Allan Hoffenblum, a bespectacled political wunderkind who built his unrivaled command of the state’s political landscape into an essential compendium called the California Target Book, passed away in his sleep Friday at the age of 75. The cause of death was unknown.
From his Westside condominium, Hoffenblum was a go-to source for political reporters, campaign operatives and organizations with business before the state Capitol, dispatching his band of interns to county election offices to track who was running and where they got their support – and then distilling the dynamics of the races in his paid subscription service.
Hoffenblum became adept at social media in recent years, delivering nonpartisan analysis for each election cycle of the state’s 53 congressional districts, 20 state Senate seats and 80 Assembly seats. Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book since 1994-95, said he spoke with Hoffenblum on Thursday, and the two mapped out a plan to include in the online version of the service a way for readers to parse election information down to the precinct level.
“You couldn’t navigate the world of California politics, especially in the age of term limits, without Allan,” Quinn said.
Early in election cycles, before many were paying attention, Hoffenblum analyzed potential matchups and the political leanings of districts to determine swing areas, and where one party may have the upper hand. “He had a knack for this,” Quinn said. “He could tell you what you might look for in an upcoming election.”
“Nobody knew the intricacies better than Allan.”
While several individuals and outfits tried to duplicate his work, Quinn said Hoffenblum remained a fixture because of his institutional knowledge and hard work. He favored dark, round-rimmed glasses and answered the phone at his home office with his characteristic growl.
Jon Fleischman, the conservative GOP activist, blogger and consultant, remembered his friend as an indispensable and insightful political analyst. In announcing his passing to many on Facebook and Twitter, Fleischman said he spoke with Hoffenblum after the recent Republican presidential debate.
“We were on the phone for an hour” after the debate, Fleischman said. “And nearly the whole time he was more riveted by asking who was in the audience, which legislators, which donors. One metric for him was what kind of people were using their influence to get a seat when only 200 people got a seat?
“He was always looking to analyze something from a different angle than anyone else.”
Hoffenblum, who served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, including time in the Vietnam War, for which he received the Bronze Star medal for meritorious service, got a taste for politics early. His mother worked for then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Hoffenblum held positions with the Republican Party in Los Angeles, organizing volunteer activities and voter registration drives, and then was staff director for the Assembly GOP Caucus in Sacramento.
As a campaign strategist, he would later recall how proud he was of orchestrating political victories despite his beloved party being mired in the Watergate scandal. Hoffenblum served on the review committee for Los Angeles County’s supervisorial district boundaries in 2011, 2001, 1991 and 1981.
His Target Book subscribers included large companies, labor unions, trade associations, the media and many others in need of a quick reference.
Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist who helped edit the Target Book, kept regular breakfasts with Hoffenblum and said his devotion to politics never waned.
Sragow, a Navy veteran, said the two bonded over Vietnam War stories, and formed an extended friendship despite their political differences.
“He was clearly someone who cared about policy,” Sragow said, noting Hoffenblum had become increasingly frustrated with the system, at times blaming his own party for the intransigence. “Even though we were on opposite sides of the aisle, he was always very thoughtful, respectful and just a very special person.”