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California Elections : GOP's Rogan Takes Early Lead Over Schiff : Assembly: The Republican enjoys the party's strong national showing in bid to keep the seat he won in May.

November 09, 1994|MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In early returns, Assemblyman James Rogan (R-Glendale) took an early lead Tuesday night over Democratic foe Adam Schiff after one of the region's most hotly contested legislative races.

Gathered with other local Republican candidates at a raucous party in Glendale, Rogan was enjoying the GOP's strong national showing while waiting for final word on whether he would return to Sacramento for a full two-year term.

"No matter what happens to me, it looks like a great day for Republicans," Rogan said as a crowd of supporters pressed forward to shake his hand. "Adam fought a long, hard campaign and I think it's going to be a long night for both of us."

Not far away in Burbank, Schiff continued hammering away at his opponent--even after the polls closed. He spent Election Day calling potential supporters, making his last call minutes before the end of voting at 8 p.m.

"I feel great," Schiff said early in the evening at the Smoke House restaurant. "We've run a really strong, community-based campaign. We've worked our hardest and made very few mistakes. . . . I'm confident with winning tonight, but if I don't win, I'm proud of the campaign we've run."

The hundreds of Rogan supporters gathered at the Verdugo Club were already gloating at Rogan's early lead. They joined supporters of Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale) and Municipal Court judge hopeful James Simpson, both of whom had strong leads.

"The Democrats are going to need a lot of crying towels," Glendale businessman Ken Bennett predicted. "I consider this a night of revenge."

Considering Rogan to be vulnerable, the state Democratic leadership poured last-minute contributions into Schiff's campaign, turning the Glendale-Burbank legislative race into a fierce battle between rival state party organizations.

Although Rogan was the incumbent, he had not been in office long. He won a May special election to fill a vacancy created when veteran Republican Assemblyman Pat Nolan resigned in February after pleading guilty to a charge of political corruption.

The 43rd District, long a Republican stronghold, was also considered ripe for a Democratic upset because of the strong showings there of President Clinton and U. S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. The district, reapportioned in 1992, includes Glendale and Burbank as well as Los Feliz, Silver Lake and parts of Hollywood. Its registration is 45% Democratic and 41% Republican.

Schiff, 34, mounted an aggressive campaign against the freshman Republican, painting him as a former liberal Democrat who underwent a dramatic transformation into a right-wing Christian who would introduce creationism into public schools and outlaw abortion.

Pointing to campaign contributions to Rogan from conservative Christian organizations, Schiff accused his opponent of being the captive of the GOP's radical Christian right wing. "Stop the radical right!" one mailer said.

But the blunt-spoken Rogan, 37, accused Schiff of trying to obscure the real issues in the district with talk of religion. Acknowledging that his political views have evolved, Rogan drew a very different portrait of himself in campaign literature--as a hard-working young boy from a broken home who overcame the odds to become a hotshot prosecutor and one of California's youngest Municipal Court judges.

Rogan rose from the bottom of society, one mailer said, and forged his political identity "in the crucible of hard work, grit and a belief that the American dream is open to anyone who is willing to stand on their own two feet."

Family values also became an issue when Schiff attacked Rogan's decision to accept a $20,000-a-year pay increase that was recommended for all state legislators by a citizens panel.

Rogan, who is married and has two children, struck back by portraying himself as a good family provider, while contrasting that image with that of bachelor Schiff.

"Before criticizing me for exercising my family responsibilities, perhaps you ought to get one," Rogan said.

Schiff, a former assistant U. S. attorney, sought to blunt that charge by actively campaigning with his girlfriend and revealing in campaign literature--underneath a picture of the pair holding hands--that they will marry early next year.

Also running was Libertarian Willard Michlin, a real estate broker from Hollywood.

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