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CAMPAIGN 2000 | POLITICAL BRIEFING

Kuehl Looks Ahead, Despite Lost Eyeglasses

March 09, 2000|ANNETTE KONDO and SUE FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Sheila Kuehl was on a roll as she greeted supporters at an upbeat victory party.

The Democratic Assembly member had amassed a commanding lead over rival Wally Knox, and dozens of well-wishers crowded around to sing her praises. She wore a glittery string of Mardi Gras beads that a jovial supporter had draped around her neck.

But Kuehl was missing a crucial item as she made the rounds at a Santa Monica restaurant: her eyeglasses.

Throughout the night, aides handed her scraps of paper with returns, prompting mild frustration and much squinting from Kuehl.

When her margin widened to 20 points, Kuehl stopped fumbling for her spectacles and simply beamed. Meanwhile, her cell phone had also mysteriously vanished.

"The cell phone's gone, the glasses are gone, the material world is abandoning me!" she said shortly before her victory speech--parts of which, incidentally, aides had recently scrawled in inch-high letters so that Kuehl could make out the words.

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IN POLITICAL FASHION: Amanda Susskind, who was defeated by West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz for the Democratic nomination for the 42nd Assembly District, mixed patriotism with fashion sense at her election night event.

At the Beverly Hills party, she sported a cardboard "Stars & Stripes" hat with a glittering red rim, and fingernails alternately painted red, white or blue.

"It was very festive," she said of her last day of campaigning in the district, which covers portions of West Los Angeles as well as Sherman Oaks and Studio City. Campaign supporters showered her with supportive telephone calls and flower bouquets.

Still, Susskind said, running for public office didn't shield her from life's more mundane challenges. In the middle of election day, she had to return to her West Los Angeles home to meet a repairman who had come to fix her broken heater.

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PUNDITRY IN PROGRESS: "Do you think we got it?," 10-year-old Josh Wilson asked.

"Josh, I'm not going to predict," said a cautious Barry Gordon, hours before his run for the 44th Assembly District Democratic nomination ended in defeat.

". . . because I'm pretty good at predicting things," continued Josh, who had accompanied his father to headquarters for the last three months.

"See, it works like this: If you lose by three points one race, you win by three the next," said the philosophical fifth-grader, referring to Gordon's close loss for a seat in Congress two years ago.

Virgil, Josh's father, turned to Gordon's campaign manager, Tom Higgins.

"See what you've done?" he said. "You said, 'Let him stay. It will be fun, he'll learn a lot.' You've created a monster."

The Gordon faithful laughed at the thought of a 10-year-old political pundit.

"I would vote for him if I could," Josh continued. "I got my fingers crossed on this one."

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YOUTH MOVEMENT: Don't call us apolitical Gen-Xers, said two 20-something volunteers for Jack Scott's successful bid for the Democratic nomination in the 21st state Senate District.

Catherine Hazelton, 24, a Scott field representative, and Brian Ruark, 24, are co-founders of Pasadena's Young Democrats, and they detest those slacker stereotypes.

During preelection calls to voters, the under-25 group often had the most probing questions about issues, Hazelton said.

So how do you target this voting bloc? Cyber-cool e-mails? Videos?

How about a hipper version of the tried-and-true cocktail party?

No surprise then, that the first get-together for the fledgling Pasadena Young Democrats was a happy hour at an Old Pasadena bar.

"If that means having a happy hour to get people involved in politics, then that's what it takes," said Hazelton.

Talk about divided loyalties in close quarters.

At Hoover High School in Glendale, two distinct political camps emerged, each one fighting in the campaign trenches with phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

On one side was a group of Hoover juniors who stumped for Scott, while on the other, a band of seniors supported his rival, Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-Los Angeles).

"Jack Scott's a great guy because he was really involved with us and talked with us," said junior Jaime Castro, who met the Altadena assemblyman when he visited Jaime's history class.

That was enough for Jaime and several other teens to intern on behalf of Scott.

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ONE THING LEFT TO DO: While Carol Liu, the big winner in the contest for the Democratic nomination for the 44th Assembly District, will be meeting with her consultants over the next few days to strategize for November, the only thing she's planning now is a one-week vacation--to Hawaii.

"I'm not going to Disneyland," Liu joked Wednesday.

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Staff writers Indranell Sur and Johnathon E. Briggs contributed to this report.

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