There may be a larger turnout for the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council election this weekend — Saturday and Sunday, September 10th and 11th — than for the open primary in the 53rd Assembly District Tuesday, September 13th.

As we write, the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council election has drawn 54 candidates.

In the Assembly race, five candidates are seeking to replace the late Assemblyman Mike Gordon in the 53rd District.

Make that six if you count the names of candidates who will be on the ballot.

Folks who are supposed to be “in the know” are telling us that the turnout in the 53rd Assembly District could be as low as ten percent and probably not any higher than 15 to 18 percent.

Voters can vote for any of the six candidates on the ballot regardless of the party affiliation of the voter.

If none of the six candidates gets 50 percent plus one vote Tuesday, there will be a runoff among the top vote-getters in each of the political parties Tuesday, November 8th.

That means that Democrat Ted Lieu and Peace and Freedom candidate James Smith have already qualified for a November 8th runoff in the 53rd Assembly District, should an election be necessary because each is the only candidate of his political party in the primary.

We won’t even begin to comment on what will happen this weekend among the 54 candidates in the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council race. It’s an effort just to get their names into the paper.

Just as it’s anyone’s call in the Grass Roots Venice election, there may be some real surprises in the 53rd Assembly District open primary.

Despite the fact that Republicans can vote for Ted Lieu and that Democrats have a slight advantage over Republicans among the roughly 240,000 who are registered in the 53rd Assembly District, no one we talk to thinks Lieu will win the election outright on Tuesday.

Don’t be so sure.

Playing with numbers is always fun, if not pure fantasy at times.

But if the turnout is as low as ten percent, that will mean that only about 24,000 will vote in the Assembly race Tuesday.

Lieu would need about 12,000 plus one to win without a runoff in such a scenario.

If you divide the district geographically at the airport, you find a very Democratic Venice in the north and a very moderate Beach Cities along the southern end of the district.

Lieu has been busy running on the coattails of recently-elected Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl in the local Venice-Mar Vista to Westchester-Playa del Rey area.

Westchester and Playa del Rey are supposed to be Republican, but Rosendahl — largely on the strength of his opposition to the James Hahn-Cindy Miscikowski airport expansion plan — carried both Westchester and Playa del Rey in the City Council race.

Lieu also showed up at a Westside Democratic Club meeting in Venice, where he won lots of praise from local Democrats.

Lieu gets some strength from his close association with Mike Gordon. Lieu served as Gordon’s campaign chair last year.

Going back to our numbers — 12,000-plus-one if only ten percent vote — Lieu would seem to need only 6,000 votes north of the airport if there is an equal voter turnout in the northern and southern portions of the district.

But — and here’s a big “but” — close to a third of the registered voters in the district live in Torrance and areas adjacent to Torrance.

Lieu gets some buzz there as an elected member of the Torrance City Council, where one would presume he is better known after his council campaign and his monthly activities on the council.

He probably won’t have much trouble getting even 15,000 votes south of the airport, if he can only get his fans to turn out and vote.

Then there are the Republicans — most of whom are unknown in our portion of the district.

We’ve never even met Paul Nowata or the anointed Mary Jo Ford.

Ford has been plucked out of the field by back-room Republican leaders in Sacramento and suddenly lifted on their shoulders as “the” Republican in the race.

But Ford has some real problems:

1. She’s never run for elected office before.

2. She faces two elected City Council members in Torrance, where, as we indicated, a large chunk of the district’s votes live.

3. She has to contend with the name of Greg Hill on the ballot even though Hill has withdrawn from the race. Hill is bound to have a residue of support from his successful effort in winning the Republican nomination for the Assembly seat last year.

4. The election Tuesday, September 13th, is an open primary, which means that some Republicans can — and probably will — wander off and vote for the Democrat Lieu.

5. Ford has been getting some less than stellar press from The Daily Breeze, which suggested that Ford’s political resume was “thin.” In a letter to the Breeze, however, Ford is denying a Breeze report that she earlier was a member of the American Independence Party, whose spear carrier was, among others, that right-wing segregationist George Wallace.

Ugh!.

That hardly places Ford in the mainstream of the moderate Republican South Bay area.

6. Ford, the designated candidate of the Republican establishment, might suffer from the residue of other international, national and state political issues that are beginning to hurt Republican leadership.

Polling numbers for both Republican President Bush and Republican Governor Schwarzenegger seem to be in a free-fall these days.

Despite the fact that Ford has nothing to do with the Iraqi War, the gas crisis or what is happening — or perhaps more accurately, not happening — in New Orleans and other storm-battered Gulf communities, some voters may be so disgusted with the aforementioned issues and their handling by Republican leaders that voters take out their frustration on the local Republican candidate.

Stranger things have happened in politics.

As we write this, heading into the Labor Day weekend, we see lots of anger and disgust with the entire political process.

Folks who would normally vote — even in a one-issue election — just might respond by not voting Tuesday, September 13th.

A one-issue election might be expected to have a low turnout, but in light of the above frustrations, the turnout might be even worse than light.

Some might want to blame the media for not giving the candidates in the 53rd Assembly District more exposure. Shouldn’t we have devoted more space to their positions so voters could tell them apart? you ask.

To which we reply that the candidates themselves don’t seem too interested in telling voters about themselves.

Two of the candidates — Republican Whitehead and Peace and Freedom candidate James Smith — didn’t bother to show up at a recent South Bay candidate forum, the only such event we’ve seen promoted.

Whitehead may live in Venice but he has had no local public appearances during this campaign that we know of.

Ditto to Ford and Nowatka — also “no shows” in our part of the district.

Why should anyone who has never appeared at a public community meeting, participated in any local community organizations or taken any positions on local issues expect the support of local neighbors?

About the only local issues we’ve noticed some of the candidates mention are airport expansion and — surprise — that proposed off-leash dog park on a county beach in the southern portion of Playa del Rey.

Gordon was a big fan and promoter of the beach dog park. Lieu has followed through and says that he too supports the beach dog park.

Whitehead says he’s a dog owner and supports the beach dog park, while Nowatka offers a weak opposition to the proposal.

Ford seems to devote all her attention to expensive, glossy mailers that tell everyone she is a doctor.

She is indeed an anesthesiologist, prompting the thought that if her opponents get to be too outrageous she can always put them to sleep.

Alas, most folks may already be asleep regarding this election, Ford or no Ford.

The election groupies all say that there will be a runoff between Ford, Lieu and Smith Tuesday, November 8th.

But, wouldn’t it be a hoot if Hill slips in with more Republican votes and finds that he’s been nominated for an office he’s declared he no longer wants?

As we said before, stranger things have happened.

ALL KINDS OF TRAFFIC — Speaking of strange, this week we spotted a fellow pushing a grocery cart full of big black trash bags — filled, no doubt, with cans and bottles headed for the recycler.

Not really an unusual sight in these parts, except that this fellow was pushing his grocery cart southbound in the fast lane of Lincoln Boulevard in the Marina del Rey area.

He was in the fast lane because he needed to make a left turn onto eastbound Fiji Way.

Give him credit for obeying some traffic regulations. He dutifully guided his shopping cart into the left-hand-turn lane and then waited patiently for the light to change before continuing eastbound on Fiji Way.

Drivers on the scene apparently were all as stunned as we were, so no one hooted a horn at the slow-moving shopping cart driver.

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