YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

California and the West

Assembly Leaders Aim to Take 'Their' Seat Back From Audie Bock


SACRAMENTO — One lawmaker faces the wrath of the Capitol's Democratic kingpins more than any other, and she is not a Republican.

Assemblywoman Audie Bock stunned Democrats last year when, as a member of the Green Party, she became California's first third-party candidate elected to partisan office since 1917. She did it in a district where 65% of registered voters are Democrats, and where she had spent only $35,000 to her Democratic rival's $770,000.

Now an Independent--a survival-minded Bock broke with the Greens over their disdain for fund-raising--the film scholar who once was Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's interpreter is the ruling party's top target.

Of the 35 Assembly seats the party considers safely Democratic, Bock's is the only one the Democrats do not hold. A parade of state and national leaders, from Gov. Gray Davis to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have lent support to her formidable Democratic challenger, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan.

Vengeful Democrats, still smarting over Bock's embarrassing defeat of former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, vow to make sure that Chan has no shortage of resources.

"I like Audie, but this is a Democratic seat and we want to win it--bad," said Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks). "No way we have another Elihu Harris situation over there."

Among political prognosticators, Bock's reelection hopes are considered dim, to put it kindly. But the 54-year-old single mother is proving to be extremely resourceful. For example, she has secured key endorsements from the Sierra Club and the California Nurses Assn.

A recent poll conducted by her campaign actually showed her ahead of Chan by a significant margin. The same poll also showed Bock's vulnerability, however: Most voters either had never heard of her or had no opinion about her.

Democrats, who have poll findings to the contrary and question Bock's survey, wonder how she got the money for it. They charge that the ultra-liberal legislator is receiving financial help from an unlikely source: the Republican Party.

As an Independent, Bock had to collect 5,677 signatures in her district to make the ballot. She wound up turning in more than 10,000--a feat Democrats contend was achieved with help from a political consultant who usually works on Republican campaigns, and with petition professionals who were paid $4 per signature.

Bock acknowledged that she hired petition gatherers and is working with the consultant, but denies that she is getting any GOP financial help. She is working with a Republican consultant, she said, only because she was blacklisted by Democrat-leaning strategists, a contention confirmed by several Democrats.

"I wish I could say that Republicans, or Democrats, were giving me money," she said, laughing. "But the fact is, it is not true."

Assembly Democratic campaign strategist Darry Sragow said that by abandoning her Green roots for political advantage, Bock has become vulnerable to charges that she is--gasp--just another politician. He sees "no mathematical possibility" that she can win.

"What Audie Bock communicated when she switched is, 'I am just like everyone else. I will do anything to win,' " Sragow said.

Bock said she understands what is in store for her. Already, the Wilma Chan lawn signs are piling up all over Oakland and Piedmont. Soon, Bock predicts, mail pieces will follow.

Many of her Democratic colleagues, she said, told her that they wish she would win and return next year to Sacramento. And she says she expects to be back.

"I do not spend any time contemplating losing," Bock said. "I really do not think it is going to happen."

Los Angeles Times Articles