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Redistricting Leaves Few 'Safe' Havens : Politics: Congressmen Henry Waxman and Julian Dixon should have it easy. But some formerly entrenched allies face tough reelection battles.

CAMPAIGN '92: CONGRESS. Last in a series of articles examining the candidates and the new legislative and congressional districts.

March 19, 1992|NANCY HILL-HOLTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Color Rep. Henry Waxman's new congressional district green.

As in money, lots of it.

From the Gold Coast of Santa Monica to the Hollywood Hills, the newly drawn 29th Congressional District cuts a swath across some of the richest real estate--and most generous political givers--in America. It's every canyon from Santa Ynez to Nichols, plus the three bounteous "B" neighborhoods: Bel-Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Westwood, Studio City, West Hollywood and Los Feliz round out this gilded district, a fund-raising mecca for politicians from all over the country.

Ironically, Waxman (D-Los Angeles) said he doesn't need campaign funds, so he will not need to till his new, fertile territory this year. Nor does he plan to open a campaign office. With $800,000 in the bank and a district with 56% registered Democrats and 30% registered Republicans, Waxman is sitting tight.

"I don't think I'm going to need to raise any money," Waxman said. "I don't have a major fight on my hands."

Waxman has drawn a challenger in the primary, Studio City property manager Scott M. Gaulke, a devotee of Lyndon LaRouche, the political extremist who now is serving a prison term for mail fraud and tax evasion. On the Republican side, attorney Mark A. Robbins, who has no primary opponent, said he hopes to use Waxman's big bank account as a negative in a year where being a congressional insider is widely regarded as a liability.

If reapportionment has been kind to Waxman, it has been an overall blow to traditionally Democratic congressional districts on the Westside.

The redistricting plan drawn by the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court collapsed four of the five "safe" Democratic congressional districts on the Westside into a single district. It's as if the Democrats have traded in a four-strand pearl necklace for one very large diamond.

"They took the best parts of four districts and put them into one," Waxman said.

As senior member of the Westside-based clique of officeholders known as the Waxman-Berman organization, Waxman laid claim to the diamond, though he laments the problems facing political allies who have to compete in less friendly territory.

"I would rather have had less of a wonderful time of it, so there would be an easier time for (U.S. Reps.) Tony Beilenson and Howard Berman," he said.

Berman (D-Panorama City), who previously represented a small portion of the Westside in Hollywood, is seeking a seat in the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) chose not to engage in a bloody primary battle with Waxman. Instead, he is running in what appears to be tough territory for a Democrat, the 24th Congressional District, which is centered in the western San Fernando Valley and also contains Malibu and several Ventura County communities.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 48% to 41% in the 24th District, but because Democrats tend to be less loyal to their party than Republicans, that means it is competitive turf.

"This is the ultimate of marginal districts," said Republican political consultant Doug Yoakam, who is working for conservative Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), one of a group of Republicans in that district seeking a ticket to Washington.

Other Republican candidates in the 24th include trade consultant Jim Salomon, businessman Sang R. Korman, airline pilot Bill Spillane, businessman Robert Colaco, and attorneys Stephen M. Weiss, Nicholas T. Hariton, Rob Meyer and Harry Wachtel. Salomon and Korman have each lost two previous races for Congress.

"This is the core of suburban conservatism in Los Angeles and Ventura counties," Yoakam said.

Beilenson sees the district differently, noting that he already represents a little more than half of it, including affluent enclaves such as Woodland Hills and Malibu. The congressman believes he can appeal to voters in the new parts of the district.

Beilenson is likely to emphasize during the campaign his refusal to accept money from political action committees, saying that this demonstrates he isn't beholden to special interest groups.

"I hope it will help," Beilenson said. But, he added, that it also makes it more difficult for him to raise money that he will probably need in the general election.

The other secure seat on the Westside belongs to Rep. Julian C. Dixon, (D-Los Angeles). Dixon's new district is much like his old one. Now called the 32nd Congressional District, it has been moved slightly to the northeast, dropping Westchester, which now is part of a mostly South Bay district.

In the overwhelmingly Democratic (76% of registered voters) district, Dixon has drawn no major-party challengers. "I certainly appreciate that I have what is known as a safe district," Dixon said.

The congressman said he will nonetheless arrange for his name to be on slate mailers and will send select mailers to his constituents.

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