In an unusual political flap, Assemblywoman Diane Martinez has lost a longtime supporter and major campaign contributor after deciding to sponsor a bill that would allow physician-assisted suicides in some cases of terminal illness.
Alhambra realtor Frank Venti, 57, contributed more than $13,000 worth of rent and other services to the Monterey Park Democrat in her last two campaigns, according to Martinez' campaign disclosure statements.
But now Venti, who describes himself as an observant Catholic, says he no longer can support Martinez. Venti says he can't even be her friend.
"This is an issue she should have never touched," Venti said.
He has resigned from the county Democratic Central Committee over the issue. Martinez appointed Venti to the committee for the past three years.
Martinez said she's not about to back off a bill she believes in.
"If he doesn't want to be my friend because he doesn't like my bill, then I feel sorry for him," Martinez said, adding that Venti also opposed her sponsorship of a bill allowing women to wear pants in the workplace and her pro-choice stance on abortion.
In its present form, Assembly Bill 1080, the so-called Death with Dignity bill, would allow terminally ill people to opt for physician-assisted suicide after a doctor and a psychiatrist determine the patient is mentally competent and after a waiting period. Martinez said she is rewriting the bill before introducing it to say that the patient also must be in great physical pain.
Meanwhile, Martinez recently gave notice that she will be moving out of her office, which is located in a building owned by Venti in downtown Alhambra. The state has paid her $2,800-a-month rent for the past three years. Venti has donated additional campaign headquarter space at a cost of $6,000 in 1992 and $7,600 in 1994.
Martinez denied that the move was related to her fallout with Venti. She said she simply wanted to work in a building with fewer nuisances and more amenities.
"We were going to move out sooner or later," she said. Martinez, who has complained in the past about water leaks and ants in her office kitchen, gave notice at the beginning of March that she was moving out by mid-May.
"If he really cared about our friendship, he should have taken care of the ants," she said.
Venti acknowledged the building has had some problems but said they were nothing that could not be fixed.
He said it was during a lunch in late February that Martinez first mentioned her plans to sponsor the bill.
"She said the Catholic Church would be very upset with her for carrying this bill. Knowing I am an observant Catholic, I don't know why she said that to me," Venti said.
The Catholic Church has opposed all forms of legalized euthanasia.
"I said, 'I can no longer support you if you support that bill,' " Venti said. "I am adamantly opposed to euthanasia and as long as she carries the bill I cannot support her."
Within a week of their lunch, Venti had turned in his resignation to the Democratic Central Committee, citing AB1080 as his only reason for quitting.
Martinez said she is sponsoring the bill on behalf of senior citizens in her district, which includes Alhambra and Monterey Park.
"Not everyone in the church is against abortion. Not everyone in the church is against birth control," said Martinez, who also is Catholic. "Not everyone would be opposed to this bill."