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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Touch of Glamour for Politicians' Fund-Raisers

October 16, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

I have heard of some clever ways to get people to go to a political fund-raiser, but this one takes the cake.

Randy Hoffman is a Republican who is running for Congress against incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman, in a district that stretches all the way from Sherman Oaks to Thousand Oaks.

(Here in California, if you can't live in one of the beach cities, you could do worse than one of the oaks cities.)

With election day a few weeks away, Hoffman is happy to receive the support of any powerful figure who can sway the 24th District's voters his way.

Therefore, he was naturally quite pleased to have House Speaker Newt Gingrich committed to a fund-raising rally Thursday morning. Let's face it, Newt is a plum on any Republican's plate.

At the last minute, however, Hoffman's people got the word that Gingrich would have to cancel. He was too busy in Washington, running the right side of the country.

Well, no Newt is bad news.

Hoffman had to hurry. He needed to find somebody fast to fill in for Gingrich--and he did:

Heather Locklear.

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Having a political event at which Newt Gingrich is replaced by Heather Locklear is a little like having a Hollywood premiere at which Brad Pitt is replaced by Janet Reno.

But that's what happened.

Evidently, the actress from "Melrose Place" is a neighbor of Hoffman's in one of those oaks cities.

This tells me a couple of things, including that Locklear doesn't really live on Melrose.

She and her husband, rock musician Richie Sambora, have reportedly donated $1,000 to Hoffman's campaign. If elected, I presume, Hoffman will pay them back by permitting Sambora to play his guitar as late as he likes without anybody in the neighborhood calling the oaks cops.

This is an excellent political strategy.

1. Organize a fund-raiser.

2. Schedule a politician.

3. Then, at the last minute, bring in a glamorous TV star instead.

I mean, which would you rather listen to? A Washington bureaucrat talking about the need for balancing the federal budget? Or a Hollywood celebrity talking about why the cast of "Melrose Place" could kick the butts of the cast of "Dawson Creek," any time, anywhere.

Personally, I'd rather see Locklear than Gingrich any day, although they both do have great hair.

Just imagine the conversations that must have been going on at Rep. Sherman's campaign headquarters, ever since the big Heather-for-Newt substitution.

"I know! I know we've got Al Gore here on the 28th! The question is, what should we do about it?"

"Cancel him."

"Cancel the vice president?"

"Dump him, Brad."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely. I'm pretty sure we can get that actress who plays Ally McBeal."

A trend could quickly begin.

Barbara Boxer, eager to keep her U.S. Senate seat, cancels a scheduled campaign appearance by President Clinton and replaces him at the last minute with veteran TV lifeguard David Hasselhoff.

Matt Fong, her opponent, sensing a change in the polls, promptly counters with two of the three women from "Friends."

See, this is the exact problem with those televised debates that California gubernatorial candidates Dan Lungren and Gray Davis have been having.

The two of them keep showing up.

If one were smarter, he would cancel on the other candidate at the last minute and send for a surprise replacement. For example, if there were another gubernatorial debate, the state Democratic Party's leaders could ask Davis to take the night off and stay home. Then they could bring in, say, Tori Spelling.

A lot of us have quit watching those other predictable debates. But we'd probably stay home for Lungren-Spelling.

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That's why I believe Rep. Brad Sherman needs to fight fire with fire at his next 24th District fund-raiser.

For all he knows, Randy Hoffman hasn't run out of neighbors who are TV stars and Republicans.

If Sherman really wants to raise money, maybe he had better start going door to door.

"Hi. I'm your congressman. Are you that actress who plays the angel on 'Touched by an Angel?' "

"Why, yes, I am."

"Great. What are you doing on the 29th of October? I'm trying to cancel Dianne Feinstein."

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Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or e-mail mike.downey@latimes.com

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