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A Run for Higher Office Seen in Weintraub’s Party Switch

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles school board member Roberta Weintraub has changed her party registration from Republican to Democrat, prompting speculation that she is preparing to run for higher office, possibly for the seat held by embattled state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys).

The opportunities for Weintraub, who had been a Republican for more than a decade, might be particularly good if the upcoming reapportionment of national, state and local political districts shakes up the city’s political leadership as much as expected.

“There’s going to be a lot of musical chairs” due to reapportionment, said one political analyst, who asked that he not be named. Weintraub wants to be ready to take advantage of openings that might arise when the music stops, he said.

“I think she’s interested in running for a partisan office,” added Alan Hoffenblum, a GOP political consultant whom Weintraub conferred with on her plans to switch parties.

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“She thinks she can do better running for an East Valley-based seat as a Democrat--that’s what I surmised from our talk,” said Hoffenblum, who has worked on Weintraub’s past three reelection campaigns.

Weintraub, 55, of Woodland Hills has been a colorful figure in San Fernando Valley politics since the late 1970s when the housewife-turned-activist was a leader in the anti-busing movement.

She agreed during an interview that she would like eventually to move on to a higher office. But she insisted that her change in party ties does not involve a “secret strategy” that targets a particular elected office.

Instead, Weintraub said it finally became untenable for her to remain a Republican given her changing perspective about the needs of the huge, urban and minority-dominated school district she represents.

“I was just no longer in sync with the Republican philosophy and what that means for urban school districts,” Weintraub said. So last Dec. 26, Weintraub registered as a Democrat. The school board member specifically said she differs with mainstream Republican Party positions on funding for education, the use of vouchers to give families a choice of schools to attend, abortion and health-care issues.

Weintraub joined the Republican Party in 1978, splitting with her Democratic Party roots over mandatory school busing.

It was in 1979 that Weintraub successfully led a recall drive against school board President Howard Miller, a supporter of busing, and was elected to the seven-member board.

Weintraub allied herself with Bobbi Fiedler, also from the Valley, and several other board members to form a conservative majority that led the fight against a court-ordered busing plan in one of the city’s most wrenching struggles.

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One well-known GOP political strategist speculated that the probable target of Weintraub’s ambition is the Senate seat held by Robbins, a Democrat. Robbins’ 20th District lies totally within Weintraub’s East Valley-based school board seat, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans.

“Pacoima, Arleta, Sylmar--the heart of the district--has 2-to-1 Democratic registration, and there’s large concentrations of working class, union minorities,” the strategist said, speaking only on the condition that he not be named.

Also, Robbins, whose political career has always been turbulent, is the target of a federal probe into allegations that the senator in 1987 sought to extort $250,000 from a San Diego hotel developer with some of the alleged payoff money funneled to a former Robbins girlfriend.

Weintraub refused to say whether she is interested in Robbins’ seat. But she did remark on his political resilience. “If I were being investigated as much as he is, I know I’d feel like I was in trouble,” she said. “But I don’t think he’s in political trouble--after all, he was just reelected.” Robbins won reelection to another four-year senate term in November.

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