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Hoge on Top After War of Negative Mailers : 44th District: Nationwide GOP fervor helped assemblyman stave off Democrat Bruce Philpott, analysts say. The two traded a slew of accusations during campaign.

November 10, 1994|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talk about negative campaigning. One foot soldier summed up the race for the Assembly's 44th District seat this way: "The whole campaign was the drunken cop versus the gambler."

But, pundits say, the slew of negative mailers, billboards and cable TV spots were not the key to the 10-point victory that Assemblyman Bill Hoge (R-Pasadena) scored over Democrat Bruce Philpott, Pasadena's former police chief.

"No. 1 is the 'R' after Hoge's name," said Alan Heslop, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "That's not a bad Republican district, and it was a great Republican night."

Democratic voters hold a 2% edge in the 44th District, which includes Altadena, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, San Marino, South Pasadena and parts of Arcadia, San Gabriel, Temple City and the San Fernando Valley. But voter registration probably favored Hoge because Republicans tend to turn out to vote at higher rates than do Democrats.

Hoge jumped out to a substantial lead early Tuesday night and, although it narrowed some, he was declared the winner of the bitter race Wednesday morning.

"I talked about fighting crime, fighting for jobs and fighting illegal immigration," said Hoge, who has written a number of anti-crime bills as a freshman lawmaker. "I believe that I, throughout the entire campaign, addressed the issues."

Philpott did not return calls for comment, but campaign spokesman Jerry Jeffe attributed the outcome to the Republican fervor that swept the state and the nation.

"He just got caught up in a year where everything went wrong," Jeffe said.

Hoge and Philpott staked out their positions on the key issues of the day: Both declared themselves enemies of crime. Hoge supported Proposition 187, which seeks to cut off some public services to illegal immigrants, but Philpott opposed the measure.

But a good portion of their resources paid for mudslinging in a campaign that was grimy from the start.

Hoge set the tone in the primary even though he and Philpott were running unopposed. The assemblyman put out mailers accusing Philpott of abusing his standing as a police chief to get off scot-free after giving two Glendale officers a tongue lashing during a 1990 traffic stop.

Philpott groused that he had justifiably protested the stop, which he said occurred only after the officers saw that his date was an African American.

Hoge, who declined to debate Philpott throughout the campaign, sharpened his blows in the days before Tuesday's election. A Hoge mailer alerted voters to "The Bruce Philpott Drinking and Driving Story," even though Philpott was never arrested or cited for drunk driving in the 1990 incident.

Philpott showed a knack for negative campaigning as well. The former police chief filmed a commercial inside a San Diego County card club and aired the spot on local cable television, painting Hoge as a point man for gambling interests.

He rented billboards that said, in a combination of words and pictures, that Hoge loves cards, dice and money. Philpott's mailers carried the attack as well.

At first avoiding press interviews, Hoge surfaced in the week before the election and said he had done nothing wrong in accepting campaign contributions from horse racing and casino interests--about $140,000--while carrying plenty of legislation for those gambling enterprises, which operate in his district.

As a freshman lawmaker, Hoge wrote six bills to benefit horse racing or card clubs and cast a number of votes in favor of those interests. The most controversial gambling bill that Hoge introduced would have expanded opportunities for card rooms and opened the door to gambling on credit. It was vetoed by Gov. Pete Wilson at the urging of Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren.

Hoge, who said he became interested in gaming legislation because he and his late father once owned and raced thoroughbreds, labeled Philpott a hypocrite because he accepted money from the Assembly's Democratic leadership, some of which came from special interest groups.

The assemblyman also attacked Philpott as a liberal who wanted to boost welfare costs--which Philpott said was a lie. Another mailer accused Philpott of being soft on illegal immigration at the expense of California taxpayers.

But perhaps the most controversial mailer came from the Philpott campaign a week before the election. The mailer contained a letter from Hoge's former wife, saying the assemblyman "suffered" from a "serious gambling addiction" that contributed to the failure of the marriage more than two decades ago.

Hoge denied that he was ever addicted to gambling and called the mailer a "Nixonian dirty trick."

Philpott said the mailer was relevant because of Hoge's legislative record. The Democrat pledged to write legislation to limit the influence of special interests if elected.

Asked if the mailer had backfired, Hoge would say only, "The election's over. The voters spoke."

Hoge, an insurance agent and former president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, won election to the state Assembly in 1992 by campaigning as a tax-fighter and a tough law enforcement candidate.

Even though he had never held office before, the party activist won the seat after securing the endorsements of Assemblyman Richard L. Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) and former Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale). Nolan pleaded guilty to racketeering this year in connection with an eight-year federal political corruption investigation.

ELECTION RESULTS

Results of local races. 10

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