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Judge Rogan Endorsed for Nolan Seat by GOP Leaders : Elections: A special May 3 vote will be held to select a successor to the popular Republican assemblyman, who resigned after pleading guilty to extortion.


GLENDALE — A gathering of about 150 Republican leaders Wednesday night picked Glendale Municipal Judge James E. Rogan as the party's candidate to replace Pat Nolan, the popular GOP state assemblyman toppled from office by scandal only two weeks ago.

On Friday, Gov. Pete Wilson picked May 3 as the date for a special election to replace Nolan, 43, who resigned after pleading guilty to extorting $10,000 from a hotel chain and was sentenced to prison.

Rogan, a former deputy district attorney, was endorsed earlier by two-thirds of the Republican members of the Assembly and easily swept the mini-convention Wednesday.

Finding a consensus candidate has been particularly important to Republicans in the 43rd Assembly District following reapportionment. After redistricting, the number of registered Republicans in the district slipped from 47% to 42%, while Democratic registration rose from 41% to 44%.

Nolan himself won reelection in 1992 with only 56% of the vote against nominal opposition.

"This is a real swing seat now--it could go either way," said Parke Skelton, political consultant to Adam Schiff, a former deputy U. S. attorney who has filed as a Democratic candidate for the Nolan seat.

Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian warned the delegates at Wednesday's meeting that because of Democratic Party inroads in the district, they "no longer have the privilege to be divisive."

Rogan, 36, of Glendale, made his legal reputation by prosecuting a drunk driver who had killed four people and for his handling of the Lamb Funeral Home case.

Putting up a fight to block the Rogan endorsement was another GOP hopeful, Peter Repovich, a Los Angeles police officer.

Repovich operatives, fearful that a Rogan endorsement was in the offing, had earlier faxed a warning to the convention "delegates" that Rogan joined the GOP only in 1988 and previously had been an activist in the Democratic Party.

"He's a Johnny-come-lately to the Republican Party," Repovich campaign manager Berndt Schine complained.

A biographical sketch of Rogan, published in a judicial handbook, says he has belonged to the central committees of both the state and Los Angeles County Democratic Party organizations.

However, Rogan announced his conversion to the Republican Party in 1988 with then-U. S. Sen. Pete Wilson at his side and was appointed a judge in 1990 by GOP Gov. George Deukmejian.

Wednesday night, Rogan angrily condemned Repovich's effort to paint him as uncommitted to Republicanism and produced a letter from former President Ronald Reagan--himself a former Democrat--praising Rogan for changing parties.

Rogan also effectively cited his endorsement by the GOP Assembly members as a sign of his Republican bona fides. Sponsoring Rogan's endorsement by the GOP lawmakers in Sacramento were Assemblymen Bill Hoge (R-Pasadena) and Richard L. Mountjoy (R-Arcadia).

Despite the endorsement, the GOP nomination will still be contested.

Repovich, for one, vowed to continue his candidacy. The 36-year-old officer has already been endorsed by the Police Protective League, the union representing Los Angeles police officers, and said he has raised $350,000 for his campaign.

Also vying for the GOP nomination are Julia Wu, a Silverlake-based member of the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District, and Peter Musurlian, an aide to Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale).

GOP strategists are hoping that Nolan's resignation will diminish the voter appeal of Schiff, the Democrat.

Skelton, Schiff's political consultant, acknowledged that it would have been better for Schiff to run against Nolan while the Republican incumbent fought corruption charges, as was expected until Nolan suddenly pleaded guilty and resigned.

"But the second-best scenario is a divisive Republican primary," said Skelton, who saw Wednesday's mini-convention as a preliminary to a damaging fight for the Republican nomination.

If no candidate gets a simple majority in the May 3 special election, the top vote-getters from each party will face each other in a June 28 runoff. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Nolan's term, which ends Dec. 5.

To add confusion to the campaign, there will also be a primary election June 7 and general election Nov. 8 for the same seat. The winner of the Nov. 8 election will take office when the next regular term begins Dec. 5.

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