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Malibu club’s rules questioned after Assembly race endorsement

In a battle among the three Democrats running for a new, open Assembly seat, community activist Torie Osborn was the overwhelming choice of the Malibu Democratic Club after a candidates forum on Sunday. But her victory may prompt a revision of the club’s endorsement rules.

Jean Goodman, the club’s president and the forum’s moderator, estimated that at least three-fourths of the approximately 80 people who attended the event at Malibu City Hall were not Malibu residents and had never before attended a meeting of the club and, she added, probably never would again.

Club rules allow anyone in attendance to vote as long as he or she has signed up for membership at least 30 days in advance of a club endorsement vote. The forum was scheduled well before the 30-day deadline, and Osborn’s supporters appeared to have seized the opportunity to join.

Osborn got 41 votes, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler of Marina del Rey received five and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, who supports a controversial lagoon restoration plan, received none; there were 13 “no endorsement” votes.

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Goodman said she was considering asking for a review and a possible change of the rules.

The Westside-based 50th Assembly District seat is part of new political maps drawn for the first time by a voter-authorized independent citizens commission instead of legislators. The largely affluent, strongly Democratic district also includes Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and some Los Angeles communities.

The forum is the first of the political season in this district. Republican Brad Torgan, an attorney, also is running for the seat.

As expected, the three Democrats expressed similar views on several issues, including opposing more cuts to education, supporting strong environmental protections and helping the community find ways to slow traffic on Pacific Coast Highway.

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But they differed on some, mainly local, issues. Bloom drew boos from some in the audience when he defended a controversial plan to revitalize the Malibu Lagoon.

“It’s no secret how I stand” on the project, said Bloom, who chairs the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project. Saying the lagoon needs help, he argued that the process to decide had thorough public review and wide support.

Osborn elicited cheers when she called the restoration plan “overkill.” Butler said the matter needs more study and the decision should be based on the best science available.

The candidates also strove to emphasize their differences in background and style.

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Butler, who won her Assembly seat two years ago in what was then a South Bay-based district, said she got six bills through the often-gridlocked Legislature and touted her background working with environmental groups. She cited as her top priorities defending education from further cuts, protecting the environment and improving care for the elderly.

She said that her father died last year after a 17-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease and that she now knows firsthand about the lack of resources for the elderly infirm.

Bloom, a family law attorney, said he has long experience, in work and in politics, of getting people to work together to find solutions to complicated issues. “I’m a bridge-builder,” Bloom said.

Osborn struck a more combative stance, saying that her political battles stretch back to attacks on “my community,” the gay and lesbian community, over AIDS in the 1980s and that she wants to take on “the bullies in the Republican Party.”

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jean.merl@latimes.com


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