping down on top-heavy school districts by requiring them to reduce overhead expenses. "These Assembly races boil down to two things," he said. "How many slate mailers can you get on, and how much money can you raise?"

Malibu businessman Stefan (Stu) Stitch is also on the ballot. Efforts to reach him for comment on his candidacy were unsuccessful.

While the Republicans slug it out until the June 2 primary, Friedman, who already has $150,000 in the bank, can raise money, get acquainted in the parts of the new district he hasn't represented and prepare for the general election in November.

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