Democratic challengers in the western San Fernando Valley and eastern Ventura County are waging long-shot campaigns that may give new meaning to the terms “low-budget” and “low-profile.”
“Unless my opponent does some masterful campaigning, I’m beginning to feel comfortable about the race,” state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) said with a chuckle. “But he may be waiting until he sees the whites of my eyes.”
Davis has reason to smile. His Democratic challenger, Newhall insurance agent Andrew E. Martin, has reported that he will spend less than $1,000 on his campaign. Davis, meanwhile, has spent $166,774 and has another $127,000 available. This is a rematch of the 1984 campaign when the ex-Los Angeles police chief defeated Martin by a 3-1 margin.
The picture is similar elsewhere. Little-known challengers have neither the money to communicate with voters nor the expertise to run high-powered campaigns. Moreover, the four conservative Republican incumbents are fortified with substantial registration advantages as well as publicly financed newsletters and district staffs in addition to their well-stocked campaign coffers.
“Those are incredibly Republican seats in incredibly Republican areas,” said a Democratic operative who did not want to be identified disparaging his party’s prospects. “I just don’t see the demographics in those areas supporting any kind of Democratic challenge.”
The one potential exception is the 38th District seat held by 4-term Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge). But her Democratic opponent, economics professor Mark Lit of Northridge, is running a poorly financed, lackluster campaign. She defeated him by a 2-1 margin in 1986 in a district where Republicans have a modest 49% to 42% registration edge.
Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), meanwhile, says she expects to donate more money to the campaigns of other Republicans than she will spend on her own. She is opposed by first-time Democratic candidate Jeffrey H. Marcus, a Chatsworth lighting and sales consultant. He has raised $1,700; Wright has spent $209,890 this year and has another $123,830 available.
Finally, Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) faces a Democratic opponent who claims victory at the polls is not his aim. George Webb II, a Moorpark attorney who ran unsuccessfully for Congress and the Conejo Valley school board, is not accepting contributions. McClintock has raised $238,380 and has $158,885 on hand.
“My goal is not to beat Tom,” Webb said, staking out an unconventional position. “My goal is to promote ideas.”
Few Dominant Issues
There appear to be few overriding issues in the area. The incumbents boast of accomplishments in education, criminal justice, mental health and transportation. Their Democratic opponents, in turn, charge them with being the captives of special-interest contributors and failing to ameliorate burgeoning residential and commercial construction, declining education, spiraling auto insurance rates and increased homelessness.
Davis, 71, is seeking a fourth term in the sprawling 19th state Senate District, which includes the western Valley and the Newhall- western Antelope Valley area in Los Angeles County, the northern and non-coastal sections of Ventura County and most of Santa Barbara County. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 52% to 40%; Republicans also generally vote in greater numbers than Democrats.
An unsuccessful candidate for his party’s nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in 1986, Davis avoided a tough, costly reelection battle this year when Wright opted not to oppose him in the GOP primary after threatening to do so.
He is emphasizing his bills to stiffen penalties against those who defraud seniors or the disabled; to require those who obtain driver’s licenses to consent to drunk-driving tests, and to upgrade from a misdemeanor to a felony the crime of illegally burning hazardous waste. He also stresses his support for additional education funds.
Martin, 64, has revived his 1984 attacks on Davis for supporting a bill outlawing job discrimination against homosexuals. Martin is also calling for AIDS testing of all people employed in the medical field and restaurants.
Davis responded: “I favor non-discrimination in employment for people who are otherwise qualified. So he gets a lot of mileage out of misrepresenting it as being for the homosexual community.”
Davis said that he would support Martin’s call for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome testing only “if there was scientific proof that food handlers can transmit AIDS,” and he questioned whether scientific evidence on transmission of AIDS warrants the testing of physicians.
Davis is highlighting his co-sponsorship of Proposition 96, which would require that people charged with certain sex offenses or assaults on law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency personnel to provide blood samples for AIDS testing.
Martin maintains that Davis is “very great at looking out for special interests.”
Davis replied: “I believe in special interests. I carry stuff for school teachers. They’re a special interest. I carry things for seniors. They’re a special interest. Every bill that has a beneficiary is a special-interest bill.” But, he added, “I don’t think anyone’s bought a vote from me.”
La Follette, 62, also represents a far-flung district that includes the West Valley and stretches across to Sunland-Tujunga and part of Burbank.
In her campaign, she is focusing on her efforts to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District into smaller districts. She maintains that a decentralized system would be more responsive to parents’ requests for specific programs, give parents more access to board members, increase accountability and reduce administrative costs.
La Follette’s bill to allocate $215,000 for a study of this proposal, opposed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles, was sidelined in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. Instead, she said the office of assembly research has undertaken the study.
Lit, 69, maintains that numerous problems have increased during La Follette’s tenure. He cites reduced emergency room care, freeway gridlock, declining education, senior citizen needs, drugs and crime, air pollution, latchkey children and runaway growth.
Specifically, he asserted that La Follette “stalled the widening of the 101 Freeway for three years” by opposing the “diamond” or car-pooling lanes. He said he would support the controversial diamond lanes if they are necessary to increase freeway capacity.
The widening plan has proceeded as scheduled, according to transportation officials.
“That’s the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard,” La Follette responded. “I never once opposed the widening. I always expressed my constituents’ strong opposition to diamond lanes. At no time was there any delay.”
La Follette has raised $168,584 and spent $124,895 on her campaign this year. Lit said he is raising little money but refused to disclose the amount. He has failed to file his campaign report that was due Oct. 5, said Caren Daniels-Meade of the secretary of state’s office.
Wright, 59, seeking a fifth term, represents the 37th Assembly District, where Republicans have a 52% to 37% registration edge. The district includes Chatsworth, Newhall and Saugus in Los Angeles County, Simi Valley, Filmore and Ojai in Ventura County and Lompoc and Buellton in Santa Barbara County.
Wright said she considers her major accomplishment a pilot mental-health program started in Ventura County four years ago that may be replicated elsewhere through a bill she sponsored last year. Under the plan, known as the Ventura Project, the progress of emotionally disturbed youngsters is tracked by a commission of specialists to ensure that the youths are getting proper assistance.
The result, Wright said, has been that “more youngsters are able to stay at home and get outpatient care instead of being institutionalized.”
Democrat Marcus, 42, is calling for smaller class sizes and additional spending on education; increased construction of affordable housing; adoption of a state health insurance program and adequate housing for the homeless. He said he is uncertain how the state should pay for these programs.
He said that Wright’s campaign has been heavily funded by land developers, whose interests he said she has consistently supported. He cited her opposition to bills requiring more money from developers for school construction, providing emergency housing assistance for homeless families with children and calling upon redevelopment agencies to provide affordable housing.
Wright responded: “My funding comes from attorneys, my funding comes from insurance agents, insurance companies, banks, doctors, chiropractors, eye specialists. I don’t see where they would have any pressure on how I vote. . . . To infer that campaign funds reflect on the way you vote is crazy.”
She said that she opposes charging developers for school construction because it would put an unfair burden on new-home buyers and that she feels that emergency housing and affordable housing programs should be handled at the local level.
McClintock, 32, is running for a fourth term in the 36th District, which includes the cities of Ventura, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and portions of Oxnard and Port Hueneme in Ventura County. Republicans make up 50% of registered voters; Democrats 37%.
McClintock is stressing his 1987 bill that gave additional revenue to Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and Simi Valley; his opposition to the Ventura Freeway diamond lane and his support for a new road connecting the Simi Valley Freeway and the Moorpark Freeway. He also points to state funds he obtained for a “SmartClassroom” pilot project in the Hueneme School District that uses computers, videos, robotics, and other high-tech devices to provide individualized instruction.
Backing Own Proposals
Webb, 39, is not discussing McClintock at all. He is espousing his own auto insurance, education and drug proposals.
An opponent of all five insurance initiatives on the November ballot, Webb would instead pay for mandatory liability insurance for all drivers through an increase in the gasoline tax. Coverage beyond the mandatory minimum coverage would still be obtained from private insurers.
He would reduce class sizes for science, mathematics and English at the high school level and give special attention to students lagging behind in reading in the 5th and 6th grades. He would also give bonuses to school districts for the best ideas for improving education. He would freeze the spending level for other state programs to pay for these services.
On drugs, Webb favors decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, heavily taxing it and selling it to adults at liquor stores while stiffening the penalties for sales to minors. Revenues would go to drug education and rehabilitation and enforcement of narcotics laws. He said this would encourage those using hard drugs to switch to marijuana.
Opposes All 3
McClintock opposes all three proposals. He endorses Proposition 106, which would limit contingency fees for trial lawyers, and Proposition 104, which would implement a modified no-fault system. Both measures are backed by the insurance industry.
On education, he advocates merit pay for teachers and reduction of school bureaucracy rather than smaller class sizes. And he supports increased penalties for drug trafficking. He said decriminalizing marijuana would be “exactly the wrong way to address the crisis.”
Nevertheless, Webb says he aspires to win enough votes to persuade McClintock to consider these proposals.
If he can get more than 30% of the vote, Webb said, “it shows enough people have heard of the ideas to make Tom aware of it. And he will have to consider that.”