Republican Mark Boos Benhard of Oak Park kicked off his campaign to unseat Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson at a rally Thursday, where he urged a $500 tax credit for working families and a get-tough policy against illegal immigrants.
Benhard, 28, for three years an aide to former Rep. William Dannemeyer, said he supports using the armed forces to patrol the U. S.-Mexican border and eliminating all benefits for illegal immigrants, including automatic citizenship, education and welfare.
Dannemeyer, an Orange County Republican who is running for the U. S. Senate, endorsed Benhard at the event, and the pair are scheduled to appear together at another event in the Conejo Valley tonight.
Dannemeyer praised his former aide Thursday--saying the political climate is right to elect conservative Republicans like Benhard--and criticized Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) as a tax-and-spend liberal.
About 75 people attended the event at the Woodland Hills home of Mary Barrientos, who was appointed to the Los Angeles Housing Commission by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Several of those in attendance are graduates of Riordan's 1993 campaign, including Todd Blair, Benhard's campaign manager. Others, like Darlene Woods, who identified herself as the leader of a John Birch Society chapter, and investor John Popp, are veterans of numerous conservative crusades, including Howard Jarvis' tax-reform movement and, currently, the campaign to recall state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys).
Dannemeyer, who is Benhard's mentor, has long been a vocal critic of the gay lifestyle and a supporter of voluntary school prayer.
Benhard, who owns a public relations firm, reminded his audience that he was born and raised in the west San Fernando Valley, a distinction the other two Republican contenders cannot claim.
Also seeking the GOP nomination for the 24th Congressional District seat are Robert Hammer, a Newbury Park banking consultant, and Richard Sybert, a former top aide to Gov. Pete Wilson. Hammer has lived in the area since 1985, while Sybert, a native of Whittier, has resided in the West Valley for less than a year.
"I think it's fair to say my opponents are more liberal than I am, but I am no right-winger," added Benhard, who lives with his wife and three sons in Oak Park.
In an interview, Benhard said he supports a recent proposal to deny all but emergency aid to illegal immigrants who were affected by the Northridge earthquake, wants to see increased use of the death penalty, and opposes the recently enacted federal Brady Bill, which mandates a 10-day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun.
Benhard warned that Beilenson, who with reapportionment represents an increasingly Republican and Valley-based district, has tried to change his tune to suit his new constituents.
"Tony Beilenson talks a good game, for example, when it comes to immigration, but he doesn't follow through," Benhard said. Beilenson has advocated denying citizenship to infants born in the United States to parents who are in this country illegally.