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It’s a Family Affair in Race to Succeed Disgraced Congressman Tucker

March 21, 1996

COMPTON, Calif. (AP) _ While former Rep. Walter Tucker III faces the prospect of prison, his wife is asking voters to keep his old job in the family by electing her to his seat in Congress.

Robin Tucker is one of 12 candidates in the blue-collar 37th District who are contending for the disgraced congressman’s seat in California’s primary election Tuesday.

Tucker, a Democrat, was elected in 1992 to represent the district that includes the working-class communities of Compton, Watts, Carson and part of Long Beach.

He resigned from the House in December after being convicted of accepting bribes and cheating on his taxes while Compton’s mayor. He faces up to 146 years in prison and $1.9 million in fines at sentencing April 15.

In explaining her decision to run, Mrs. Tucker, a former aide to her husband, cites the family’s history of civic involvement that has earned the Tuckers the nickname the ``Kennedys of Compton.″ The Tuckers are one of Compton’s wealthiest and most politically connected families.

``The Tuckers have always been in this community and have always worked to help in the community,″ she said.

Republican businessman Mike Voetee is unopposed. Voetee, a general contractor, calls himself the ``sacrificial lamb″ because the district is nearly 75 percent Democratic, virtually ensuring the party victory in November.

Voters will choose a replacement for the last year of Tucker’s unexpired term and nominate candidates for the upcoming two-year term. Most of the candidates are on the ballot for both races.

The Democrats who have raised the most money are state Assembly members Willard Murray and Juanita McDonald, whose districts cover much of the same territory as the congressional district. McDonald had $150,000 and Murray about $100,000 as of mid-March.

Also running are several local elected officials _ Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, Lynwood Mayor Paul Richards, Compton City Clerk Charles Davis and Susan Carrillo, a member of a groundwater management district board.

The other Democrats are business executive Robert Sausedo; Joyce Harris, a retired corporate analyst; sheriff’s Lt. Murry Carter; and Dale Tatum, a political science professor.

Bradley, who is also a high school football coach, ran against Kenneth Tucker, Walter’s brother, for the mayor’s job in 1993. A court commissioner ordered the two candidates to remain 100 yards apart after an election forum ended in name-calling, shoving and death threats.

The campaign has been much more placid this year. Royce Esters, president of the Compton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was pleasantly surprised after a recent candidates forum sponsored by his organization.

``It came out real nice,″ Esters said. ``It was the quietest forum I have ever seen in my life. No one attacked anyone. Even the candidates wouldn’t get down on one another.″

Murray may be the most conservative Democrat in the race. He proposed a state prison in Compton as one way to boost the local economy, which has been hurt by cutbacks in the aerospace industry and the phasing out of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Compton voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal in an advisory election.

``We have the highest unemployment rate in this county. We have the highest crime rate and our schools do the worst on standardized tests of any area in the county,″ Murray says.

Bradley may be the most liberal candidate, accusing other Democrats of mimicking Republicans.

``What has happened to the Democratic Party is it has lost its identity,″ he says. ``We have a need to redefine who we are. We weren’t the party of building prisons and closing schools. We weren’t the party of compromising the greater good of the little man.″

Tucker, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, was convicted of selling his vote on a proposed $250 million waste-to-energy conversion project while mayor of Compton in 1991 and 1992. Tucker’s father, Walter R. Tucker, who is now dead, was also a mayor of Compton.

A nondenominational minister who is black, Tucker had said before the trial that he was targeted by authorities because of his race and Christian beliefs.

Mrs. Tucker, 34, says voters in the district have been overwhelmingly supportive since her husband’s conviction, and Richards believes that could be a factor in the race even though she reported just $13,000 in campaign funds.

``You have to take her seriously because of name recognition,″ Richards said. ``There could be a small percentage of sympathy for Walter among voters. With 10 (other) people in the race you cannot overlook that.″

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