Three 'R's - recession, Reagan, and redistricting - will be major 1982 election factors in the American West.
A few of the 13 states usually classified as Western so far are riding out the economic slump without much difficulty; a few others are in deep trouble. In those feeling the effects of recession, high interest rates, unemployment, and pinched state budgets are likely to have a big impact on party primaries this spring and summer. If the economic slowdown lasts into fall, the impact will be even greater in the Nov. 2 general election.
In reapportionment based on the 1980 census, Western states gained nine seats in the US House of Representatives. California, the most populous state in the region, picked up two; Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington gained one each. Although the Republican Party will pick up some of these new congressional posts, Democrats are expected to reap enough of them to stymie GOP hopes that gains in the West would significantly cut into the Democratic House majority.
Longtime observers of the political scene in these states see President Reagan himself as more a subtle than a direct influence on contests. His policies - especially ''Reaganomics'' - are expected to be more obvious factors. In states such as California and Oregon, Democratic candidates will forcefully assail the administration on high interest rates and unemployment - and try to hold their Republican opponents responsible for them.
But as usual the outcome of gubernatorial and congressional races will be controlled to a great extent by local factors: the advantages of incumbency, the long-term party alignment of constituencies, and the personality clashes that so often enliven political contests at the state and district levels.
With the election still in the jockeying and skirmishing stage for the most part, a state-by-state assessment of seven Western states follows: California
Politics is a three-ring circus in the Golden State this year, with lively gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional races. A redistricting fight that was settled (but only for this election) by the state supreme court, a dicey economic situation, and what is certainly one of the most colorful political casts ever assembled for one state's election guarantee campaign fireworks.
The show was well under way by mid-1980 with Gov. Edmund G. Brown trying to swat the Mediterranean fruit fly while unofficially running for the Democratic nomination to the US Senate. Despite a growing list of fellow Democrats eyeing the Senate seat, the party nomination is assumed to be Mr. Brown's for the taking in the June 8 primary. The presence of acerbic novelist Gore Vidal among the Democratic candidates is likely to find Brown swatting at both a Medfly and a gadfly this spring.
Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. seems to have a strong head start in the crowded field for the Republican nomination to the seat reluctantly being surrendered by GOP incumbent Sen. S.I. Hayakawa. Congressman Goldwater apparently is second choice to San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson in the hearts of the Reagan White House. If he does not pick up his campaign pace, Mayor Wilson could catch him. Rep. Paul N. McCloskey Jr. is third in the opinion polls, but there may not be enough moderate Republican votes, especially in southern California, to furnish him with a plurality on June 8. ''First Daughter'' Maureen Reagan is hanging in gamely among the also-rans, but common sense and dwindling funds may yet lead her to pull out, some observers feel.
Some California pundits seem ready to hand the governorship to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a soft-spoken, low-key, popular Democrat. Lt. Gov. Mike Curb, who started fast in his contest with state Attorney General George Deukmejian for the GOP nomination, has lost his momentum after tripping over his own tongue a couple of times.
California's serious economic problems are certainly going to be a factor in the primaries and the general election. But reckoning which candidates might be able to capitalize on the issue is difficult, because no one in either major party has come up with any new answers. Governor Brown is already campaigning against Reaganomics and ''new federalism.'' Unless the national economy turns up before fall, he'll continue doing so.
The lineups for, if not the outcomes of, the contests for California's 45 seats in the US House - up two from 1980 as the result of redistricting - have been strongly influenced by a plan drawn virtually single-handedly by US Rep. Phillip Burton (D) of San Francisco, pushed through by a Democratic legislature, and upheld by the California Supreme Court.
The redistricting will be challenged in a ballot referendum. If it is rejected, those elected in the new districts will not be unseated, but in 1984 they will be running in newly drawn districts again.
The prospect is that, with the aid of Mr. Burton's gerrymandering feat, the Democrats will gain three to five House seats. The present lineup is 22 Democrats and 21 Republicans. Alaska
Republican Gov. Jay Hammond is not eligible to seek another term. There's no lack of aspirants for his job.
Lt. Gov. Terry Miller, a moderate like Mr. Hammond, is considered the early front-runner for the GOP nomination. Conservative Thomas A. Fink, former speaker of the state House of Representatives and a fierce campaigner, could give him a battle. If former governor and US Interior Secretary Walter Hickle jumps in (he hasn't said he won't), the GOP campaign for the September primary could generate a lot of autumn heat.
Anchorage hotel owner Bill Sheffield is the leading Democratic candidate, but some see state Rep. Oral Freeman of Ketchikan - a sort of Alaskan ''original'' - making a good run at the nomination if he gets wound up.
Libertarian Dick Randolph of Fairbanks, a state representative, also will be on the November ballot. In a state which still relishes its frontier freedoms, the antigovernment Libertarians are having an impact not matched anywhere else west of Vermont.
Alaska has seen its oil revenues drop precipitously in the past nine months. As a result, projections of state revenue for fiscal 1982 and 1983 have plunged by almost $3 billion each year. Limiting state spending and keeping the economy from falling apart are the major issues.
Ronald Reagan will not be an issue, say knowledgeable observers, but candidates who support the President will be better off than those who don't.
Alaska has one House seat, and so far no challengers to Republican incumbent Don Young have appeared on the snowy horizon. Neither of the state's two senators has to face voters this year. Hawaii
US Sen Spark M. Matsunaga (D) is seeking a second term, and so far no GOP opponent is in sight. There has been some talk that state legislator Kinau Kamalii of Waikiki, a moderate Republican whom President Reagan appointed to a commission to study naval appropriations, might get into the Senate race. Time is growing short even though Hawaii's primary is a late one - Sept. 18.
The gubernatorial campaign may not get going until after the primary, since Democratic Gov. George Ariyoshi and Republican state Sen. D.G. (Andy) Anderson apparently will be unopposed for their party nominations. But former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi will be running as an independent in the general election. He hasn't forgotten that charges leveled against him four years ago by Mr. Ariyoshi may have cost him the governorship. Mr. Fasi was exonerated, and the incident is expected to surface in this year's campaign.
The Democratic incumbents occupying Hawaii's two House seats apparently will not be challenged. President Reagan isn't much of an electoral factor in this state where registration is 5 to 1 Democratic. The major issues in Hawaii are increasing crime and the poor state of the sugar industry. Idaho
With both its forest products and mining industries in some difficulty, Idaho is one of those states where some changes at the top might be expected. But neither of the state's US Senate seats, both held by Republicans, is up this year. The two House seats belonging to Republicans seem safe, and Democratic Gov. John V. Evans may have protected his ''right flank'' sufficiently to keep the executive office. In a state that went solidly for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and still likes him, Mr. Evans has been exhibiting a pro-business profile and instituted a cutback in state bureaucracy.
Lt. Gov. Phillip Batt is the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the May 25 primary against Speaker of the state House of Representatives Ralph Olmstead and retired Air Force Col. Bernard Fisher. Nevada
Nevada may have one of the most interesting elections in the country this year.
Republican Gov. Robert List is being blamed for what has turned out to be an unfortunate property tax ''reform'' that backfired and necessitated a 3 percent state sales tax hike. The state's gambling industry, generally considered ''recession proof,'' is in a relative decline and the Nevada economy is in the doldrums. In the past few years gambling had risen at a 10-12 percent rate. Last year it was up only 2 percent.
Political observers in the state say there is a widespread impression that the governor is not ''in control.''
Bob Weise, a go-getting residential developer with ''strong repute,'' may enter the Sept. 14 primary against the governor. The filing deadline is July 21.
If Governor List gets through the primary, Democratic state Attorney General Richard Bryan, a popular and forceful campaigner, will present a difficult hurdle.
Democratic US Sen. Howard W. Cannon, seeking a fifth consecutive term, is up against an aggressive campaigner in the primary. US Rep. James D. Santini (D) has established his position to the right of Senator Cannon, chiefly through his votes for the Reagan economic program and budget in 1981. Senator Cannon has been under fire in connection with some land dealings and, in the opinion of some, is out of tune with recent political trends.
If he holds off Congressman Santini in the primary, the senator will face another stiff challenge in November. Richard (Rick) Fore, a Las Vegas developer and former state GOP finance chairman, apparently is unchallenged for the Republican senatorial nomination. He hopes to face a wounded foe in the November election after a Cannon-Santini primary dogfight.
As the result of reapportionment, Nevada now has two US House seats. The Republican-controlled legislature created a northern and a southern congressional district, both designed to favor GOP candidates. The likelihood is that on Nov. 2 the GOP will pick up two new House seats in Nevada. Oregon
Oregon has been perhaps the Western state hardest hit by the recession. Moderate Republican Gov. Victor Atiyeh seems to have come through the economic crisis fairly well. He faces no serious opposition for renomination in the May 18 primary.
Ted Kulongoski, a Democratic Party legislative leader, appears to be Mr. Atiyeh's most likely opponent Nov. 2. Don Clarke, Multnomah County executive, is also seeking the Democratic nomination.
Oregon gained a fifth US House seat in the 1981 reapportionment. The redrawing of lines to accommodate the new district may have given Republicans a slight advantage. The present House delegation from the state consists of three Democrats and one Republican; the line-up after this year's election is considered likely to be three Democrats, two Republicans.
Neither of the state's two US Senate seats, occupied by Republicans Mark Hatfield and Robert Packwood, is being contested this year. Washington
Veteran US Sen. Henry M. Jackson, a Democratic power on Capitol Hill, seems unlikely to face serious Republican opposition. The filing deadline is July 30.
Washington State, with five Democrats and two Republicans in the US House, adds an eighth congressman in this year's election. With the GOP in control of the legislature, the new district is designed to elect a Republican Nov. 2.
Reagan's party could pick up another seat this year - the one held for seven terms by Democrat Rep. Thomas S. Foley. Mr. Foley's district in eastern Washington is Republican territory. He has survived seven hard-fought campaigns, and some observers think he may not be able to pull it off this November.
It is early to start totaling gains and losses in these six states. Many races are too undeveloped to forecast yet. But House redistricting and other factors indicate that, in the six states, the Democrats are likely to gain a net of one congressman while the Republicans net three.