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Primary Roundup : Democrat Touts His Conservatism in Bid to Oppose Grisham

Times Staff Writer

The heavily Democratic 63rd Assembly District has been represented for the last two years by Republican Wayne Grisham, but Robert White is hoping that a big win in the Democratic primary Tuesday will persuade his party’s leaders that he can mount a strong challenge in the November general election.

“If I win big I will contact the leadership in Sacramento for financial help and support,” White said.

But White, a Norwalk City Council member who is serving as mayor, must face Ruth Stephenson, 60, on Tuesday. Stephenson, who lives in Downey, is a follower of political maverick Lyndon LaRouche.

White says he best represents the views of voters in the 63rd district, which encompasses Downey, Norwalk, Cerritos, Artesia, Santa Fe Springs, Hawaiian Gardens and parts of Lakewood, Whittier and Long Beach.

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“I’m a law-and-order man. I’m conservative as hell. People don’t know who Grisham is. He sends representatives to the district. He doesn’t come around,” said White, 65, who has been on the City Council for 18 years.

Stephenson, though, said “a vote for me is a vote for an international movement, the LaRouche movement.”

Support for ‘Star Wars’

LaRouche and groups connected with him advocate quarantining those with AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. They support the repeal of the Gramm-Rudman budget control measure and favor a strong defense, including the “Star Wars” program of President Reagan.

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White said he will spend about $40,000 in the primary, while Stephenson has filed campaign reports indicating that she has raised less than $500. “LaRouche people believe your message carries and you don’t have to spend a bundle of money,” said Stephenson, who describes herself as a lecturer and consultant in international affairs.

Grisham, with no primary opposition Tuesday, has about $60,000 stashed away for the fall campaign and expects to have a total of about $150,000 for the general election campaign, according to Dan Piellissier, Grisham’s field representative. “This area is conservative. Wayne is conservative. We plan to run an aggressive fall campaign,” Piellissier said.

In 1984, Grisham replaced incumbent Democrat Bruce Young, who did not seek reelection. Grisham defeated Democrat Diane Xitco, the recipient of heavy backing from the state’s Democratic leadership, which believed that the district rightly belonged to a Democrat.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the area almost 2 to 1. There are 77,720 Democrats and 43,340 Republicans, according to the lastest figures from the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder’s office.

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In the 47th Assembly District, incumbent Teresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles) has no opponents in the primary. The latest campaign reports submitted to the county registrar-recorder’s office show that Hughes, 52, had raised more than $48,000.

Says Blacks Need a Choice

Attorney Victor L. Brown and businessman James Evan Delurgio are competing in the Republican primary to determine who will face Hughes in the fall.

Brown, 39, who is running for office for the first time, said he will raise between $2,000 and $3,000 for the primary. Brown, who is black, said he is running because the majority of the voters in the district who are black should have a choice between the two major parties.

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“Democrats take minority voters for granted,” Brown said. “I think I have a chance because California is basically a Republican state,” Brown said.

Delurgio could not be reached for comment. He has spent less than $500, according to campaign reports.

Hughes has represented the 47th, which includes parts of central Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Bell and Cudahy, for 11 years. The district has 71,104 registered Democrats and only 8,925 Republicans.

In the 58th Assembly District, conservative Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill), who has no opponent in the June contest, nevertheless has raised more than $235,000.

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Three Democrats and one Peace and Freedom Party candidate are hoping to be the one who opposes Brown, who has been in the Assembly for four terms.

Brown as ‘Dr. No’

Brown, 36, drew statewide attention last year when his bills became the target of a two-day boycott by legislators voicing their irritation over his consistent “no” votes on virtually all spending bills. That reputation that earned him the nickname “Dr. No” a few years ago when he voted against a program to stamp out bubonic plague in rats, a program partially targeted to help his own district.

“We have a Legislature heavily dominated by liberal Democrats, and quite frankly, I have been one of the leaders in trying to stop a lot of bad legislation from being passed. . . . We need to get government back to basics, really doing those types of projects that people can’t do for themselves, instead of having a government that tries to do everything for everybody,” Brown said.

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Leading the fund-raising among the three Democrats is Michael Ferrall, 48, of Long Beach, who recently quit his government relations job with the Los Angeles Port Authority to campaign full time. Ferrall served in the Wisconsin Legislature for 10 years.

Ferrall, with $1,136 in contributions so far, said he was persuaded to run by Long Beach Democratic Assemblyman Dave Elder and members of the Long Beach Democratic Club.

Ferrall said the tremendous population growth forecast for Los Angeles and Orange County over the next two decades will put “tremendous pressure” on local communities to provide services such as health care, roads, education and recreation facilities. “What is tragic about it is that Mr. Brown has approached these problems in an ostrich-like manner. He sticks his head in the sand and says no, no, no, and ignores all these problems that we face.”

Focus on Education

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East Long Beach real estate broker Andrew Kinkaid, 39, has raised $1,013. He said he is concerned about what he sees as a lack of attention being paid to education in California.

“We’ve dropped to one of the lowest positions in the country in teacher-student ratios; our expenditures per student are 47th and 48th in the country; we’re simply not doing the job,” Kinkaid said.

Peggy Staggs, 54, a history teacher at Golden West College, said she is also concerned about the decline in the quality of public education.

Staggs, a resident of Huntington Beach, said he is also committed to spending the money needed to preserve recreational and tourist facilities, an area she views as crucial for the district’s coastal communities. She has raised less than $500.

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Running on the Peace and Freedom ticket is Paul Haak, 34, of Long Beach, who describes his occupation as “peace activist,” based on years of work on the issues of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology and American involvement in Central America.

“Basically, my contribution to party politics is to have the name of the party on the ballot,” said Haak, who also challenged Brown in 1982.

The 58th district, which has 48.4% registered Republicans compared to 40.7% for Democrats, include parts of Long Beach and Huntington Beach and all of Seal Beach, Signal Hill and Santa Catalina Island.

3 Seek to Oppose Lungren

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In the predominantly Republican 42nd Congressional District, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach), who is seeking his fifth term, has no opposition in Tuesday’s primary, but three Democrats have lined up for the chance to take him on in November.

Registered Republicans in the district outnumber Democrats by a 52% to 37%. The district stretches from the Palos Verde Peninsula in Los Angeles County to Huntington Beach in Orange County, and includes parts of Torrance, Long Beach and Signal Hill.

Democrats running on Tuesday are Michael P. Blackburn, Kevin S. Olsen and Thomas M. McGreal. Blackburn, 40, a Long Beach attorney, is running for office for the first time. Blackburn said he has raised about $17,000 for the primary.

A former Air Force captain who served in Vietnam, Blackburn said he is for a strong military but “is against stockpiling of weapons.”

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Both Blackburn and Olsen take issue with Lungren’s aligning himself with the Reagan Administration the majority of the time.

“He simply stands by the President (on votes). That’s safe,” said Olsen, 25, who is also running for office for the first time.

Campaign Run on Savings

Olsen, a customer service representative from Torrance, said he has about $1,500 in his campaign chest, most of it his own savings.

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McGreal, who identified himself as a Newport Beach lawyer on the ballot, could not be reached for comment last week. The business phone number he gave election officials is not in service, and a man who answered his residential phone number said McGreal no longer lived there.

Peace and Freedom candidate Kate McClatchy, 25, said she expects to become a Los Angeles schoolteacher in the fall, but doesn’t expect to win the District 42 seat. In fact, she said, “The thought (of winning) never entered my mind. I’m not doing this to get elected. I’m doing this to raise people’s consciousness” about her party’s ideals.

“We’re trying to establish a strong third party which would be an alternative to Democrats and Republicans,” said McClatchy, who has a campaign budget of only $25.

She has also been an opponent of plans to bring nuclear waste through the Port of Long Beach and is a proponent of local rent control.

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Lungren, who has more than $60,000 in his campaign chest, “will put together a game plan for the general election after the primary and his Democratic opponent has been determined,” said Mark Gravel, Lungren’s administrative assistant.

Times Staff Writer Kim Murphy contributed to this report.


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