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POLITICAL NOTES : Willard Murray Files to Run for Rep. Tucker's Congress Seat

March 23, 1995|TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RACE FOR THE 37TH: Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr.(D-Paramount) is the first candidate to file official Federal Election Commission statements declaring an intention to run for Rep. Walter R. Tucker III's (D-Compton) congressional seat.

Tucker faces federal charges that he solicited bribes while mayor of Compton. If convicted, he will be unable to run for reelection next year.

But is Murray jumping the gun? Tucker remains highly popular in his district and has declared his innocence.

"I certainly don't want to imply that Congressman Tucker is guilty of anything," Murray says of his decision.

But noting reports that Tucker's indictment followed an undercover FBI investigation, Murray said that the "record of cases involving federal sting operations, the record of prosecutions, the last time I checked, is 14 out of 14."

Political analysts expect a crowded field of candidates to enter the race.

"It's normal," says political consultant Joe Cerrell. "It's not ghoulish. . . . Whenever there's a hint of problems, the next thing you know people are lining up for the seat."

Politicians are even more eager because of term limits, Cerrell says. Also mentioned by political analysts as possible contenders are Assemblywoman Juanita M. McDonald (D-Carson) and State Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), whose terms expire in 1998. Other possible contenders: Carson Mayor Michael Mitoma and former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore.

"You can assume that the elected public officials, be it state or city people, are all going to be taking a serious look at that seat," Cerrell says.

Says Tucker's chief of staff, Marcus Mason: "They are all assuming he is going down. . . . They are all underestimating his popularity in the district."

If Tucker is acquitted or the trial does not occur before next year's vote, Cerrell doubts that many will want to run against the incumbent. Murray, for one, says that his candidacy won't be official until he sees what happens in the trial, but registering now gives him a head start. Candidates must register with the election commission when they have raised more than $5,000.

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L.A. VS. ALBUQUERQUE: With New Mexico's congressional delegation stepping up their attacks, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills) and other California lawmakers are ever more fearful that the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo will be added to the base closure list after all.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has criticized the Pentagon's recommendation to dramatically scale back Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque rather than shutting down the L.A. facility.

His latest salvo: air quality. The Pentagon cited Albuquerque's problems in conforming with air pollution standards as a reason for gutting that base. "Outrageous," Bingaman says of the comparison, noting L.A.'s reputation for smog.

A spokesman for Harman, however, said that other factors--namely, economic reasons--were much more important in the Pentagon's decision. Harman was among 19 California lawmakers who fired off a letter last week to Base Closure Commission Chairman Alan Dixon, saying the Pentagon could save more money by gutting Kirtland.

Bingaman questions those economic comparisons, and notes that Kirtland has "more military utility." Among other things, it has an airstrip; L.A. doesn't.

The base commission will hold a public hearing on closures in San Francisco on April 28 and 29.

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MAKING SENSE OF ELECTIONS: With South Bay's municipal elections scattered throughout the spring and fall, Redondo Beach Councilman Robert Pinzler is pressing state lawmakers to declare a "municipal election day."

The Redondo Beach City Council recently gave him the OK to query state elected officials on the proposal, in which all of the state's cities would go to the polls on the same day.

"It makes no damn sense," Pinzler says of the current system. "This would at least raise the consciousness of voters that there is an election."

His city, for example, held its race on March 7, and only 21% of the registered voters went to the polls. Inglewood holds its election on April 4 and Gardena has a special election a week later.

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