Ex-Sen. Cusanovich Dies at 72; Represented Valley 23 Years

Times Staff Writer

Former state Sen. Lou Cusanovich, who quietly represented the West San Fernando Valley in the the Assembly and Senate for 23 years, died Tuesday in a Westlake Village hospital. He was 72.

A conservative Republican, who sided with landowners and developers to fight measures to regulate development in the Santa Monica Mountains and who supported spending cuts in such areas as health and education, Cusanovich retired from the Legislature in 1980.

Cusanovich's retirement sparked a bitter battle among Republicans for his 19th Senate District seat that was eventually won by current state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Northridge).

Death was brought on by a long-term respiratory ailment, his wife, Elleen, said.

A one-time boys' home administrator and Van Nuys lumber company owner, Cusanovich was elected to the Assembly in 1957 and to the Senate in 1966. The booming-voiced, balding lawmaker consistently maintained a low profile in his district, taking few controversial stands and receiving little attention from the press. At election time, he was frequently criticized by opponents for being an ineffectual legislator.

In his last election, in 1976, Cusanovich was dubbed "Landslide Lou" after he narrowly defeated a relatively unknown Democrat challenger, Sabrina Schiller, by .3% of the vote.

When he decided not to seek reelection in 1980, Cusanovich rankled some Valley Republicans by supporting Davis over Assemblyman Robert Cline, a Northridge Republican with whom Cusanovich had squabbled in the past.

Despite his feud with Cline, Cusanovich was well-liked by other lawmakers, Davis said Tuesday. "I never heard anyone up here say an unkind word about Lou," he said. "His problem was that he wasn't a political stumper. Toward the end of his career, he probably didn't go to all the chamber of commerce installations that he should have."

After leaving Sacramento, Cusanovich retired to his Westlake Village home. He was appointed in early 1981 to the state Horse Racing Board by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and served until early 1984.

Elleen Cusanovich said her husband had requested cremation, with his ashes scattered at sea. "There will not be a funeral service. Lou was a very down-to-earth, plain person. He didn't want any hoopla," she said.

Besides his wife, Cusanovich is survived by two sons, Michael, a University of Arizona biochemistry professor, and Gerald, a Los Angeles County probation officer who lives in Agoura, and five grandchildren.

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