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Hoge Faces Sharp Duel in 44th District Race : Assembly: The Republican incumbent has plenty of campaign money. But the Democratic Party is expected to provide last-minute funds to challenger Bruce Philpott.

October 20, 1994|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There was Democratic candidate Bruce Philpott, former police chief of Pasadena, in a commercial on cable television, blasting Assemblyman Bill Hoge (R-Pasadena) for taking campaign contributions--more than $100,000--from gambling interests.

The message is in words and pictures on a billboard in Pasadena for all the world to see: Bill Hoge loves dice, cards and money.

Hoge fired back with a mailer accusing Philpott of being soft on illegal immigration at the expense of California taxpayers.

The mailer notes that Hoge authored pending legislation to put the National Guard on the border to stop illegal immigration.

Two years after narrowly winning his first term against a weak Democratic candidate, Hoge is facing a stiff challenge for his 44th District seat in the Nov. 8 election. The district includes Altadena, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, San Marino, South Pasadena and parts of Arcadia, San Gabriel, Temple City and the San Fernando Valley.

Philpott has raised $100,000 for his campaign so far, not a lot of money for a legislative race. But the Assembly's Democratic leaders, who have targeted Hoge as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the state, are expected to pour plenty of cash into the race in the next two weeks.

"(Hoge is) clearly, as far as incumbents are concerned, extremely vulnerable," said Gale Kaufman, Assembly Democratic campaign strategist.

Hoge declined numerous requests to be interviewed. He also has declined at least 10 invitations to appear with Philpott at candidates' forums, Philpott said.

But campaign disclosure statements show that Hoge clearly is prepared for battle: As of Sept. 30, he had raised nearly $500,000. A political action committee headed by Minority Floor Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) has contributed $70,000 to keep the Republican seat.

Brulte said Hoge's seat is one that Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) has consistently expressed interest in taking.

Political consultants and party strategists agree that the race will go to the wire. Registration in the district favors Democrats over Republicans by 45% to 42%. That's not much of an edge for Philpott, because Republicans traditionally turn out to vote in higher numbers than do Democrats.

Philpott is basing a large part of his campaign on attacking Hoge for his fund raising in the "Third House," lobbyists and special interests. In particular, he has focused most of his attack on contributions from gambling interests, all of which do business outside the 44th District.

Hoge has received more than $107,000 from gambling interests, including $24,000 from the Los Angeles Turf Club, which operates Santa Anita Race Track, $20,000 from Hollywood Park and $14,500 from Caesars World, a casino operator headquartered in California.

He has been a strong supporter of the industry. Hoge was the leading Republican supporting a bill by Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount) that would allow racetracks to have video gambling machines. The bill is pending in committee.

Hoge was author of a bill that, among other things, would have made it more difficult to obtain voter approval for new card rooms. In effect, the bill would have reduced the competition for existing card clubs.

The governor vetoed the bill on the advice of the state attorney general's office, which called it a "veritable grab bag of special-interest gambling legislation."

Philpott theorizes that Hoge has courted gambling interests "to build a huge campaign chest to intimidate a challenger."

But what about the financial help Philpott can expect from the Assembly's Democratic leadership, which also taps into special-interest money?

"I'm a maverick," said Philpott, now a businessman. "I don't care what the speaker says. I'll work hard on campaign finance reform."

In his campaign literature, Hoge presents himself as a strong law-and-order candidate and a backer of the recently passed "three strikes" legislation.

He wrote a number of get-tough-on-crime bills that failed in the Assembly and once called for the death penalty for anyone committing three violent offenses.

One of his successes, signed into law last month, requires people convicted of arson to register so that local law enforcement agencies can keep track of them.

Calling himself "the cop's candidate," Hoge has the endorsements of the California State Sheriff's Assn., the Glendale Police Officers Assn. and other law enforcement groups.

Hoge started early in the campaign to chip away at Philpott's standing as a former police chief.

The assemblyman put out two mailers before last June's primary criticizing Philpott's behavior during a traffic stop for supposedly speeding in Glendale in 1990, when he was still Pasadena's police chief.

The mailer accused Philpott of abusing the power of his position to give the Glendale officers a tongue-lashing before he was allowed to leave without being cited.

"The last thing we need is another politician in Sacramento who thinks he's above the law," the mailer said.

Philpott complained to Glendale's police chief that the traffic stop was racially motivated because his date was an African American woman. He says he was not speeding.

He points out that he has the endorsements of various statewide and local law enforcement groups, including the Police Officers Research Assn. of California and the Pasadena Police Officers Assn.

If elected, Philpott pledges to work on legislation to limit contributions from individuals and PACs to candidates.

He said his other priority would be to reduce prison costs, in part by housing nonviolent offenders in tents surrounded by barbed wire in the desert, similar to the way U.S. armed forces held prisoners after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

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