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ELECTION ROUNDUP : Familiar Faces, Spirited Challenges : Elections: Some incumbents are likely to be returned to office, but not without being given a run for their money.


Voters across southeast Los Angeles County are expected to return several familiar faces to office next week, but challengers in some races are making spirited bids.

Topping the list of close matchups is the 38th Congressional District contest between Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach) and Democrat Peter Mathews, who hopes to buck what many political observers predict will be a banner year for GOP candidates.

Registration figures in the district--where 52% of voters are Democrats and 36% Republicans--appear to favor Mathews. But the figures themselves do not tell the whole story. Political observers say that conservative Democrats in the district do not hesitate to cross party lines. Horn, who has won support for his moderate brand of politics, may have the advantage because of his appeal to such voters.

In two other closely watched races, state Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-El Segundo) and Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) are facing stiff challenges by well-organized Republican candidates.

In the 28th Senate District race, Republican David Barrett Cohen, an attorney from Redondo Beach, has tried to paint Dills as an entrenched politician tied closely to special interests. Dills, 84, who has served longer than any lawmaker in California history, has focused on Cohen's missteps, including erroneous allegations that Dills collected a legislative pension while in the Senate. Karnette is facing Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Steve Kuykendall, the Republican candidate in the 54th Assembly District, in which Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans.

A race-by-race breakdown of congressional and legislative contests in the Southeast area:

HOUSE / 33rd District

Area: Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Maywood, South Gate, Huntington Park, Vernon, Florence, Walnut Park, parts of Downey, Los Angeles, East Los Angeles.

Registration: 68% D / 19% R

Background: Freshman Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) has a virtual lock on her reelection bid. Roybal-Allard is a popular figure in the district, which her father, Edward R. Roybal, represented for three decades. Peace and Freedom candidate Kermit Booker, who received just 34 votes in June, provides the only opposition Tuesday.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Lucille Roybal-Allard, incumbent.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Kermit Booker, teacher.

HOUSE / 34th District

Area: Montebello, Pico Rivera, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Industry, Whittier, La Puente, Bassett, East Los Angeles, Hacienda Heights, Los Nietos, Rosemead, South San Gabriel and Valinda.

Registration: 62% D / 28% R

Background: Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente) faced no challengers in the primary and appears headed for a seventh term in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one. Republican challenger Albert J. Nunez, a Whittier tax preparer, describes Torres as a typical tax-and-spend incumbent.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Esteban E. Torres, incumbent.

REPUBLICAN: Albert J. Nunez, tax preparer.

LIBERTARIAN: Carl M. (Marty) Swinney, X-ray technician.

HOUSE / 37th District

Area: Compton, Long Beach, Lynwood, Carson, Wilmington, Watts, Willowbrook, Athens, East Torrance, eastern Gardena.

Registration: 77% D / 13% R

Background: Rep. Walter R. Tucker III is the overwhelming favorite despite facing charges that he took $30,000 in bribes during his tenure as Compton's mayor. He is opposed by a write-in candidate, San Pedro businessman Lew Prulitsky, whom Tucker swamped in the Democratic primary, and a Libertarian opponent who received 45 votes in gaining his party's nomination in the June contest. Tucker, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has directed most of his energy to his legal defense.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Walter R. Tucker III, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Guy Wilson, merchant seaman.

HOUSE / 38th District

Area: Long Beach, Lakewood, Bellflower, Paramount, San Pedro, Downey.

Registration: 52% D / 36% R

Background: Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach) is facing an aggressive challenge from Democrat Peter Mathews, a Cypress college associate professor. Democrats think Mathews may have an advantage because of the district's strong Democratic registration. Mathews would become the first American of Indian descent in Congress since 1963. Horn, seeking his second term in the House, believes his moderate views and a reputation for tending to local issues will help him win.

Candidate and occupation:

DEMOCRAT: Peter Mathews, professor of American government.

REPUBLICAN: Steve Horn, incumbent.

LIBERTARIAN: Lester W. Mueller, project engineer.

PEACE AND FREEDOM: Richard K. Green, project manager.

HOUSE / 39th District

Area: Whittier, La Mirada, Cerritos, Artesia, Lakewood, Long Beach, La Habra Heights, La Palma, Cypress, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Fullerton, Buena Park, Brea, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Anaheim, La Habra.

Registration: 39% D / 48% R

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