(Nov. 1, 2004) -- On the eve of a national election in which CA is not a "battleground" (Sen. Kerry is expected to carry CA handily), LB is at ground zero in a furious battle for the 54th Assembly District pitting former Assemblyman and Congressman Steve Kuykendall, a Republican, against eight year state Senator Betty Karnette, a Democrat.
As one indication of the stakes involved, on Monday morning CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a high visibility press event, urging voters to elect Kuykendall. Some LB area residents have reported receiving recorded phone messages from Gov. Schwarzenegger, urging votes for Kuykendall.
Mr. Kuykendall (and 53d Assembly district candidate Greg Hill) appeared alongside Governor Schwarzenegger at the press event and his campaign issued a release (accompanied by the photo on this page) that quoted Mr. Kuykendall as saying:
Reached for comment on the Governor's efforts for Kuykendall, Karnette campaign consultant Larry Sheingold told LBReport.com, "We'll see whether a Republican can get elected on nothing except the Governor's recommendation."
The Kuykendall campaign's emphasis on Governor Schwarzenegger's support is no accident.
Following the 2000 census, the state legislature (in which Dems hold a majority in both houses) conducted a redistricting [LBReport.com comment: partisan Gerrymander] that carved out numerous "safe" legislative seats (meaning easy elections or reelections majority Dems and a few Repubs). The 54th Assembly district is considered among the least "safe" seats for Dems. As of 2001 it was roughly 45% Democrat, 36% Republican with many declining to state their party affiliation. And some consider it even less "safe" for Dems after the 2003 recall of CA Governor Gray Davis...in which 54th district residents voted in large numbers to replace Democrat Davis (whom Karnette supported) with Republican Schwarzenegger.
Combine a charismatic Governor with a district that's shown an anti-incumbent streak in the recall and you get one of CA's most closely watched contests.
Both the state Democrat and Republican parties have poured money into the race. Independent political committees have also joined the battle lines, among them the LB Area Chamber of Commerce PAC which strongly backs Kuykendall. Meanwhile, CA public employee unions, particularly teachers, have shifted into overdrive to keep Karnette in Sacramento.
Political mailers have flooded LB mailboxes; dueling lawn signs are visible across the district which stretches from gated communities atop the Palos Verdes peninsula, through working and middle class neighborhoods in San Pedro and much of LB.
One issue not prominently mentioned in the campaign was AB 2042, a bill by Assemblyman Lowenthal (he called it the most important bill he'd introduced in six years in the state legislature) that sought to cap air pollutants from the Ports of LB and L.A. at 2004 levels. The LB City Council and South Coast Air Quality Management District supported the bill, but the Port of LB, LB Area Chamber of Commerce and CA Chamber of Commerce opposed it (the latter calling it a "job killer")...and Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it.
LBReport.com asked Mr. Kuykendall what he would do if he were in the Assembly (coverage, click here) but the Karnette campaign didn't press the issue. No Karnette campaign mailer mentioned it, preferring mainly traditional Democrat issues (health care and education).
Kuykendall and Karnette both previously held the 54th district Assembly seat; Kuykendall, a former Councilman/Mayor in Rancho Palos Verdes, ousted Karnette in 1994 and represented the area in Sacramento for four years before moving on to Congress (serving one term before being beaten in 2000 by Dem Jane Harman).
After her 1994 ouster by Kuykendall, Karnette, a LB resident, sought and won the LB area state Senate seat in 1996 which she's held since then. Now confronting term limits, Senator Karnette hopes to remain in Sacramento by, in effect, trading places with Assemblyman Lowenthal, who's also facing term limits and seeking Karnette's state Senate seat.
In Special Event internet coverage we believe may be unprecedented [we are unaware of it being done elsewhere], LBReport.com has posted in audio form an entire debate between Mr. Kuykendall and state Senator Karnette.
To hear it, click Debate Between Assembly Candidates Steve Kuykendall & Betty Karnette
LBReport.com plans in-depth election coverage of local, statewide and national results on a specially configured election night front page (www.lbreport.com). We are working to provide simultaneous links to the L.A. County Registrar and Secretary of State's offices for quick access to local and statewide results, plus a link to national coverage via Reuters.
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