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Decision '92 : SPECIAL VOTERS' GUIDE TO STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS : THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES : A Woman Is Sure to Be Winner

October 25, 1992

In a political year that has been dubbed the "Year of the Woman," it is ironic that gender has been removed as a issue from a campaign that will result in San Diego County sending its first woman to Congress.

Although the race between Democrat Lynn Schenk and Republican Judy Jarvis has gained national attention as being emblematic of women candidates' prominence in Campaign '92, both candidates acknowledge that the focus has shifted to their considerable differences in philosophy, style and background. Two minor-party candidates also are on the ballot in the district, where Republicans hold a narrow 43%-39% registration edge.

Jarvis, a 42-year-old nurse who was an upset winner in a 10-candidate GOP primary, has worn her political outsider status like a badge of honor throughout the campaign, describing herself as a would-be citizen-legislator who "breaks the mold of both parties."

"I'm the voice of the frustrations that people are feeling," Jarvis said. "I'm an average, middle-class citizen. This race gives people a chance to really change the way things are done in government by a sending a different kind of representative to Washington."

In contrast, Schenk, a 47-year-old lawyer who served in the cabinet of former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., is a longtime Democratic activist now serving as an appointee on the San Diego Unified Port Commission. Trying to soften her insider's image, Schenk often bills herself as "an agent of change who's led the fight for those on the outside . . . to come inside."

"I'm concerned we don't say it's a virtue to never have been involved in anything," Schenk said. "Do you take a gamble, a risk on rhetoric, or do you look to someone who's got a 20-year record of getting things done?"

While both candidates advocate abortion rights, they differ on a wide range of other issues. Schenk, for example, supports a bill to create a national waiting period for handgun purchases and favors gay rights legislation, while Jarvis takes the opposite position on each issue.

"When you get beyond gender, there are clear differences," Schenk concludes.

Although the two minor-party candidates in the race appear destined to be little more than political footnotes, Libertarian John Wallner insists that he is "running to win--not just get protest votes" in the largely northwestern San Diego district.

A more realistic goal, Wallner concedes, is to use his campaign to advance the Libertarians' long-term goal of becoming a viable third party that "wins elections as a matter of course, not as one of shock." An unsuccessful congressional candidate who drew 4% of the vote in 1990, Wallner said that he hopes to double or triple that percentage this year.

Peace and Freedom candidate Milton Zaslow, meanwhile, is a 74-year-old retired businessman from Solana Beach whose platform includes calls to reduce defense spending by 85% "to reclaim the peace dividend" for various domestic programs, increase the minimum wage to $8 an hour, raise taxes on the wealthy and create government-sponsored programs in which unemployed persons would work on environmental and infrastructure projects.

"There's a tremendous amount of social injustice in the world and I want to do my part to try to find solutions," Zaslow said. "I don't think the answers are to be found in the establishment parties."

CONGRESS / 49th District Judy Jarvis

Age: 42

Birthplace: Memphis, Tenn.

Occupation: Nurse

Republican Lynn Schenk

Age: 47

Birthplace: New York

Occupation: Lawyer

Democrat John Wallner

Age: 30

Birthplace: Lexington, Ky.

Occupation: Computer engineer

Libertarian Milton Zaslow

Age: 74

Birthplace: New York City

Occupation: Retired businessman

Peace & Freedom

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

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