Incumbent South Bay State Senator Packs Powerful War Chest

Times Staff Writer

If ever there was an incumbent legislator who could safely bet on his reelection, it is Sen. Robert G. Beverly.

For more than 20 years, Beverly has been a political powerhouse along the South Bay's solidly Republican beachfront.

During his 12 years in the state Senate and nine years in the Assembly, the former practicing attorney has never faced a serious threat at the polls and never won an election with less than 66% of the vote.

Scarcely more three weeks before voters go to the polls, Beverly--who once was mayor of Manhattan Beach--has 400 times more money in his campaign treasury than his Democratic challenger, Jack Hachmeister.

The silver-haired lawmaker's image dominates billboards along heavily traveled arteries and his smaller campaign signs cling to telephone poles and fences from the South Bay's beach cities all the way to the Orange County line.

At least one mailer is likely to land in voters' mailboxes from El Segundo to upscale Belmont Shore before the 29th District campaign is over.

Wide Union Support

With endorsements from more than 125 local officials, including Democrats and Republicans, plus the support of powerful labor unions, which normally favor Democrats, Beverly is the embodiment of an entrenched incumbent.

That reality hasn't deterred his opponents, Hachmeister of Manhattan Beach and Libertarian Steve Kelley of Hermosa Beach, from running against Beverly for vastly different reasons.

Hachmeister said that Beverly does not provide the leadership in Sacramento that the district needs. "The man has been a state senator for 12 years. . . . He is a good guy but he hasn't done enough. He's been there and he's voted and that's basically all that he's done," Hachmeister said in an interview at his Gardena law office.

Libertarian Kelley takes a sharply different approach in his second challenge to Beverly. A copywriter for a Westside advertising agency, Kelley is running for philosophical reasons: he believes the two political parties do not really offer voters a choice.

Beverly has "not done all he could to cut taxes and get government out of our lives," Kelley said. "You should be able to live your life as you see fit, so long as you don't violate the rights of others."

In a sharp break from the mainstream, Kelley favors legalizing drugs and prostitution, lifting restrictions on pornography, ending zoning, and turning the public schools over to private business.

"Libertarians are running because there is just no alternative to higher taxes and bigger government," he said.

For his part, Beverly flashes a confident smile as he ponders the race. "It's been about the same in every election I've been in," he said in an interview at his Redondo Beach Senate office. "I'm optimistic."

A recent campaign poll showed that once you get beyond the South Bay, Beverly is not as well known. Because of redistricting he has represented the Long Beach-Signal Hill area for only half his Senate career. An effort is being made to "heighten the identification" with signs and billboards.

Needs GOP Turnout

"The big thing in this district is turnout," he said. "If we turn out the Republicans, we win." The largely white district is solidly Republican in registration and has a long history of voting for GOP candidates.

Beverly's base is so secure that he hasn't had a political fund-raiser since he was elected to the upper house in 1976. But special interest groups still pour money into his campaign coffers.

Without even asking for contributions, Beverly raised $74,425 so far this year, boosting his campaign war chest to $407,412 at the end of September, according to campaign records and his chief aide. He has spent $62,000 so far on this year's campaign.

After paying campaign bills, Hachmeister, who raised $5,630, had less than $1,000 left at the end of last month. He is using campaign material left over from the primary.

Kelley expects to spend less than $1,000 on his entire campaign.

Beverly's position as vice chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and his membership on the Banking and Commerce, Governmental Organization and Transportation committees have sparked large contributions from well-heeled special interests.

Campaign statements show that bankers, doctors, growers, tobacco, insurance and oil companies, real estate developers, beer brewers and horse racing interests have contributed to Beverly's campaign this year.

The California League of Savings Institutions gave $4,000 this summer, topping a long list of banks and financial institutions. The California Real Estate Assn. political action committee also contributed $4,000 as did the California Medical Assn. The Assn. of California Insurance Companies contributed $3,500 and the California Bankers Assn. gave $3,000.

Beverly's voting record shows he is a moderate Republican, conservative on fiscal matters but sensitive to social concerns like funding for education.

His votes reflect a sensitivity to the environmental concerns of his district, including offshore oil drilling, which he opposes. He voted on 94% of the measures considered in the last session of the Legislature.

Not an ideologue, Beverly said he views himself as "a responsible legislator, a conservative but not a stone-age Republican."

The 63-year-old lawmaker said he is most proud of his bills "seeking and getting money for education," particularly school districts in his area that have suffered from declining enrollment. "I'm satisfied more money is needed," he said. That position has won him the backing of every major teachers union in the state.

Beverly said transportation and gridlock problems in his district and elsewhere in California need attention. Although there are "no answers on a short-term basis" to the traffic problem, Beverly said he believes a gas tax increase of 5 or 6 cents a gallon is needed to raise the money for more mass transit, including light rail, and more highways.

Beverly's moderate positions have earned him the backing of the California Labor Federation and numerous unions, including the Teamsters and unionized workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are part of his district.

The California Chamber of Commerce reported last week that Beverly had agreed with the business group on nine of 19 votes this year. He disagreed on six measures and was absent for four votes.

Beverly agreed with business on a number of issues, including tax credits for businesses that open child-care centers and a law eliminating the interest rate ceiling on retail store charge accounts.

Beverly's environmental votes earned him a 47% rating for 1987 and an 87% rating for 1986, according to the California League of Conservation Voters.

Beverly said he is concerned about the number of injuries and accidents at the troubled Mobil Oil refinery in Torrance, but does not know if legislation is needed to address that problem.

He said he is satisfied that his bill--passed last year--to allow students to attend the community college of their choice regardless of where they live is not damaging junior colleges in the inner-city.

Bad Publicity

Beverly said the Legislature's image has been damaged by newspaper reports stemming from an FBI sting operation that led to late-night raids Aug. 24 on the offices of four lawmakers.

Democrat Hachmeister, who has never met or debated Beverly, was sharply critical of the performance of lawmakers. "The Legislature has a well-deserved reputation of doing nothing," he said.

Hachmeister, a lawyer who handles personal injury cases, said it is absurd that voters are being asked to decide 29 ballot measures, and wade through a 160-page voter handbook, to vote on such issues as insurance reform.

He said the insurance situation is "a horrendous mess" with drivers required to have insurance although many can't afford it.

Hachmeister's anti-Beverly campaign refrain, "What has he done?" is heard when the auto insurance issue is discussed.

Insurance Issues

He said he may vote for Proposition 100, a measure sponsored by trial lawyers that would change the way insurance rates are set and offer lower rates for good drivers. He supports creation of a state pool to provide coverage for drivers who otherwise can't afford it.

Beverly concedes that the Legislature has not resolved the perennial conflict between competing interest groups such as trial lawyers and insurance companies. He said he favors Proposition 104, a no-fault insurance measure sponsored by the auto insurance industry. He said it could provide some long-term relief on rates.

Hachmeister acknowledges that with limited campaign resources it is "extremely difficult" for him to communicate with the 341,035 registered voters in the far-flung district.

"As a pragmatist," Hachmeister said he knows that "hoopla could well win out in this election." He conceded that Beverly's $407,000 can buy "a whole lot more hoopla" than he can. "Mine is an uphill battle," he said.

Despite the odds, the 44-year-old Vietnam veteran and unsuccessful candidate 10 years ago for state representative in Oklahoma said he is running because he does not believe Beverly has provided the leadership that the district needs.

Hachmeister moved to Manhattan Beach five years ago.

He said the quality of life in the economically well-to-do district is in danger of being lost.

Hachmeister noted that gang graffiti is appearing in the beach cities. He said he favors increased law enforcement in the short term and more meaningful education and job training programs to combat the gang problem. Beverly agreed that gang violence is a problem in Los Angeles but did not offer any specific program.

Death Penalty Stance

Unlike Beverly, who co-authored death penalty legislation, Hachmeister opposes the death penalty. He said he favors stiff sentences for drug dealers and life imprisonment without parole for serious crimes.

On transportation issues, he believes more transit and park-and-ride lots are the answer, not more roads.

Hachmeister would like the state to provide better medical care for infants, financial incentives for child-care centers, and help to young people who want to buy their first home.

His largest campaign contribution came from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, which represents workers at the Mobil refinery. Hachmeister was on the picket line last spring when Mobil workers went on strike. He said he is "extremely concerned" about safety problems at the refinery and supports mandatory training for non-union contract workers.

Libertarian Kelley said he wants an "end to government intrusion into the pocketbooks and private lives of Californians."

"The sole legitimate function of government should be to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens," Kelley said.

Libertarian Positions

His answer to the drug problem is to legalize all drugs and sell them in pharmacies. Like Prohibition, he said, today's drug problem is allowing organized crime to flourish and is leading to violence in the streets.

He would support legalizing prostitution and allowing adults to purchase pornographic material. "People who have unpopular life-styles should be left alone unless they infringe on others' rights," Kelley said.

The 44-year-old Hermosa Beach resident opposes all the insurance propositions on the ballot and instead believes the insurance industry should be free to set rates.

Kelley opposes government zoning, including restrictions on development in neighborhoods and on the coast. "People should be allowed to develop their property as they see fit," he said, as long as they pay for services and compensate adjacent property owners.

When it comes to oil drilling, he said companies with rights to tracts offshore "should be able to go about their business" as long as they are fully liable for any spills that result.

In Santa Monica Bay, he would like to see the "public land either opened up to the oil industry or environmental groups. Let the highest bidder win or let the two groups come to some agreement about how to handle it," Kelley said. "Certainly there is oil offshore that would help the local economy."

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