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DECISION 2000 | U.S. CONGRESS

GOP Losing 2 Key Races; Third Too Close to Call

Democratic challengers Schiff and Davis are triumphing over Rogan and Bilbray, with Harman leading Kuykendall narrowly.

November 08, 2000|JEAN MERL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In California contests that could help tip the balance of power in the House of Representatives, Republican incumbents in two hard-fought races were losing to Democratic challengers Tuesday. A third race was too close to call.

The narrow race in the South Bay's 36th District saw Rep. Steven T. Kuykendall (R-Rancho Palos Verdes) trailing slightly behind Democrat Jane Harman, while presidential impeachment figure Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale) was going down to defeat to state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in the 27th District in Los Angeles' northeast suburbs.

In San Diego County's coastal 49th District, Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-San Diego) lost to his Democratic challenger, Assemblywoman Susan A. Davis.

Davis credited her supporters with having run what she called a "clean campaign" compared to what she said was a negative one by Bilbray.

"We wanted to maintain a campaign we could be proud of. I think we did that even though we were battered around," she told reporters.

Bilbray addressed supporters early in the evening but watched returns in private as the tide turned against him.

In Los Angeles County's South Bay area, Kuykendall said there was nothing he would have done differently in the extremely close contest.

"Right now I'm very comfortable with how we ran the campaign," Kuykendall said at the Torrance Marriott, adding that he expected the race to be very close.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Harman and her supporters watched returns at the Manhattan Beach Marriott. "Every race in this country seems to be a cliffhanger. I guess it's a new century," she said.

In another of California's five most fiercely competitive House seats, Rep. Calvin M. Dooley (D-Visalia) defeated Republican challenger Rich Rodriguez, a former Fresno television newscaster, in the Central Valley's 20th District. There, several farming communities on the east side of the valley lost electricity after after a car hit a power pole, and voters were marking their ballots with the aid of flashlights and headlights.

In the Silicon Valley's 15th District, vacated by Republican Tom Campbell for his U.S. Senate run, Democratic Assemblyman Mike Honda had a strong lead over Republican Assemblyman Jim Cunneen.

Those five races have attracted national attention--and substantial resources from both major parties and interest groups--because they will help determine which party controls the House of Representatives. With at least $10 million in total spending, the Rogan-Schiff race may prove to be the most expensive House contest in history.

Democrats, needing to pick up seven seats to win the majority, saw one of their best chances in the Silicon Valley's open seat in the 15th District, vacated by Republican Tom Campbell in his run for the U.S. Senate. They also targeted GOP incumbents in the rapidly shifting 27th District in the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena area and in the politically moderate, coastal 36th and 49th districts. Republicans took aim at five-term Democratic incumbent Dooley in the Central Valley's 20th District.

California's 52-member congressional delegation currently stands at 27 Democrats and 25 Republicans.

In other contested Southern California congressional races, Tuesday was looking like a good day for incumbents.

Republican Rep. Steve Horn was locked in a tight race with his Democratic challenger, nurse practitioner and attorney Gerrie Schipske in the Long Beach-based 38th District.

"I think I'm being helped here by the interest in the presidential race around the country," a jubilant Schipske said at a Long Beach restaurant as later returns showed the race tightening.

Schipske said she benefited from an active street effort by the county Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and by about 500 volunteers who combed every precinct.

Horn, sweating out results from a convention hall in Long Beach, said the Democrats' desire to take control of the Houes and his 22-point disadvantage in registration contributed to the closeness of the race.

"Who controls Congress is very important, and my district is probably one of the most contested," Horn said.

In Orange County's 46th District, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) jumped to a wide lead over her Republican challenger, Santa Ana teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman

And Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), a seven-term incumbent facing his first serious challenge since 1992, from Democratic attorney Michael Case of Ventura in Ventura County's 23rd District, declared victory early in the evening.

"I have a lot to be happy about, a lot to be grateful for tonight," Gallegly said at the Ventura County Government Center.

In the coast-hugging 36th District, which runs from Venice to San Pedro, Kuykendall and Harman fought neck and neck. She was trying to regain the seat she had held from 1992 until she gave it up to run for governor in 1998.

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