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CAMPAIGN 2000

Rogan-Schiff Battle for Fall Votes Begins

March 09, 2000|HILARY E. MacGREGOR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the primary behind him, Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale) will finally face off in his long-awaited post-impeachment reckoning with state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

In what is expected to be one of the nation's most hotly contested, closely watched congressional races this fall, Rogan, the feisty conservative who carried the standard against President Clinton, is struggling hard to associate his name in voters' minds with something beyond impeachment.

"There's no area of the community that hasn't benefited from me being in Congress," Rogan said. Impeachment, he said, is "part of my record. Let them judge me on my whole record."

Schiff said impeachment is only the most recent, most graphic example of how Rogan placed his national ideological crusade above the concerns of people in his district.

"I think it is important to remember that Rogan was in trouble before the impeachment," Schiff said Wednesday, alluding to Rogan's narrow win in 1998.

"In his last run for office, he barely won against someone who had never held office before, because he ignored the district, its schools and the safety problems," Schiff said.

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In a congressional district where Democrats have a 6% voter registration edge over Republicans, Schiff won 49.1% of the primary votes, while incumbent Rogan got 47%.

"We were not expecting to finish ahead of Rogan," said Schiff's political consultant, Parke Skelton, Wednesday morning. "The fact that we did gives us tremendous momentum for November. I don't think there is another incumbent in California who is running behind their challenger tonight."

Schiff claimed victory Wednesday, saying primaries generally favor Republicans because more GOP loyalists turn out to vote. Rogan should have enjoyed the added advantage of the draw of the strongly contested McCain-Bush race and Proposition 22, Schiff said.

The Rogan-Schiff showdown is just one of three tight races expected in November in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, where shifting demographics are changing the political landscape, and traditionally Republican strongholds continue to turn Democratic.

In the once rock-hard Republican 21st state Senate District, Assemblyman Jack Scott (D-Altadena)--who won a victory over Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-Los Angeles) in a hard-fought Democratic primary--now faces well-funded Republican Paul Zee, a Chinese American businessman and veteran South Pasadena city councilman.

But GOP consultant Alan Hoffenblum predicted the 43rd Assembly District will be one of the top Republican targets in the state. In that district--which includes Burbank, Glendale, Los Feliz and Silver Lake--Latino attorney Dario Frommer, a Democrat and former aide to Gov. Gray Davis, faces Armenian American prosecutor Craig Missakian.

"That has the potential to be a top race," Hoffenblum said. "Missakian is a moderate who is pro-choice, who is going against a Latino. But there are a heck of a lot more Armenians than Latinos."

Rogan and Schiff had already raised $4 million by the primary. Schiff's $1.1 million is the largest war chest amassed by any Democratic congressional challenger in the nation, even though the November election is months away.

Rogan said Wednesday he will follow the same strategy for the November election: work hard in Washington, campaign hard and continue to raise money.

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Rogan said he has no illusions about political office, and declared he is "prepared to lose."

Schiff said he too has a "full legislative plate" and will not sacrifice his Sacramento responsibilities to run a campaign.

"We're running a bipartisan campaign, focusing on quality of education, quality of life, and getting away from the ideological warfare," Schiff said.

Schiff contended he received more endorsements from local Republican groups and officials such as Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, than did Rogan, a Republican.

Meanwhile, Scott awoke in his spacious English Tudor home near the foothills of Altadena and savored his victory over Wildman.

Scott won the Democratic primary in the 21st state Senate District with 34% of the vote. That put him ahead of both Wildman, who received 29.7% of the vote, and Republican Zee, who got 28.5%.

"I'm encouraged [because] I led a Republican candidate," Scott said. "That's a very good sign for the fall."

In a district once dominated by the GOP, Democrats now make up 44% of registered voters, contrasted with 33% for Republicans.

Both Scott and Zee are moderates, hoping to catch swing votes in November. A consultant for Scott said Wednesday that the primary was the bigger challenge.

"This was the harder race of the two," strategist Fred Register said.

Zee, meanwhile, after coasting to victory in the Republican primary with 83.3% of his party's vote, spent Wednesday in meetings to plan his fall campaign.

"Our real race starts today," said Zee's campaign manager, Joe Camp. "We are not taking any vacations."

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