With deep-pocketed, three-term Democrat Jane Harman giving up this seat to try unsuccessfully for governor, Republicans think their day is coming at last in this moderate coastal congressional district.
But the Democrats have other ideas--Harman recruited Janice Hahn of San Pedro, daughter of the late Kenneth Hahn, a popular longtime county supervisor, and sister of Los Angeles City Atty. James Hahn. Janice Hahn ran unsuccessfully for a Los Angeles City Council seat a few years ago but is now an elected member of a City Charter reform commission.
After a blistering five-way primary battle, Republicans nominated two-term Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall, a businessman and military veteran from the GOP-dominated Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Both parties have made winning this open seat a top priority, and their affable, energetic candidates will get lots of help from party leaders.
The district has a decidedly Republican tilt--in 1994 it voted for Gov. Pete Wilson over Democrat Kathleen Brown by a nearly 2-1 margin and favored GOP Republican challenger Mike Huffington over popular incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Pundits predict that fallout from the presidential sex scandal could have a major impact in this race if it keeps Hahn's likely voters away from the polls.
But Democrats believe their chances of hanging onto the seat are excellent. Olivia Morgan of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Hahn should have the same appeal as Harman did to "crossover and swing voters, and she has a name ID that Harman didn't" when she first ran and won.
Registration in the district is nearly evenly split--41% of voters are Democrats and 40% are Republicans, according to the latest tally by county election officials. Other candidates are Robin Barrett of the Green Party, Kerry Welsh of the Libertarian Party and John R. Konopka of the Reform Party.