Roberti Denies Endorsing Rosenthal as His State Senate Successor : Politics: Lawmaker facing recall says he was listed as a backer by mistake. Foes think support was withdrawn.


State Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), who will be forced to leave office later this year, denied this week that he has endorsed his Westside-based colleague, Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles), to replace him.

When Rosenthal made the surprise announcement Monday that he would run for Roberti’s 20th District seat, he named Roberti in writing as one of two dozen elected officials who were backing his candidacy.

But Roberti’s office said Rosenthal was mistaken about the endorsement.

“It was a miscommunication,” said Staci Walters, campaign press secretary for Roberti, who faces a recall election. Walters said if Roberti endorses, he will not do so until March 11 when all the candidates who qualify for the ballot are known.


“We also have a lot of other pressing issues to deal with right now, including the recall and the earthquake,” Walters said. Roberti’s Van Nuys-based 20th District was heavily hit by the Jan. 17 temblor. In addition, Roberti is running for state treasurer.

Roberti’s name apparently showed up on a list of “endorsement naturals” and remained there despite the fact that Roberti was not contacted, according to Lynette Stevens, Rosenthal’s chief of staff.

Stevens said that her boss was informed that Roberti won’t endorse a successor until after the April 12 recall election. That election has been orchestrated by a coalition of Second Amendment-rights enthusiasts angry at Roberti’s support for gun control and grass-roots political dissidents who are seeking to oust the former powerful head of the state Senate from office.

Even if Roberti survives the recall, he must step down from his Senate seat in December because of term limits.

In making his announcement Monday, Rosenthal, 75, said he had originally planned to retire from the Senate when his current term expires later this year but decided to run for Roberti’s seat instead because he believed his experience in Sacramento--where he has served in the Assembly and the Senate since 1974--could be useful in helping the quake-shocked San Fernando Valley get back on its feet.

Meanwhile, opponents of both Roberti and Rosenthal, whose residence and political base have always been on the Westside, rejected the official version that the endorsement was an honest mistake. Instead, they speculated that the endorsement was real and was only withdrawn after it was realized that it was a political faux pas.


On Friday, South Bay stockbroker Russ Howard, a strategist for the Roberti recall movement, suggested that it was politically damaging for Roberti to endorse Rosenthal at a time when his own recall foes are accusing him of being a carpetbagger. “Being a carpetbagger who tries to be a kingmaker for another carpetbagger is not a good image,” Howard said.

Roberti has continued to live in the Los Feliz area of Hollywood even after he shifted his political base from Hollywood to Van Nuys in 1992 after reapportionment gutted his old Senate district.

Additionally, Howard said Roberti might not want to be tied to Rosenthal because Rosenthal had opposed a plan--sponsored by Roberti--to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District. The breakup plan has been one of Roberti’s most popular initiatives in the Valley.

“To endorse Rosenthal would be an admission that Roberti’s school breakup position was really just a sham all along,” Howard said. If Roberti were sincere about this position he wouldn’t endorse a foe, he said.