Term limits put assemblyman in Senate District 29 contest
By DOUGLAS HABERMAN
A conservative Republican lawmaker who is termed out in the state Assembly is hoping to continue his legislative career in state Senate District 29, but a Democratic West Covina city councilman and a Libertarian candidate stand in his way.
Bob Margett (R-Arcadia) has served the 59th Assembly District for more than five years, which under term limits means the end of his Assembly career. Democrat Richard Melendez and Libertarian Leland Faegre would like it to mean the end of his legislative career altogether.
Long a safe Republican seat held by Richard Mountjoy (R-Arcadia), the district's registration has evened out. According to the most recent figures available, the Democrats enjoy the slightest of edges, 30% compared to the GOP's 29.8%.
Faegre is a West Covina stockbroker whose work is more on the technological side of the business than on the sales side. He wants to end the state income tax, halt the state's role in the war on drugs and inject competition, through the use of school vouchers, into the education system.
"The encroaching role of government... has led us to the point where we're unable to make the most basic decisions in our lives," Faegre said.
Parents who want to send their children to private school, for example, have no choice but to pay property taxes to support public education and tuition for their children's education, he said.
Inner-city parents whose children attend poorly performing schools want a choice, he said. He supports Proposition 38, the voucher initiative.
His first act in the Senate would be to introduce a bill repealing the state income tax, said Faegre, who believes the best government is the smallest. He would also like to repeal all the state's gun laws, he said.
The war on drugs has been "a colossal failure" and has made drugs more profitable than they would otherwise be, Faegre said.
"Methamphetamine labs are the direct effect of the confiscation of marijuana and cocaine," he said.
Margett, a retired contractor, said he has unfinished business he'd like to see through, including remediation of the San Gabriel Valley9s contaminated ground water and construction of the Alameda Corridor East.
As a veteran lawmaker, "I think I have substantially more to offer" voters than his opponents, he said.
Margett said he helped bring ground water polluters to the table. Many of them have paid a portion of the cost of cleaning up contamination plumes, he said, and he helped secure some state dollars for cleanup. More work needs to be done, he said, including making the largest polluter, Aerojet General Corp., pay its share.
The Alameda Corridor East is primarily a proposed series of overpasses and underpasses that will help keep street traffic flowing smoothly in the San Gabriel and Inland valleys as more and more trains go to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach due to increased international trade. Officials haven't yet obtained much money for the project. Margett said he has numerous contacts in Washington, D.C., and it would take a bipartisan lobbying effort by Southern California legislators to make Congress aware of the need for federal funding for the Alameda Corridor Fast.
Another concern for Margett is improving the education system. He favors vouchers for students from families of modest means who are attending underperforming schools. "Some chance has to be given to these kids," he said.
He opposes Proposition 38 because even wealthy families could obtain vouchers under its provisions, he said.
Melendez, a Los Angeles Police Department Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, is betting the district's changing demographics favor him in this race. He hopes West Covina's success in crime reduction, his record as a fiscal conservative --he's never voted to raise taxes, he said -- and his promises to clean up the water will vault him into the Senate.
A West Covina program he helped initiate that offers after-school supervised play and DARE classes in middle schools is something he would like to take statewide, he said. It keeps children busy during the hours when most juvenile crime is committed, Melendez said. In West Covina, crime went down 21% in the past year, he said, which was the highest reduction in the state.
Melendez said he has a strategic plan to deal with traffic but he wouldn't disclose it in an interview.
"It's a very complicated issue," he said. "None of the solutions don't involve money."
Melendez criticized Margett's actions on ground water cleanup and traffic congestion, saying Margett has done nothing effective. The district, he said, "is crying out for leadership."
He also accused Margett of voting against a ban on so-called "cop-killer" bullets.
"I think he should be ashamed of it," Melendez said.
Margett said he voted against a bill that merely banned the advertisement for sale of the bullets, possession of which was already illegal.
"I think it was superfluous legislation," he said.
He voted for a law requiring trigger locks on every new gun sold, he said.
State Senate District 29
Occupation: Securities Networking Registrar
Residence: West Covina
"While I do not fault the California Senate for not understanding Latin, it is inexplicable incompetence to have never bothered to translate the Latin inscription emblazoned over the rostrum of the state Senate chamber into leadership. If they had, they would have realized they are in violation of their oaths. Because so few of them understand that 'it is the duty of the senators to protect the liberty of the citizens,' I have entered the race so that I might address the need for incontrovertible leadership."
* End the state income tax: It funds the abusively monstrous and monolithic bureaucracy of socialism that makes decisions about how you pursue your life, liberty and happiness.
* End the war on drugs: It has done nothing with the $200 billion of our money but transformed garden-variety street thugs into gun-wielding Visigoths with hundred-dollar bills stuffing their blood-stained pockets -- and it's half filled our prisons.
* End the state monopoly on education: Vouchers are just the opening salvos at the education establishment. Parent-controlled education will bring about a competitive renaissance in the educational arts.
Occupation: State assemblyman
"In the Assembly, I worked to improve our schools, reforrn HMOs and protect neighborhoods from violent crime. I co-authored the Class Size Reduction Act, helped make schools accountable, increased parental involvement, improved teacher training and implemented exit exams to end social promotion. I co-authored tough gun crime legislation, voted to strengthen school safety measures, voted to require trigger locks with new gun sales and fought to toughen penalties on juvenile criminals. I made HMOs more accountable by establishing an independent review process and giving patients the right to appeal HMO decisions when care is denied."
* Education: I will continue my efforts to reduce class sizes, increase parental involvement in schools and ensure textbooks are up to date.
* Public Safety: Protecting schoolchildren and neighborhoods from guns, drugs and violence will be one of my top priorities.
* Health Care: I will also work to ensure all California families have access to quality, affordable health care.
Occupation: Police officer
Residence: West Covina
"I will work to keep our neighborhoods safe, improve our schools and demand fiscal responsibility from government. As mayor of West Covina, I put additional police officers on the street. West Covina has seen a 21% drop in crime, the best record in California, and we did it without raising taxes. I've been a police officer for 17 years. My opponent in this campaign refused to outlaw cop killer bullets. He should be held accountable for that decision -- which could mean life or death for a police officer. I will demand accountability and make public safety the top priority."
* Public safety will be my top priority -- putting more police on the street, preventing drug abuse, stopping illegal guns, helping at-risk youth find alternatives to crime and gangs.
* A quality education provides opportunity and good schools are the best way to help communities, neighborhoods and children.
* I know how hard working families work for their money, and I will ensure fiscal responsibility by opposing tax increases and holding government officials accountable for waste.
New Diversity of Voters Sparks Battle in Suburbs
Listen to Democrat Richard Melendez stump for the San Gabriel Valley's 29th state Senate seat and you get a quick sense of how the new diversity of suburban Los Angeles is wiping away traditional partisan politics there.
A so-called conservative Democrat, Melendez will often mention that he is a Los Angeles DARE police officer, then suggest that his Republican opponent, Assemblyman Bob Margett, is soft on crime.
Margett (R-Arcadia) will counter that he wrote California's version of Megan's Law, to monitor child molesters, before he advocated more opportunities for underprivileged students.
Meanwhile, in southeast Los Angeles County's 56th Assembly District, Democratic incumbent Sally Havice casts herself as a foil to her party's liberal left wing, while her Republican opponent, Grace Hu, says she would consider greater leniency for nonviolent drug offenders.
Miles apart, the candidates are all shooting for a newly important element in their areas: the recently suburbanized swing voters, including large numbers of Latinos and Asian Americans, who are liberal on social programs and tough on crime.
A likely deciding factor next week in many state and congressional elections, those voters are why these two contests are among the most competitive in California--and the most bitter.
Because of the migration of mostly Mexican American and Chinese American families into places such as West Covina and Cerritos, "you've got some real slugfests going on out there," said Alan Hoffenblum, who monitors local elections as editor of the Target Book.
The increasing diversity in the suburbs during the last decade has transformed once staunchly Republican districts into areas that can go either way in an election, he said.
In response, Republicans and Democrats are pouring resources into those neighborhoods, while the candidates clamber over one another on the issues to win the newly vital moderate vote.
That is especially so in the 29th Senate District, which stretches from the foothills of the Angeles Forest to Claremont's luxury tract homes and down to the strip malls of La Mirada.
The still predominantly white area that voted overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan during the 1980s is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with each making up about 41% of the 375,000 voters there. About a fifth are Latino, while 8% are Asian American and 6% are African American.
With outgoing conservative Sen. Richard Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) disqualified by term limits, Democrats have poured massive funds in support of Melendez--a West Covina councilman who used to be a Republican. They hope to counter the drawing power of incumbent Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) over Democrat challenger Janice Nelson.
Combined, party leaders have contributed the majority of the roughly $900,000 raised so far by Melendez, nearly all of it received in October, documents show. Margett has raised more than $1.2 million, almost half of which came from the Republican Party.
Melendez, 46, has mounted an aggressive challenge to Margett, who was an early favorite before Melendez campaign polls recently showed the two in a dead heat. Libertarian Leland Michael Faegre is also in the race.
Hoping to take advantage of his police background, Melendez has attacked Margett on crime relentlessly during locally televised candidate forums not attended by the Republican. Margett, 71, has focused his campaign on speaking engagements and precinct walking in swing areas, touting his role in local water pollution cleanup initiatives.
In response, Margett has appeared in ads that show him lecturing two uniformed police officers on gun violence near school campuses. The only problem: The two police officers in the ads are actually Republican aides posing as cops, a revelation that has allowed Melendez to publicly question Margett's honesty.
"It's a matter of trust," Melendez said.
While Margett claimed ignorance about the actors, his spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty, said that using them in political ads is routine for both parties, given a state statute that prohibits police officers from participating in political activities while in uniform. However, Melendez consultants said they have not used actors in any of their ads.
Melendez--whose platform includes creating a statewide after-school program--is trying to paint the Republican as too conservative for the changing district.
He derides Margett's vote against a 1995 law that added so-called cop killer bullets to a list of guns and ammunition banned from ads.
Although Margett has said his opposition was largely the result of ambiguous language in the law, noting that the body armor-piercing bullets have been illegal since the mid-1980s, Melendez has portrayed the stand as being against protecting police officers' lives.
Similar heat is coming from both sides in southeast Los Angeles' 56th Assembly District race, an area that stretches from Downey's quiet cul-de-sacs, past the Cerritos Performing Arts Center to the bowling alleys and subdivisions of Lakewood and north Long Beach. Now slightly Democratic, the area has roughly 183,000 voters--about one-fifth Latino, 8% Asian American and 7% African American.
There, incumbent Havice (D-Cerritos) faces Hu, 55, a Republican Cerritos council member who made millions with her real estate and mortgage companies. Both have raised roughly $600,000, with Hu loaning herself nearly half of that and Havice receiving substantial support from Democrat leaders.
Differing only slightly in their fiscally conservative approaches to government spending, tax reform, crime reduction and education, the two candidates have depicted each other as political extremists out of tune with the area.
Havice, 63, has outspent Hu by roughly $300,000 in direct and in-kind expenditures during the last month of her campaign.
Yet, she calls Hu a lavish spender who cannot relate to the middle class.
One Havice ad has a picture of a Rolls Royce with a "HU" vanity plate, along with the question "Ever wonder what the little people are driving, Grace?"
Hu, whose platform includes funneling state tax dollars to local governments, says that's unfair. She hasn't driven her 1989 Rolls-Royce in 10 years, choosing instead a 2000 Dodge minivan.
Havice runs on a record that includes preserving local concrete flood control levees along the Los Angeles River in the face of efforts to landscape the river banks, which is seen as a danger by nearby homeowners. She also helped create the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy.
But Havice has spent much of her campaign combating what she said are distortions made by her opponent.
The perpetual spin and counter-spin has undecided voters like Ann Nguyen, 21, feeling dizzy.
After a recent candidate's forum that featured Melendez and the Libertarian Faegre--but not Margett--she complained that both major party candidates were not helping her make an informed choice.
"I thought Faegre brought up some good points," Nguyen said.