From stinging ads on President Clinton's sex scandal to a jackpot of gambling contributions, a flurry of last-minute political attacks and maneuvering has pumped a shot of adrenaline into the once lackluster political races in the San Fernando Valley.
Battles over the Valley's 24th and 27th congressional districts will top the local ticket on Tuesday's ballot, with both races featuring freshmen incumbents in campaigns stewing with charges and countercharges of lies and dirty tricks.
The Democrats in the two congressional campaigns, banking on a voter backlash over the Clinton scandal, have gone on the offensive and attacked their Republican opponents for supporting an open-ended impeachment inquiry by the GOP-led Congress.
Most of the attacks have been delivered via political mailers, the campaign tactic of choice by the vast majority of Valley candidates running for state and federal office.
Meanwhile, the candidates' supporters have been hard at work to ensure that voters turn out on election day--delivering the word to get out and vote through phone banks and a door-to-door push.
"Everybody is talking turnout, turnout, turnout this year," said Mike Madrid, political director of the California Republican Party. "The reality is that a lot of the votes have already been cast."
According to Madrid, his party sent 2 million absentee ballot request forms to its members throughout the state. He said 20% responded.
"They were hitting voters two days after the president's televised speech" acknowledging his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Madrid said. "They basically had the remote control in one hand and the absentee ballot request in the other."
But campaign consultant Allan Hoffenblum of Los Angeles said polls have shown GOP hype of the Clinton scandal may hurt, not help, state and local Republican candidates Tuesday.
"Here in California, this whole Clinton thing has been disastrous for the Republicans," said Hoffenblum, a GOP campaign advisor who also publishes the elections handicapper "California Target Book."
Fight for Congress
Democrat Barry Gordon, who is challenging Republican Rep. James Rogan of Glendale for the 27th Congressional District seat, has blanketed the district with attacks on Rogan's role in the impeachment inquiry: "Is this why we sent Mr. Rogan to Washington?" a mailer asks voters.
Rogan, a former prosecutor and Municipal Court judge, voted to launch the impeachment inquiry and also advised House Speaker Newt Gingrich on how Congress should handle the findings of the independent counsel's investigation.
Gordon said if he's elected, Rogan's role in the impeachment process would certainly "play a role." Gordon is an actor, attorney and former president of the Screen Actors Guild.
But both Gordon and Rogan agree most voters will be more discriminating and not just focus on the Clinton ordeal. Gordon called Rogan "out of sync" with voters in the district, which includes Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank, because the Republican is anti-abortion, opposes an assault weapons ban and has aligned himself with Gingrich and right-wing Republicans.
Rogan called many of Gordon's claims "distortion of my record," and responded by releasing a campaign flier attacking the Democrat's rocky personal financial history, which has included four tax liens and a filing for bankruptcy.
"I watched him for months misrepresent my record," Rogan said. "It's interesting how be began to squeal like a little stuck pig when I mentioned his financial mismanagement for the past 13 years."
Nastiness Level Rises
The political temperature is just as hot across the Valley in the 24th Congressional District, where freshman Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is being opposed by businessman Randy Hoffman, a Republican from Thousand Oaks. The district includes their hometowns, as well as Encino, Woodland Hills, Malibu, Calabasas and Westlake Village.
The nastiness quotient in this race has moved higher with each passing day. On Friday, the Sherman campaign accused Hoffman supporters of misrepresenting themselves as Democrats and calling voters to bash Sherman. The same day, the Hoffman campaign contended that Sherman supporters were tearing down the Republican's yard signs.
Both Sherman and Hoffman have waged the bulk of their campaigns through the mail, which has proved to be expensive, and both have cried foul over how their record and political positions have been portrayed.
"Absolute lies," Sherman said of Hoffman's campaign mailers, in almost the exact words that Hoffman has used to describe Sherman's political fliers.
Last week Hoffman pumped nearly $200,000 of his money into the campaign--adding to the $550,000 the GOP candidate has already taken from his bank account. Hoffman, former president of Magellan Systems Inc., a high-tech firm in San Dimas, is worth an estimated $2 million to $7 million.