ELECTIONS STATE SENATE : Guide to District 22 : Overview

The Democratic primary race in state Senate District 22 pits political newcomer William Graysen, the lawyer who defended Zsa Zsa Gabor, against longtime Westside lawmaker Herschel Rosenthal. Rosenthal has close ties to the so-called Berman-Waxman machine named for Reps. Howard L. Berman, (D-Panorama City) and Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles). Graysen is a maverick running a grass-roots campaign, and who admits he rarely answers political questionnaires because he prefers speaking directly to the public.


William Graysen, 37, a Democrat, has been a criminal defense lawyer for 11 years with the downtown Los Angeles firm of Graysen & Kaplan. This is his first bid for public office. Graysen received his undergraduate degree in political science from UCLA and his law degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. He and his wife, Susan, a psychologist, have two children, Elizabeth, 12, and Broc, 10. They live in Cheviot Hills.

Herschel Rosenthal, 72, is a West Los Angeles Democrat who has served in the state Senate since 1982. Before that, he was an assemblyman for eight years. He is chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, and chairman of the Joint Committee on Energy Regulation and the Environment. A Boyle Heights native, Rosenthal attended the UCLA School of Engineering. He entered politics 35 years ago as a Los Angeles city commissioner for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He and his wife, Pat, have two grown children.


Republican Michael Schrager and Peace and Freedom candidate Margery Hinds are unopposed in their primaries. Their names will appear on the general election ballot in November.


Questionnaires were distributed to candidates in contested primary races and were returned this month. Answers have been edited to fit the available space.

Q. Under recently introduced legislation, state sales taxes would be raised 0.25% for 10 years to help finance school construction. Do you favor an increase in sales taxes to underwrite new school construction?

Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Yes.

Q. An initiative measure on the June ballot would raise taxes on gasoline sales by nine cents a gallon to finance highway projects. Do you support the concept of higher gas taxes to underwrite road construction?

Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Yes.

Q. Do you support a woman’s unrestricted right to an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Yes.

Q. Do you support capital punishment? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: No.

Q. Do you support the idea of breaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District into smaller districts? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: Undecided. Needs more examination.

Q. Under current law, the state Legislature is responsible for redrawing state legislative and congressional district boundaries. Do you believe this system should be changed? Graysen: Yes. The governor, Assembly speaker, president pro tem of the Senate and chief justice should each choose three citizens, for a committee of 12, to draw districts.

Rosenthal: No. Essentially, the so-called reforms move the process one step further away from the people.

Q. Do you support the so-called “Big Green” ballot initiative, which would eliminate ozone-depleting chemicals by the year 2000, phase out pesticides known to cause cancer and require that trees be planted in all new developments? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Yes.

Q. Do you think the state should require private employers to subsidize day-care services for employees who request them? Graysen: No. The state ought to provide day care on a sliding scale, supported by the general tax base.

Rosenthal: Yes, for businesses with more than 25 employees.

Q. Do you support the state’s efforts to build prisons in Lancaster and East Los Angeles? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Left unanswered. This prison would already be built if not for the governor’s bowing to developer interests in Lancaster.

Q. Proposition 112 on the June ballot would ban speaking fees and limit gifts to state legislators while creating a commission that could pave the way for higher legislative salaries. Do you support this ballot initiative? Graysen: Yes. Conflict of interest in the Legislature must be avoided.

Rosenthal: Yes. In the Legislature, I argued for separating the salary issue from the ban and gift limits.

Q. Do you support Gov. Deukmejian’s proposed constitutional changes that would require state prison inmates to work in privately sponsored industries to pay for their incarceration? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Left unanswered.

Q. Do you believe our present system of criminal prosecution, interdiction of supplies and imprisonment of users and dealers will ever significantly reduce the level of drug use in the United States? If no, what should be done? Graysen: No. The demand for drugs should be lessened by education and improved social conditions.

Rosenthal: No. All of the above, with an infusion of money for early education and rehabilitation.

Q. Would you consider the possibility of decriminalizing the use of drugs? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: No.

Q. Do you support raising sales or other taxes to finance anti-drug law enforcement efforts and/or anti-drug education programs? If yes, by how much? Graysen: Yes. One percent to start; more later if effective.

Rosenthal: Not a sales tax. Certain kinds of taxes would be acceptable.

Q. Do you support full or partial public funding of political campaigns? Graysen: No. It would unfairly favor powerful candidates.

Rosenthal: No. People should have the ability to decide which candidates get their money.

Q. A ballot initiative now in circulation would prohibit foreign individuals and corporations from owning land in California. Do you support this? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: No.

Q. Rising property values in the Santa Monica Mountains have made it more difficult for state and federal parks agencies to buy land for public use. Land prices have escalated in part because local officials have allowed developers to build more houses than provided for under zoning laws. To keep property prices more affordable to parks agencies, should governments in Los Angeles and Ventura counties refuse such so-called “up - zoning?” Graysen: Yes. The great beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains must be preserved.

Rosenthal: Yes. The mountains are a non-renewable natural resource which should be preserved for the public and not compromised for the wealthy few.

Q. Are you willing to publicly release your tax returns and those of your spouse before the election? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: Yes.

Q. A development project called Porter Ranch would create 3,395 residential units and nearly 6 million square feet of commercial office space in the Chatsworth hills. Opponents say it is too big. Proponents say it represents orderly growth. Do you support the project at this size? Graysen: No.

Rosenthal: No.

Q. Do you support limits on the number of terms state legislators can serve? If yes, how long should they be? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: No.

Q. A ballot initiative now in circulation would prohibit the spraying of pesticides on private property without the written consent of the owner. Do you support this measure? Graysen: Yes.

Rosenthal: Yes.