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Democratic Hopefuls Lean on Gephardt


Democratic challengers in California's hottest congressional races got an enthusiastic preconvention boost Friday at a labor-hosted rally featuring House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.).

Gephardt is in line to become House speaker if the Democrats can erase the small Republican majority, and he stressed that the outcome of key races in California could spell the difference to his hopes.

"You are the folks that are going to make this happen," he told area labor leaders at a Wilshire Boulevard gathering.

He was accompanied on the two-day campaign swing through California by Kennedy, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Every Democrat that is running [for the House] is a vote for [Gephardt] to be speaker," Kennedy said.

Among those joining Gephardt and Kennedy at the rally was state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), competing in the 27th District, the nation's costliest House race so far. Schiff is trying to oust Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale), who drew Democrats' wrath with his prominent role in President Clinton's impeachment trial.

Jane Harman, recruited by Gephardt to try to win back the South Bay's 36th District seat she gave up to run for governor two years ago, and Gerrie Schipske, who is waging an uphill battle to unseat Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Long Beach) in the 38th District, also were featured at the rally.

The three contests are among a handful in California that Democrats believe they have a good chance of wresting from Republicans. Democrats need to pick up seven seats to regain the House majority they lost in 1994.

Schiff, Harman and Schipske each spoke briefly, touching on themes they believe will appeal to working- and middle-class families.

Friday's rally may be as close as Schiff gets to the convention. He plans to spend most of the week in Sacramento "being a state senator," a campaign aide said.

Harman, however, will address the convention Tuesday.

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