Bono, Lee Favored In California Special Elections
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 6) -- Special elections are set Tuesday for two House seats in California, with women expected to win both.
Sen. Barbara Lee, a Democratic state Senator, is favored to succeed Democratic Rep. Ronald Dellums in the San Francisco Bay's 9th District. And Republican Mary Bono, propelled by her late husband Sonny Bono's popularity and her own growing strength as a campaigner, is expected to win in the 44th district in southern California.
"If I do win, I will be the 44th and that will be the highest number of all time for women in Congress," Bono said.
Emerging from Sonny's shadow, Mary Bono is hardly her husband's clone. While sharing his conservative views on most issues, there are those where she differs. Free trade is one; a ban on assault weapons is another.
"Sonny did vote to overturn that, and I have always believed the ban is good and should remain in place," Bono said.
The heart of the 44th district is Palm Springs, a wealthy resort community where golf, not politics, is the sport of choice. And while heavily Republican, observers say there is one candidate who could derail the Bono juggernaut, Democrat Ralph Waite.
Waite almost won the seat in 1990. He hopes to hold Bono to less than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, forcing a runoff.
Best known as TV's Daddy Walton, it is another acting job as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" that keeps Waite off the campaign and in New Jersey more than half of each week.
"He's been in town on his days off and he's been fabulous. He's got a great spirit and gets us revved up to do the work," said campaign worker Pat Cooper.
So while the absent candidate's volunteers go door to door, Waite delivers his toughest talk through advertising, attacking Bono's stand on Social Security.
In a district full of retirees, Waite's ads are the political equivalent of war. Bono says the ad is inaccurate, but it's placed her on the defensive.
"I think all he does is attack me and he doesn't really have any other issues he's talking about other than Social Security. Of course, any candidate right now cares about Social Security," Bono said.
Social Security, taxes, Medicare: In just three months the former waitress and personal trainer has tried to master them all. Long content just to be a political wife, she says she is sure her husband is watching her with a smile.
"I feel as if Sonny was walking this trail before me, and has left little reminders for me. And I'm on the trail now and I see those little reminders wherever I go," Bono says.
In addition to Waite and Bono, one other Democrat and three other Republicans are on the ballot. All are considered politically inexperienced underdogs.
Lee heavily favored in 9th District
Meanwhile in the heavily Democratic 9th District, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, Lee is strongly favored in the race with only the question of who will fill her state Senate seat seeming to remain.
Lee has received support from retiring Dellums and is endorsed by Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and the majority of the Bay Area delegation and Congressional Black Caucus.
Her opponents on the Democratic side include Greg Harper, an Emeryville City Councilman and Randal Stewart, a human resources manager. The Republican opponent is Claiborne Sanders, a real estate consultant. None has been able to match Lee's fund-raising or organizing skills.
Before her stint in the California Senate, Lee worked for Dellums for 12 years and is expected to adopt his progressive stance on issues.
Her main rival, Harper, is also considered to be a liberal. But neither Stewart or Sanders is expected to weigh heavily in the final results.
Failure on either Lee or Bono's part to win a majority would mean a June 2 runoff.