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8 in Primary Topped $200,000 : Politics: Despite the recession, many area candidates spent freely in seeking legislative seats.


SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — California was in a deep recession and the state government was broke, but there was no shortage of cash to fuel the primary campaigns of candidates seeking to represent the San Gabriel Valley in Sacramento.

Campaign statements filed with election officials by the July 31 deadline show that eight candidates running for legislative seats spent more than $200,000 apiece in the June primary.

In the competition for funds, some candidates dipped into their personal fortunes for support, some borrowed heavily from political allies and some were the beneficiaries of donations from special interests--most significantly the real estate, education, gun and medical lobbies.

Voters passed an initiative in 1988 that barred the transfer of funds from one candidate's campaign to another's, but a court ruled the measure unconstitutional in 1990. The ruling also lifted limits on campaign contributions. And many San Gabriel Valley candidates took full advantage of the liberalized rules.

Donations for the June primary generally reflected registration differences. Almost all of the money from state lobbying groups went into the majority party primaries in each district.

The most expensive election was the Republican primary in Pasadena's new 44th Assembly District, where more than $1 million was spent by 10 candidates.

The winner, Pasadena insurance agent Bill Hoge, could face another expensive race in November against Democrat Jonathan S. Fuhrman, a Pasadena business manager. Although Fuhrman spent less than $6,000 to edge two rivals in the Democratic primary, he said he will need $150,000 to run a strong campaign against Hoge in November. He has the fund-raising experience to accomplish that goal: He is campaign treasurer for County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Hoge, who spent $236,329 in the primary, said he is still drawing up his budget for the fall. "We're going to conduct a very aggressive campaign," he said. "We're taking nothing for granted."

Most of the money from special interests and political leaders in the district went to the two top Republican vote-getters, Barbara Pieper, the former mayor of La Canada Flintridge who had Gov. Pete Wilson's endorsement, and Hoge, who ran with the backing of neighboring assemblymen Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and Richard L. Mountjoy (R-Monrovia).

Hoge received more than $25,000 worth of help, including some non-cash contributions, from Nolan; $17,000 from the National Rifle Assn. and $9,000 from Assemblywoman Andrea Seastrand (R-Salinas).

Pieper received $20,267 from the California Medical Assn., $12,068 from the Assn. of School Administrators, $30,000 from Assemblyman Charles W. Quackenbush (R-Saratoga), and $4,000 from a gun control group. She spent $270,421 on her campaign, $34,000 more than Hoge.

Two losing Republican candidates in the district both spent freely even without significant special-interest contributions. Robert Oltman, who owns a warehouse storage business, spent $229,000 of his own money, or more than $40 for each vote he received, in a third-place finish. T. H. Choi loaned himself $110,234 for the campaign, but finished fifth.

Political observers consider the 44th District safe for the GOP because Republicans outnumber Democrats slightly, and Republicans are traditionally more reliable voters. But Fuhrman said the strength of the national Democratic ticket, the recession, the growing number of independent voters looking for change and other issues--including abortion--could scramble the usual political calculations this year.

It will take a dramatic shift in voting patterns to give Fuhrman a victory in November, but his race is more competitive than most in the San Gabriel Valley. In nearly all other state Senate and Assembly districts in the region, Democrats or Republicans have a lopsided registration advantage.

A tough Republican primary in the 60th Assembly District--including West Covina, Walnut and Diamond Bar--produced the highest expenditure by a San Gabriel Valley legislator. Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher (R-Hacienda Heights) spent nearly $300,000 in the first half of this year, most of it fighting off a bitter challenge from Diamond Bar Councilwoman Phyllis Papen. She had not filed a final campaign report by midweek but an interim report in mid-May listed $38,153 in expenditures.

Horcher received $10,000 from Assembly Republican leader Bill Jones of Fresno, $5,000 from Assemblyman Paul A. Woodruff (R-Yucaipa), $11,500 from the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery, $9,272 from the California Medical Assn., $7,500 from the California Trial Lawyers Assn., and $10,000 from a coalition of teachers and state employee groups. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. reported spending $12,724 on a mailer for Horcher.

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