Valley's Former State Sen. Lou Cusanovich Dies

Times Staff Writer

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

A conservative Republican who sided with landowners and developers in fighting measures to regulate development in the Santa Monica Mountains, Cusanovich retired from the Legislature in 1980.

His retirement sparked a bitter battle among Republicans for his 19th Senate District seat, eventually won by state Sen. Ed Davis, (R-Valencia).

Death was attributed to heart failure brought on by a respiratory ailment, said his wife, Elleen.

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.

He consistently maintained a low profile in his district, taking few controversial stands.

"You can't become too partisan up here," Cusanovich once said, "and there is no reason not to compromise."

In his last election, in 1976, Cusanovich was dubbed "Landslide Lou" after he narrowly defeated a relatively unknown Democratic challenger, Sabrina Schiller, by less than a percentage point.

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

Cusanovich was well liked by many lawmakers, Davis learned after his own election.

"I never heard anyone up here say an unkind word about Lou," Davis 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."

Cusanovich was appointed in early 1981 to the state Horse Racing Board by then-Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. and served until early 1984.

His widow said he had requested cremation, with his ashes to be 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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