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Decision '92 : SPECIAL VOTERS' GUIDE TO STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS : THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES : Gastil a Real Challenge to Hunter

October 25, 1992

With an embattled incumbent and an aggressive female challenger, the 52nd Congressional District race embodies two of the most distinctive features of Campaign '92.

What should have been a routine reelection to a seventh two-year term for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado) in a comfortable Republican district was changed dramatically by the revelation that Hunter wrote 407 overdrafts totaling $129,225 on his U.S. House bank account--placing him hip deep in a controversy that already has swept other congressmen out of office.

While the 44-year-old Hunter argues that his convincing victory in a three-candidate GOP primary demonstrates that voters are more concerned with the economy and other issues, Democrat Janet Gastil has relentlessly hammered him over the check-writing scandal. Sometimes, Gastil uses humor to make her point, as at one forum where she said: "Our system of government is one of checks and balances. But lately, we've had too many checks and not enough balances."

Eschewing attempts to label her as "a single-issue woman candidate," Gastil nevertheless acknowledges that gender gives her another significant card to play in the campaign.

"Duncan Hunter embodies many of the things (that are) wrong with Congress," said Gastil, a 55-year-old former school board member from La Mesa who also owns an apple-growing business. "In trying to present a contrast, being a woman certainly doesn't hurt."

Gastil also hopes to capitalize on controversy over Hunter's central role in President Bush's attack on Democratic rival Bill Clinton's patriotism, a strategic gambit spawned by an Oval Office meeting in which Hunter participated.

By having helped to orchestrate an attack that Clinton has characterized as reminiscent of McCarthyism, Hunter may have potentially damaged his own and his districts' clout, should Clinton become president, Gastil charges.

Hunter, who has not been seriously tested since upsetting a nine-term Democratic incumbent in the 1980 Reagan landslide, counters by characterizing Gastil as "just another liberal tax-and-spend Democrat out of step" with his district, where Republicans hold a 46%-39% registration advantage.

CONGRESS / 52nd District Janet Gastil

Age: 55

Birthplace: Floral Park, N.Y.

Occupation: Apple orchard owner

Democrat Dennis Gretsinger

Age: 37

Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio

Occupation: Tool and diemaker

Peace & Freedom Duncan Hunter

Age: 44

Birthplace: Riverside

Occupation: U.S. congressman

Republican Joe Shea

Age: 33

Birthplace: Los Angeles

Occupation: Copier technician

Libertarian

Times writer Barry M. Horstman wrote these summaries of the congressional races.

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