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Martinez-Solis Match in the 31st District Is Key Area Battle

VOTERS' CAMPAIGN 2000 GUIDE | Los Angeles County /
Local Congressional, State Senate and State Assembly
Contests : CONGRESS

March 05, 2000|JEAN MERL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With all Los Angeles-area incumbents seeking reelection to Congress this year, most of the campaign excitement will come, not in Tuesday's primaries, but in the fall, when Democrats try to regain control of the House of Representatives and have several local Republican seats in their sights.

One big exception is the Democratic slugfest in the San Gabriel Valley's 31st District, where state Sen. Hilda Solis is mounting a strong challenge to Rep. Matthew G. Martinez, an 18-year incumbent.

Democrats account for 57% of the registered voters in this district--which includes Azusa, Baldwin Park, El Monte, Monterey Park and Rosemead--virtually guaranteeing the seat in November to the Democratic primary winner.

The contest has split the district's large and growing Latino community as well as labor and the local political leadership.

Solis, who will be forced out of the California Senate in two years because of the state's limits on terms in the Legislature, is going after Martinez's core supporters, portraying him as ineffective; she also is courting Republicans and independents, who together make up nearly 40% of the district's registered voters.

Martinez, who has fended off previous challenges, said he has consistently delivered for his district and does not deserve to be turned out just because Solis needs to find a way to stay in political office.

No Republican is running for the seat, but Natural Law candidate Richard D. Griffin, Libertarian Michael McGuire and Krista Lieberg-Wong of the Green Party will appear on both the primary and general election ballots.

The Democrats' desire to regain the House majority has contributed to their lively four-way primary in the 38th District, where Republican Rep. Steve Horn of Long Beach is seeking his fifth term. The field includes Long Beach native, health care attorney and longtime community activist Gerrie Schipske; college professor and perennial candidate Peter Mathews; military veteran and college professor Ken Graham; and Erin Gruwell, a California teacher of the year recruited for the race by some national party leaders, including Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Also on the ballot are Libertarian Jack Neglia and Karen Blasdell-Wilkinson of the Natural Law Party.

Registration in the district, which includes Bellflower, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Paramount, Signal Hill and most of Long Beach, is 51% Democratic and 32% Republican.

Two other area seats will almost certainly be key battlegrounds in the fall battle for control of Congress, where Republicans now hold a five-seat majority.

One is the 27th District seat held by Republican Rep. James E. Rogan of Glendale, who gained national prominence--and the Democrats' wrath--with his key role in the impeachment of President Clinton. State Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) will take on Rogan. Also on the ballot are Libertarian Ted Brown and Miriam R. Hospodar of the Natural Law Party.

Another is the expected showdown in the South Bay's 36th District between Rep. Steven T. Kuykendall (R-Rancho Palos Verdes) and Democrat Jane Harman, who held the swing-district seat for three terms before giving it up to run for governor. Each has underfunded primary opposition--Kuykendall from conservative Robert T. Pegram, and Harman from local Democratic Party activist James Cavuoto and from nonprofit agency director Farshad Rastegar. Reform Party candidate John R. Konopka, Libertarian Daniel R. Sherman and Matt Ornati of the Natural Law Party also are on the ballot.

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