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Hayden Makes a Campaign Stop in County : Politics: The liberal state senator, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, stresses the need for reform during his appearance in Garden Grove.

TIMES URBAN AFFAIRS WRITER

Tom Hayden, whose liberal, anti-war record has made him a lightning rod for conservative Orange County legislators, brought his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination here Saturday and pleaded for political reform.

Hayden said his message to Orange County is that reform is neither a liberal nor conservative issue.

“If you’re an honest, conservative businessman you will never prosper if (lobbyists) can buy off a politician,” he said in an interview. “If you’re a member of the ACLU, you’ll never be able to save free speech in a world dominated by 30-second commercials.”

Earlier Saturday, Hayden appeared at a gathering of two dozen Democratic Party activists who met at a savings and loan here. “There are good people in Sacramento who occasionally do good things,” he told the group. “But I’m tired of defining success as slowing the rate at which things get worse. . . . Every night in Sacramento there is a fund-raiser attended by the lobbyists, and the next day they go before some committee and ask for a vote.

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“It’s the best business investment in the world. . . ,” he said. “They are the only ones that haven’t been in economic downturn in the recession.”

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It was the first venture into Orange County for Hayden, a state senator from Santa Monica, since his surprise Feb. 9 announcement that he was challenging state Treasurer Kathleen Brown and state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi for his party’s gubernatorial nomination.

At the time of that announcement, Hayden conceded that he has almost no chance of winning, but would pursue his political reform agenda in hopes that the other candidates will adopt some or all of it, allowing him to withdraw.

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He is advocating $100 to $500 limits on campaign contributions, bans on political action committees and off-year fund-raising, public matching funds for candidates, a code of ethics for political consultants, strict lobbying regulations, and bans on appointments of big donors to state panels such as the Board of Regents.

As an example of the need for reform, Hayden cited the California Department of Transportation, which has spent only 3% of its capital budget on seismic retrofitting projects since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

“The reason the freeways weren’t fixed,” he said, “is that they were lobbied by developers to put in an off-ramp instead of making the freeways safe.”

Hayden said his campaign is not directed at imposing his personal politics on people--he just wants to reform the process.

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“The political consultants tell Kathleen Brown, you need to raise $20 million. They tell John Garamendi, you need to raise $20 million. . . . That’s $57,000 a day for 365 days. . . . And it goes to the consultants, who make a lot of money, and the TV crews . . . all for a 30-second spot that tells you nothing but how the candidate looks. . . .

“Politics is over,” he said. “It’s become become a branch of the advertising industry.”

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Hayden said he figured that he can run a decent, cheap campaign by asking people to donate $94 each, as “shareholders.”

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“As you can see,” the blandly attired Hayden said, joking, “I don’t use my money to shop.”

Hayden, whose reform-oriented campaign has been compared to those of Jerry Brown and Ross Perot but without a toll-free number or colorful charts, fielded questions on health care, immigration, crime and education. In each case he criticized the latest reform proposals as failing to address root causes. For example, he said, immigration has been hyped as an issue for political gain, but on the other hand, the immigrants would not be here if U.S. businesses were not providing illegal jobs to undocumented workers.

Advances in video game technology, Hayden said, outpace reforms needed in classroom instructional techniques.

And he said building prison cells to keep repeat felons locked up takes away money from community colleges because Gov. Pete Wilson will not raise taxes to cover the cost for both.

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“By opening up the prison doors he is closing the college doors,” Hayden said of Wilson.

Following the meeting, Hayden acknowledged that Orange County politicians have tried to oust him from the Legislature, including Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) and even Democrat Paul Carpenter of Cypress, a former state senator recently convicted on political corruption charges, but who fled before sentencing and is now a fugitive.

“Where is (Carpenter) now?” Hayden said. He noted that Ferguson, another staunch critic, recently spoke highly of him in print.

Conroy, Hayden said, “is still fighting the Vietnam War. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to make peace with him.”

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