California: Forty-Third District|
Rep. Ken Calvert (R)
Last Updated June 9, 1999
Riverside was a sleepy town of 34,000, a couple hours' drive from Los Angeles, when Richard and Pat Nixon were married in 1940 in the gaudy Mission Inn, with its bell towers, altars, fountains, rotunda, stained-glass windows and wrought-iron grilles. Riverside was not much larger, with 46,000 people, when Ronald and Nancy Reagan spent their honeymoon at the Mission Inn a dozen years later, in 1952. Riverside then was a citrus center, a market town amid orange groves, where the local agricultural college developed among other things the navel orange. Today the Mission Inn is still doing business, but Riverside has changed completely. The city has expanded to some 240,000 people, and Riverside County, which had 105,000 people in 1940, has more than doubled since 1980, growing from 663,000 then to more than 1.4 million in 1998. Riverside County stretches east to Arizona, so some of this increase was in the desert, but much was in the Inland Empire around Riverside, where the flat Los Angeles Basin plains are interrupted by odd-shaped hills and ridges and the vegetation has an other-worldly air. There are odd by-products from such rapid development, like the dozens of 300-pound pigs that live in the river bed just outside Riverside. This was one of the boom parts of California in the 1980s, where modest-income families found new houses in inexpensive developments and small businesses expanded mightily; it was hit hard by the recession of the early 1990s but has rebounded and now is growing strongly again.
The 43d Congressional District is one of two that were formed from the old 37th District, which included most of Riverside County and was the fastest-growing congressional district in the nation in the 1980s. This was a seat without an incumbent and with great political volatility--not accidental in an area where few voters have deep roots, where neither ethnic ties nor economic security produces strong commitment to either party, and where the economy has changed so sharply. The 43d District includes all of Riverside and the towns immediately nearby; another population node just to the west, around Corona; and new subdivisions scattered around I-215 and I-15, which run south from Riverside and Corona until they join at Murietta Hot Springs, just north of the new town of Temecula.
The congressman from the 43d is Ken Calvert, a Republican elected in 1992. Calvert grew up in Corona; after college, he ran a restaurant there and in 1980 started in the commercial real estate business. In 1982, at 29, he ran for Congress in the old Riverside County district and lost a nine-candidate primary to Al McCandless by a 25%-24% margin: 868 votes kept him out of Congress for 10 years. He remained active in civic affairs and chaired the local Republican Party. In 1992 he ran for Congress in the new 43d--one of seven Republican candidates and seven Democrats--and won the primary with 28%, followed by business professor Joseph Khoury, with 21%, and Larry Arnn, president of the Claremont Institute, with 18%. His Democratic opponent was Mark Takano, an eighth grade teacher and Riverside Community College trustee with institutional support from teachers' unions and financial support from Japanese Americans. The 43d is a good example of the return of straight ticket voting in the 1990s: George Bush beat Bill Clinton by 797 votes, and Calvert beat Takano by 519 votes.
In the House, Calvert compiled a conservative voting record and served quietly in the minority on the Science and Resources Committees. But he ran into trouble back home. In November 1993 the Corona police stopped him with a convicted prostitute in his car; not much was reported about the incident but the Riverside Press-Enterprise brought suit to recover police records, and in April 1994 it revealed the reports. Calvert apologized and said that he was upset because his wife had divorced him the month before and his father had recently committed suicide. Also, it was reported that Calvert and his ex-wife owed $16,000 in back taxes on a nine-acre lot. He argued that the tax liability had been overlooked during his divorce, and his ex-wife defended him against charges of intentional tax avoidance. But it was, as he said, ''an extremely embarrassing situation,'' of which his opponents rushed to take advantage. Khoury, running again, was already attacking Calvert as insufficiently conservative and chimed in on the scandal. Calvert won the primary 51%-49%, with only an 884-vote margin. Takano, running again in the general, ran an ad with the song ''The Liar'' and accused him of ''flagrant womanizing.'' At a public meeting, Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes called Takano a ''nutzoid'' liberal homosexual. Calvert was rated the most endangered incumbent by Roll Call. The Republican tide of the year showed up in the election results, with Calvert winning by a thumping 55%-38%.
In 1995, Calvert found himself, after his near-political-death experiences, chairman of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. He produced a bill to reform the Mining Law of 1872, which allows mining companies to stake claims on federal lands for absurdly low fees; he would have required them to pay fair market value and a royalty of 3%. But Democrats and some Republicans called that ''anemic,'' and no legislation passed. In 1996 he was easily re-elected. In 1997, Calvert took over as chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of Science. In that position, he challenged the Clinton Administration's support of the global-warming pact that was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, where Calvert was an outspoken critic. Meanwhile, he gained stature in office, and neighboring George Brown, the senior Democrat on Science, said moving into the majority ''has really made [Calvert] a new man.'' But in the June 1998 primary, Khoury ran a third time, citing the Clinton scandal and arguing that both Calvert and Clinton ''have shown they lack the common decency, sense of right and wrong, concern for the truth and respect for women that the rest of us learned as children.'' Calvert responded that the Khoury mailing was ''unfortunate'' and that he wanted to discuss the issues. Calvert won by 56%-35% amongst Republican voters, and won by a 56%-38% margin in November.
Probably Safe. Though this district only leans Republican, Calvert seems to have solidified himself here, even while weathering scandal along the way. Democrats will often take a look at--but generally not target--this district, since there are far more attractive and promising opportunities elsewhere in the state.
- Pop. 1990: 571,090
- 14% rural;
8.8% age 65+;
- 75.8% White,
0.9% Amer. Indian,
24.5% Hispanic origin;
62.1% married couple families;
35.1% married couple fams. w. children;
50% college educ.;
median household income: $37,806;
per capita income: $14,449;
median gross rent: $528;
median house value: $153,700.
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