Jim Keysor dies at 86; California assemblyman failed in other bids for elective office

Jim Keysor, who spent four terms in the California state Assembly in the 1970s but failed in several other bids for elective office, died Feb. 13 at the Capistrano Beach Care Center. He was 86.

Keysor was hospitalized after contracting pneumonia and a urinary tract infection over the holidays, said his daughter, Susan Espenschied, and his condition deteriorated.

A Democrat, Keysor was a political newcomer in 1970 when he pulled off an upset victory in the 41st Assembly District that then included all or parts of Van Nuys, Mission Hills, Granada Hills, Northridge, Sylmar and other areas. He beat the incumbent on a platform of tax reform and support for environmental issues, waging a grass-roots campaign in which he walked precinct neighborhoods to greet voters.

He was thrust further into the spotlight in the wake of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake that killed 58 people and caused widespread damage. Keysor sponsored several financial relief bills and was appointed to a seismic safety committee.

Reelected three times, Keysor sponsored or cosponsored several bills that became law, including what came to be known as the peace officers bill of rights that was meant to protect officers from undue pressure from higher-ups.

But he also had his eye on other offices, even while in the Assembly. In 1973 he lost an election to fill a state Senate seat. And in 1977 he quit a Los Angeles City Council race amid criticism from constituents in his Assembly district. "It was a lose-lose situation," he told The Times. "I would have lost if I won and would have lost if I lost."

In 1978, with his district re-drawn and more conservative, Keysor lost his Assembly reelection bid. In later years he unsuccessfully ran again for Assembly and City Council, and also lost a bid to become county tax assessor.

James Brain Keysor was born Dec. 10, 1927, in Salt Lake City. The family came to Southern California in the 1940s, Espenschied said, where Keysor's father founded the Keysor-Century Record company that made vinyl audio records and later switched to other plastic products. Jim Keysor spent two years in the Army, graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree and was president of the family company when he first ran for office.

In addition to Espenschied, Keysor is survived by daughters Karen Hansen and Julie Clyde; son Bill; sisters Carolyn Hill and Kathy Keller; brothers Richard and Robert; 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.


Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World