Assemblyman William (Pete) Knight (R-Palmdale), 63, was first elected in 1992. The retired U.S. Air Force colonel and test pilot, has a wife and seven children.
James Hutchins, the Democratic challenger, 44, is a material quality specialist at Northrop-Grumman Corp. Hutchins is married and has two children.
Knight's legislative career began with an inauspicious bang.
It was only six months into his first term when it was reported that the freshman lawmaker had distributed a derogatory poem about illegal immigrants to some of his GOP capitol colleagues. Widely condemned statewide, Knight gave an emotional address before the state Assemby in May, 1993 to apologize and declare: "I am not a bigot."
Since then, Knight has tried to regain his balance and get on with his conservative agenda. To streamline state government, Knight has proposed abolishing several state boards and commissions, including such "politically correct" entities as the Commission on the Status of Women and the Native American Heritage Commission.
For his constituents back home, Knight brought home some pork when he won approval for a new Superior Court district to serve the Antelope Valley. Still, Knight's bigget goal has proved elusive: getting Palmdale designated as an enterprise zone.
The 36th District, with Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley as its population anchors, is solidly Republican. Of its registered voters, 51% are Republican, 35% are Democratic.
Hutchins has unsuccessfully run twice for school board seats in the Antelope Valley.
He says Knight has failed to be a strong friend of the area's now-troubled aerospace industry and has only weakly dealt with threats to the environment posed by a plan to develop Elsmere Canyon as a landfill and a project that dumps human waste sludge, imported from Los Angeles, in the Antelope Valley.
"Pete Knight has been an embarassment to the district," says Hutchins, who has lived in the Antelope Valley since 1988. "His poetry was garbage and he has still not apologized to local Hispanics for it."
Also running is Libertarian candidate Eric Fussell, an aerospace technician from Palmdale.