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GOP Leaders to Ask Rogan Foes to Quit Race : 43rd District: Officials will urge two rivals of the new assemblyman to abandon the June primary. Peter Repovich says he's in it to stay.

May 05, 1994|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Municipal Judge James Rogan, elected to the Assembly only hours earlier in a special election, was joined by powerful Republican Party allies Wednesday in an attempt to persuade two GOP rivals to drop out of the race for the next two-year term for the 43rd District Assembly seat.

According to sources in Los Angeles and Sacramento, GOP Assembly Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga will urge Julia Wu and Peter Repovich to bow out of the June 7 GOP primary, now that Rogan will be the Republican incumbent on the ballot.

But that effort will apparently be wasted on Repovich, a Los Angeles Police Department officer who has raised a $300,000 war chest.

Repovich said Wednesday that he plans to go the distance. "I'm worried about this seat going to the Democrats if we Republicans field a candidate like Jim Rogan," Repovich said, launching a campaign to paint Rogan as too conservative. Wu could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Rogan, who received campaign contributions from wealthy Christian conservatives, surprised himself and pundits by winning 53.9% of the vote in a seven-candidate race to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Assemblyman Pat Nolan. Nolan pleaded guilty Feb 18 to one count of political racketeering and is now in prison.

Many had expected Tuesday's voting to be indecisive with no candidate getting a majority and the replacement process thus requiring yet another election on June 28 between the top vote-getters from each party.

But due in part to a relatively strong Republican turnout in his Glendale base, Rogan surprised the handicappers and on Tuesday won the job of filling out the remainder of Nolan's term, which expires Dec. 5.

Tuesday's victory does not end Rogan's political odyssey. On June 7, the primary election will be held to fill the new two-year term for the 43rd District seat that begins after Dec. 5.

Set to run in that GOP primary against Rogan are Wu, a prominent Asian-American activist and a member of the Los Angeles Community College board of trustees, and Repovich, a community relations officer in the LAPD's Hollywood Division.

"Obviously I'd be delighted if the others agreed to get behind me," Rogan said Wednesday. "But right now I'm not focused on that. For the last few weeks I've been a full-time campaigner. Now I'm ready to be a full-time legislator."

Still, Rogan's win Tuesday prompted the GOP leadership to begin the process of trying to unify the party around its newfound incumbent. "If not Brulte, someone else in the leadership will make the calls to Wu and Repovich urging them to step down," said Brulte spokesman Phil Perry. "Now that we've got an incumbent, the leadership will go all out for him."

Others in the party spoke about the need for the GOP to rally behind Rogan and not engage in a costly and divisive June 7 primary battle at a time when Democrats are talking about the possibility of capturing the 43rd District.

Long a bastion of Republicanism, the political dynamics of the district have been altered by Nolan's resignation, changing demographics and the 1990 reapportionment plan.

Earlier this year, Wu was persuaded by Brulte not to run against Nolan, when it appeared that the incumbent would seek reelection even as he fought the criminal charges that sent him to prison. At that time, Brulte failed to persuade Repovich not to enter the race against Nolan.

Some sources in the GOP said they expected Wu again to defer to the party leaders and suspend her campaign. Her campaign manager, Jot Condie, said Wednesday that he expected his client to wait a few days to make a decision. "Clearly, the (Tuesday poll) results were disappointing," Condie said. Wu got only 10.6% of the vote.

Repovich, meanwhile, was unswerving. Rogan's ties to the "Christian right" and to the antiabortion movement may drag the party to defeat in a race against a middle-of-the-road Democrat, Repovich argued Wednesday. Repovich is a supporter of abortion rights.

Keith Kall, his spokesperson, said that the 14% voter turnout in Tuesday's election was not a good barometer of the sentiments of Republican voters.

In any event, both Wu and Repovich will be on the ballot regardless of the success of Brulte's diplomacy. "What we'd be doing is asking them to drop their campaigning," said Perry. "We don't have anything to offer them but the gratitude of the party and its leadership."

Meanwhile, Adam Schiff, the main Democrat in Tuesday's race, who scored 25.6% of the vote and finished second, said Rogan's showing Tuesday and sudden incumbency do not faze his game plan.

"It's on to November--we saw this race (the May 3 election) all along as just a skirmish," Schiff said. "The big battle will be in November and it will be a very different election then."

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