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Latino Leaders Decide Against Endorsements in 2 State Campaigns

Times Staff Writer

A recently formed coalition of local Latino officials has chosen to withhold endorsements in the 63rd Assembly and 33rd Senate races, saying they were not sufficiently impressed with the planks of any of the candidates.

“We do not feel they will represent the Hispanic community well,” said Alex Morales, co-chairman of the Southeast Hispanic Political Coalition, a group of 25 elected officials and community leaders from various Southeast cities.

Although the candidates in the two legislative districts all indicated general support of the issues of concern to the coalition, Morales said they were unable to provide detailed proposals of how they would promote those issues.

The coalition did, however, endorse Rep. Esteban Torres (D-La Puente) in the 34th District, as well as the Democratic presidential ticket of Michael S. Dukakis and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.

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Disappointment, Surprise

Spokesmen for the legislative candidates expressed disappointment and surprise that the group was withholding its support, although the campaign manager for Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk) took it as something of a victory that the coalition didn’t endorse Grisham’s Democratic opponent, Robert Epple of Norwalk.

“I think the fact that they didn’t make an endorsement helps us to some degree,” Tony Russo, Grisham’s campaign manager, said, noting that most members of the nonpartisan coalition are Democrats.

The coalition of school board trustees, city councilmen and activists from Whittier to Norwalk last week questioned the candidates or their representatives on such issues as drugs, gangs, day care for children and the elderly, and the politicians’ commitments to naming Latinos to their staffs and state commissions.

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“We felt the responses were not good enough to make endorsements,” Morales said, referring to 33rd Senate District incumbent Cecil Green (D-Norwalk), his opponent, Republican Donald Knabe of Cerritos, and 63rd Assembly District candidates Epple and Grisham.

Will Remain Neutral

Morales said members of the group will remain neutral in those races, neither working for nor against the candidates. Coalition members will, on the other hand, actively support Torres and the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket.

Knabe and Grisham appeared before the interview panel, while the other candidates sent representatives. No one from the area’s Republican presidential headquarters attended the interview session, nor did anyone representing Torres’ opponent, Republican Charles House of Hacienda Heights.

Green and Epple spokesmen said the candidates would have liked to have spoken to the coalition but didn’t receive enough notice to schedule an appearance.

Protesting that Green’s record deserved the group’s support, Green campaign spokesman Larry Morse contended that the coalition appeared to be acting out of “personal grievances” rather than legitimate complaints about Green’s performance in Sacramento.

Dan Eaton, Epple’s campaign manager, also asserted that Epple merited the coalition’s endorsement. “We have a strong Hispanic support base,” Eaton said.

Knabe, saying he had been as candid and specific as possible in talking to the coalition’s interview panel, indicated that he would have valued their support. “I sure would love to have their endorsement.”

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Formed last month to further the political clout of the Southeast area’s substantial Latino population, the coalition will remain in existence after the November election and monitor the performance of the region’s state and national representatives, Morales said.


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