To his critics, Sen. Robert Beverly epitomizes all that is wrong with the political system today.
He's a career politician with a reputation as a Capitol insider, and is running a well-financed campaign fueled by contributions from political action committees and corporations.
Now a pack of challengers, sensing there is growing anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, is going after this Republican senator in the 27th District with the zeal of bloodhounds hot on the trail. And a longtime legislator is facing similar anti-incumbent attacks in the 25th District, another South Bay-area Senate race on the ballot in Tuesday's state primary elections.
In the 27th District, three Republicans are trying to topple Beverly, a consummate legislator and political powerhouse.
Beverly served 16 years in the Assembly before advancing to the state Senate in 1976. Beverly has won race after race with the ease of a man on a Sunday stroll. He has a respected moderate record, the backing of many Republican leaders, the support of labor and even the admiration of some Democrats. He has won the endorsement of nearly every local elected official in the district as well as support from several unions and the Republican leadership in Sacramento. Beverly also started the campaign with a $400,000 war chest.
Glenn Posey, a 40-year-old aerospace technical writer, Don J. Bullock, a 36-year-old consultant and John Ward, a longtime Long Beach businessman, are trying to unseat Beverly, with Ward leading the pack.
The 57-year-old owner of Ward's Furniture complains that Beverly is so much of an insider that he has lost touch with his district. The 27th District stretches from Rancho Palos Verdes and San Pedro, east along the coast and includes most of Long Beach, Lakewood and Downey. Most of the predominantly Anglo, working-class district is new to Beverly, who has represented much of the South Bay for the past 25 years.
"I was really scared about how the people in Ranchos Palos Verdes would receive me because they don't know me," Ward said. "But they have welcomed me with open arms, and you know why? It's because they haven't seen Bob Beverly for 25 years. It's terrible to say but he basically lives in Sacramento or in Manhattan Beach and has not truly been their representative."
Beverly describes Ward's criticism as "absurd."
"My surveys show we are doing quite well in the peninsula," the 66-year-old senator said. "I have been endorsed by every elected official on the peninsula. I don't know who he is talking to. But with a district of 700,000, I can hardly stand on the corner and shake hands with everybody."
Ward is particularly critical of Beverly's contributions from political action committees and corporations. Beverly is vice chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and sits on the Governmental Organization Committee, the Banking, Commerce and International Trade Committee and the Select Committee on Maritime Industry. His position has drawn thousands of dollars from political action committees. But Beverly defended his ties, saying that "all PACs are not evil. Anybody who contributes to your campaign does so because they feel you will support their point of view or have been voting that way all along.
"We can't just stand there with a tin cup and have enough money to run a campaign."
Ward is determined to prove Beverly wrong. Though he is not pounding the pavement with a tin cup, Ward has scrimped and scraped on a campaign he estimates will cost him $25,000. Starting with his nine children and the family Christmas list, Ward has built an impressive corps of volunteer envelope-stuffers, precinct-walkers and sign-bearers. He points out Beverly's expensive signs and proudly describes the butcher-paper signs he has made for about $2 apiece.
"Sen. Beverly represents what people are now saying about incumbents, how the system corrupts in the sense that you become dependent on political action money," Ward said. "He has $400,000 given to him by people who want his vote, and that's wrong because it does tend to influence."
For all his criticism of the system, Ward has had relatively little to say about Beverly's record. His main complaint has been directed at Beverly's support of several tax increases, which Ward said totaled $1,021 per family. Beverly was one of only five Republicans who voted for the tax increases.
"I admit I did vote for those taxes," Beverly said. "It was part of a package passed when the state faced a $14-billion deficit. . . . I thought it was the only responsible thing I could do under the circumstances. You know, Ward has talked about money for education. Well, if we had not raised taxes we would have had to cut education by $2.8 billion."
Ward said that rather than raise taxes, he would have cut more--even from some school programs, such as bilingual education. He echoed others who say Beverly is a "Democrat in disguise," alluding to his votes in support of bans on offshore oil drilling, and against the restriction of abortion funds to the poor. Ward is against abortion in most cases, but Beverly supports the right to an abortion.
The Democrats' battle for the 27th is less dramatic. Although 46% of the voters in the district are Democrats, compared to 43% Republican, district voters are largely conservative, and even Democrats are likely to vote Republican in the general election. Still, that is not stopping Democrats Brian Finander and Joel H. Lubin. Finander, a small-business consultant and Jewish community leader, is conducting the most aggressive campaign. Endorsed by the Long Beach Democratic Club, the National Organization for Women and Long Beach Lambda, Finander is running on strong anti-incumbent themes.
His rival, Lubin, an engineer who works for the state Public Utilities Commission, is a familiar figure to Democratic Party activists. Lubin is spending less than $1,000 on his campaign and is concentrating on winning endorsements of local elected officials and friends in the party.
Both men say their experience leaves them particularly well-suited to serve the district. However, both Democrats seem to be less concerned with one another and more interested in Beverly, whom Finander said "has been next to invisible" and whom Lubin accuses of being "beholden to nearly all the special interest groups."
Democrats and Republicans alike agree that creating jobs and rebuilding a sound economic base in the district are priorities. Beverly and Ward would like to see cuts in taxes and regulations for business. Finander supports state legislation that would give California companies preference in bidding.
The 25th District is solidly Democratic and the winner of the Democratic primary is expected to fend off November challenges from Republican Cliff McClain of Los Angeles and Peace and Freedom candidate Hattie Marie Benn.
Lynwood City Councilman Paul H. Richards has hit the ground running. Boosted by $30,000 in loans from family and friends, Richards, 36, has blanketed the district with costly full-color posters with his portrait. He has sent out several mailers and has been making the rounds with business and church leaders.
At a recent forum, Richards said the 25th District was "almost like a godsend" to him because he serves as a councilman in Lynwood, works as an assistant city administrator in Compton, goes to church in Inglewood and is a volunteer at the Gardena YMCA.
But Richards faces stiff competition from Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes, who entered the race with the blessings of most black leaders in Sacramento.
Reapportionment left Hughes, who is black, in a district designed for a Latino. After 16 years in the Assembly, Hughes decided it was time to run for the Senate.
She moved from Los Angeles to Inglewood to run in the Senate district left open by Sen. Bill Greene's retirement. Though 42% of the people who live in the 25th District are Latino, the voting power lies in the hands of the black residents who make up 36% of the district's population.
Richards, a young go-getter backed by Greene, has been quick to portray Hughes as a carpetbagger who will use most of her four years in office learning about the district.
"It will be a four-year waste for the people," Richards said. "I have a level of understanding and knowledge that cannot be equaled by any of my opponents. I don't have to spend four years learning the district. I know it and I know it well."
Until now, Hughes has conducted a determinedly low-key campaign, eschewing mailers and signs in favor of phone calls and precinct walks. Her early campaign silence had even longtime supporters puzzled.
But with the primary less than a week away, the assemblywoman has launched an expensive mail campaign, bankrolled by nearly $150,000 in contributions received in the past three months. The assemblywoman also has the help of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Panorama City) and his brother Michael's powerful campaign firm, BAD Campaigns.
Hughes has begun to counter Richards' charges, saying she is the candidate with the experience needed to guide the district through troubled times.
With an average unemployment rate hovering at 15% and nearly 20% of the residents living below poverty level, the 25th state Senate district communities of Lynwood, Paramount, Compton, Hawthorne and Inglewood are riddled with problems and no easy solutions in sight.
"The district needs to send someone to Sacramento who understands the system--as bad as it is," Hughes said.
Hughes said Richards has a "narrow vision" of the duties of a senator, saying that many of Richards' ideas would usurp the power of local government.
"I just don't think he has the experience or the background," Hughes said. "As state senator we can't just be concerned about one locality, we have to be concerned about the entire district."
Responded Richards: "These are all the areas I've worked and played in for a lifetime. . . . The 25th has some of the worst problems, but it also has some of the best assets. It has one of the best transportation and trucking routes, access to the ports, the best technological base, great colleges and universities.
"So you ask, 'How can you have this kind of hopelessness and despair with these kind of resources?' Because no one has been creative enough to make those resources work for us. We've got the makings, but haven't had the leadership."
While Richards and Hughes battle it out, Inglewood school board member Lois Hill Hale has launched a massive write-in campaign for the Democratic position, saying neither of her opponents is qualified to serve in the 25th.
A fiery educational consultant, Hill Hale, 56, said that in her four-year tenure on the school board, she has accomplished more in the area of drug and gang rehabilitation than "someone who has been in office for 20 years.
"My write-in candidacy is a protest vote against ineffective and stagnant leadership," said Hill Hale, who is being called the Ross Perot of the 25th by her supporters.
Once again, jobs and the economy are considered crucial issues in the campaign. Hughes said it is important for the state to keep large industries, but pointed out that residents "need to get down off their high horses" instead of waiting for a job that meets their demands and skills.
"We have to tell people that they have to work in McDonald's instead of sitting around and waiting for a job that suits their training," she said. "If it means a doctor or a lawyer has to take down their shingles and wait tables to feed a family, they have to do it."
Richards said the first priority is to divert money from prisons to rehabilitation programs to deal with illiteracy and drug problems and steer youth into job training. He said he would like to see a partnership between the clergy and the state, in which the clergy could provide counseling and tutoring programs.