Democrat Rosen Separates Himself From Party Leaders to Face Allen

Times Urban Affairs Writer

Mark Rosen loves a crowd.

But the 34-year-old Garden Grove attorney, who is also a candidate in the 71st Assembly District, met dead silence last March when he urged county Democratic convention delegates to adopt crime as a 1986 campaign issue.

“I was cheered when I talked about transportation and housing,” Rosen recalled recently. “But crime is a traditionally Republican campaign theme. The delegates in that room didn’t want to hear about it. And that symbolizes what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

“People are very dissatisfied with the Democratic Party. The party is not the people who were in that convention hall. Those are the activists who represent special interest groups and causes. Out on the street, people say the party is too liberal.”


No Links to Bradley

As a result, Rosen’s campaign will not identify him with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s campaign for governor. Nor will he link himself to national Democratic Party figures. He says he must separate himself from Democratic Party leaders in the minds of voters if he is to defeat in November two-term Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R--Cypress) and Peace and Freedom Party candidate C.T. Weber.

All three candidates are unopposed in their respective June 3 primaries.

Rosen may not be the only Democrat distancing himself from party leaders, but his campaign is telling. It involves a patch of political turf historically important to both Republicans and Democrats, a blue-collar district including Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Cypress and portions of Garden Grove, Westminster, Buena Park and Anaheim.

Little Campaigning

To date, Allen and Weber have done little campaigning. A former school board member who started an anti-busing group, Allen is focusing on her experience, her conservative votes and support for Gov. George Deukmejian. Weber, a state employee who monitors trucking industry compliance with transportation regulations, is criticizing the transfer of public employee jobs to private firms.

But Rosen has been campaigning hard since last July, striving to be more than the Democrats’ pro forma candidate in a district beset by defections to the GOP. He has attacked Allen for allegedly sponsoring minor bills, many of which deal with the Department of Fish and Game. “There are no fish in the district,” Rosen said.

Allen replied: “I have introduced serious legislation that helps school districts obtain more funds, a few anti-crime bills, and I think the people of Orange County appreciate what I’m doing with Fish and Game because it reflects their desire for a fiscally sound, conservative approach to government.

“Also, there are many people who leave the district on weekends and who spend holidays and vacations in recreational areas, and they’re affected by what the Department of Fish and Game does.”


Management Practices

Allen has fought with Fish and Game officials since last year over the department’s management practices, including the department’s failure until recently to collect some state-mandated license fees and commercial taxes.

Ironically, the Assembly this week approved legislation that would forgive some of the unpaid taxes Allen claimed were deliberately overlooked by Fish and Game.

Earlier, Rosen criticized Allen for using taxpayer funds to attack California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird in a newsletter mailed to people outside the 71st Assembly District. Allen denied any wrongdoing, insisting that comments on the state of the criminal justice system are a proper subject for legislative newsletters.

Still, Rosen and Allen agree on at least one thing: They oppose Bird’s reconfirmation in the November election.

For now, Allen plans to raise additional campaign funds and send out mailings during the summer. She deliberately avoids talking about Rosen so as not to help him increase his name recognition among voters.

However, Rosen is being taken seriously. He outdistanced Allen nearly 2 to 1 in campaign fund raising ($35,232 to $18,300) as of May 18, the closing date for the most recent mandatory campaign finance disclosure period.

Outside the District

Both Allen and Rosen are raising most of their money outside the district, which is common among legislative candidates. Allen has received most of her early money from Sacramento-based lobbyists and political action committees, typical for an incumbent. Rosen has tapped traditional Democratic sources, including labor, and members of the Democratic Foundation, a countywide, Democratic volunteer group that raises money for party activities and candidates.

Allen said she is not worried by Rosen’s fund-raising abilities because the Republicans spent nearly $1 million during the three previous elections to wrest the 71st District seat away from the Democrats and are not about to let go of their investment.

For many years, the area contained in the 71st District was represented by Democrat Kenneth Cory, now state controller, and later by Democrat Chet Wray. In her third attempt in 1982, Allen finally beat Wray. The district has continued to present problems for Democrats. In his 1982 race for governor, Democrat Bradley failed to carry all but a handful of precincts in the district against Deukmejian. Former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., running for the U.S. Senate, carried none. In 1984, Cypress Councilman John Kanel, who had the advantage of a built-in, nonpartisan fund-raising base and financial help from state Sen. Paul B. Carpenter (D--Cypress), took only 33% of the vote against Allen’s 67%.

Democratic Stronghold

Once a Democratic stronghold, the district is now 46.6% Republican and 43.8% Democratic in registration, with the rest split among independents and minor parties. Two years ago Democrats held a 4% edge, and in 1978, when Allen first sought the seat, Republican registration was 33%.

Rosen acknowledged that, coupled with the fact that Republicans usually go to the polls in greater proportion to their registration than do Democrats, the numbers mean he needs 20% of the GOP vote in order to win.

Still, Rosen and his supporters act like the numbers are only a statistical nuisance. And they are trying hard to persuade Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr. (D--San Francisco) to target the race for extra financial help and manpower.

The district was not included on Brown’s initial list of 10 targeted legislative seats. However, Richard Ross, on leave as Brown’s chief of staff to supervise Democratic campaigns, said the 71st District may be added if Rosen shows enough strength through the summer months.

“Rosen has really impressed us with his level of energy and his fund-raising abilities,” Ross explained. “The numbers (registration, likely turnout) aren’t there for us, but we’ll see how he (Rosen) does. If he makes a real race out of it, we’ll be there with plenty of help when the time comes. . . . He’s exciting to a lot of Democrats.”