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Decision '92 : VOTING IN THE VALLEY / AN ELECTION GUIDE : CONGRESS / 25th DISTRICT : Confident McKeon Making Preparations

October 25, 1992|JACK CHEEVERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On a recent trip to Washington, Republican congressional candidate Howard P. (Buck) McKeon of Santa Clarita met with an elite group he believes he will soon join: GOP congressmen from California.

No politician ever wants to say he has an election in the bag. But McKeon--a conservative banker and clothing retailer widely regarded as the front-runner in the new 25th Congressional District--says his polls show him so far ahead of his two major opponents that, well, he pretty much has the election in the bag.

So, when Democrat James H. Gilmartin and independent Rick Pamplin were in the district campaigning earlier this month, McKeon was in Washington, asking GOP congressmen for advice on how to get good committee assignments.

"I don't want to be overconfident, but I'm trying to make preparations to meet with the other congressmen so I can hit the ground running," McKeon said in a telephone interview from his Washington hotel. "I don't want to come here in December and have to look around for the boys' room."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 26, 1992 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 4 Zones Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Position misstated--In a special Sunday election section, The Times incorrectly reported the position of 25th Congressional District candidate Charles Wilken on abortion. In response to the question, "Do you support a woman's unrestricted right to an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy?" Wilken answered: "Yes."

The 25th District, forged in a court-ordered reapportionment earlier this year, encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and northern San Fernando valleys. It is heavily Republican, conservative turf, which most analysts believe favors McKeon, a former Santa Clarita mayor.

But Gilmartin, a Santa Clarita lawyer, and Pamplin, a Palmdale screenwriter and Ross Perot loyalist, have hardly conceded the race, continuing to snipe vigorously at McKeon as Election Day nears.

Regardless of who wins, the election of a 25th District representative will mark the first time that the vast, fast-growing region has had its own representative in Congress. The area formerly was split among four districts, a division that was long a sore point with local business and civic leaders.

Despite McKeon's apparent strength, there is evidence that growing voter dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Republican Party has trickled into his district. Between February and September, the percentage of 25th District voters registered as Republicans dropped more than two points, to 49.87% from 51.90%.

But Democrats make up less than 38% of registered voters, and most observers believe McKeon will prevail Nov. 3.

Gilmartin argues that he will benefit from the coattails of Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton's campaign, giving him more votes than the district's Democratic registration suggests. Gilmartin also says his background as a Navy pilot will aid him in a district where thousands are employed in the aerospace industry.

"People like the idea of a Navy pilot versus a Mormon preacher in an aerospace area," he said, referring to McKeon's affiliation with the Mormon church.

Pamplin, a onetime Perot activist who qualified for the ballot after fellow Perot fans gathered more than 12,000 voter signatures for him, acknowledged that Perot has sunk dramatically in national opinion polls since he rejoined the presidential race last month. But Pamplin, too, insists he will do better than his political mentor in the district.

A novice candidate, Pamplin has campaigned energetically, attending local meetings and debates and faxing a blizzard of news releases to local reporters, attacking McKeon on a variety of issues.

Pamplin and Gilmartin recently complained to federal election officials after Valencia National Bank--where McKeon is board chairman--mailed brochures touting McKeon's candidacy to 2,500 of its customers.

Pamplin and Gilmartin alleged that the mailers violate a federal ban on corporate contributions to congressional campaigns. A bank spokeswoman denied the mailers were illegal and McKeon said he had nothing to do with the materials being sent to bank checking-account holders.

The 25th District contains the assembly plant for the troubled B-2 Stealth bomber. The program employs several thousand local residents, and the B-2's shaky future has emerged as a central campaign issue.

McKeon said at least 20 of the giant bombers should be built--a limit recommended by President Bush--but he doesn't know if more are needed. Gilmartin said the craft should be produced until retraining programs are in place for workers who would be laid off if the program was canceled.

Pamplin said more planes should be built "until the military says it's the right amount," adding that he would support as many as 75 B-2s.

Also on the ballot are Libertarian Peggy Christensen, Peace and Freedom candidate Nancy Lawrence and Green party candidate Charles Wilken.

25th District

Where: The district includes the communities of Acton, Agua Dulce, Canyon Country, Castaic, Gorman, Lancaster, Leona Valley, Littlerock, Llano, Palmdale, Pearblossom, Quartz Hill, Santa Clarita and Saugus in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys, and portions of Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Northridge and Sunland in the San Fernando Valley. To find out if you live in the district, call the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office at (213) 721-1100.

Candidates:

James H. (Gil) Gilmartin, Democrat, attorney

Nancy Lawrence, Peace and Freedom, political organizer

Howard P. (Buck) McKeon, Republican, businessman, Santa Clarita council member

Charles Wilken, Green Party, teacher

Peggy L. Christensen, Libertarian, cardiac care consultant

Rick Pamplin, Independent, businessman

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