20th-District Seat Looks Like a Cinch for Robbins

Times Staff Writer

After beating back a Republican challenge in 1982, state Sen. Alan Robbins' reelection campaign this year promises to be the easiest of his 14-year political career.

For the first time, the Van Nuys Democrat representing the 20th District, which covers most of the East Valley, has no primary opposition. His campaign war chest is bulging with more than half a million dollars, and he is planning to raise more. Democrats outnumber Republicans 56% to 35% in his district. Robbins also enjoys the support of a number of local GOP officials.

The Senate GOP Caucus has no plans to take on Robbins, said its chairman, John Seymour of Anaheim.

In 1982 the caucus, believing Robbins to be vulnerable after his highly publicized trial on charges of having sex with teen-age girls, poured thousands of dollars into a campaign to defeat him. Robbins, who was acquitted, won anyway, with 52% of the vote.

Elton (Skip) Michael, Robbins' 1982 GOP opponent, commented recently: "If we couldn't get rid of him with the problems he had then, we'll never get rid of him."

So why are two little-known, poorly financed Republicans competing in the June 3 primary for the right to face Robbins in the November election?

"I was concerned with what he might do with his money if left unchallenged," said one of the candidates, Lynn Robert Davis.

Davis, 28, of Granada Hills, marketing executive for a computer software company, said GOP officials want to keep Robbins busy spending money on his campaign to prevent him from passing funds to other local Democrats considered vulnerable by the GOP, particularly Assemblyman Richard Katz of Sepulveda. Davis lost the 1982 Assembly race to Katz.

'Missionary Effort'

Without pretending to believe that he can defeat Robbins, Davis referred to his candidacy as "kind of a missionary effort."

Robbins, however, said he has promised his contributors, many of whom are Republicans, not to pass on any of his campaign funds to other Democratic candidates.

The other Republican candidate, Arra Haigazian, said he entered the race at the behest of a county GOP official.

"I was the best man they could come up with," said Haigazian, a 61-year-old retired business executive who has never before run for public office.

Dan Carasso, chairman of the 40th Assembly District delegation on the county Republican Central Committee, said the party seeks to have a Republican candidate in every partisan race. He said he had approached Haigazian before he was aware of Davis' candidacy.

There has been little campaigning. Neither Republican has raised much money. Less than a month before the primary, Davis was 3,000 miles away from the district on company business.

Haigazian said he supports the policies of Gov. George Deukmejian. He offered no specific legislative agenda of his own. He said he would withhold criticism of Robbins unless he wins the primary.

Davis, if elected, promises to seek state tax credits for parents of children in private schools.

For his part, Robbins, 43, is not taking his reelection for granted.

He plans to hold at least two more $1,000-a-plate fund-raisers and sponsor a $2,398-a-person fund-raising cruise to Alaska before the election.

Believes in Preparedness

"I believe in being prepared," he said. Whatever he does not spend, he said, he will save for future races, including a possible bid for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's seat if it becomes vacant. Antonovich is running for the U.S. Senate this year.

"I do not know of any prominent Republican fund-raiser or any Republican elected official from the Valley who supports either of the candidates for the Republican nomination," boasts Robbins.

Robbins was the only local Democrat endorsed by the conservative San Fernando Valley Business and Professional Assn., whose goal, according to president Larry Calemine, is to promote the free enterprise system.

"His voting record is very close to our objective," said Calemine. "He may wear a Democratic Party label, but, from a fiscal point of view, he tends to be conservative, and, from a social point of view, he tends to be moderate."

H. F. (Bert) Boeckmann II, a big campaign contributor to conservative causes, and conservative West Valley Councilman Hal Bernson, have endorsed Robbins. Two leading Republicans, Rep. Bobbi Fiedler of Northridge and state Sen. Ed Davis of Valencia, say they will stay out of the race.

'Effective Spokesman'

"Alan Robbins has been an effective spokesman for the San Fernando Valley," Davis said.

Robbins said he plans to campaign on his record of accomplishments for the Valley, including his sponsorship of legislation providing funding for construction of the San Fernando and Van Nuys courthouses and Van Nuys state building.

He also cited his sponsorship of a bill to finance construction of a permanent campus in Sylmar for Mission College, a community college that has been operating out of storefronts in the northeastern Valley for more than a decade.

Robbins said he opposes the confirmation of Chief Justice Rose Bird.

"This, so far, has been my easiest reelection year of any," Robbins said. "To be honest, I haven't had to do much campaigning. To be really honest, I haven't done anything but raise a war chest," he added, in case of attack.

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