SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday endorsed Edward K. Waters--the son of Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles)--in the nine-candidate Democratic primary for the 54th Assembly District.
At a Capitol news conference, Brown declared that Edward Waters, 30, was "the best candidate . . . separate and distinct from his good breeding." Still, he cracked, Waters was not hurt in that "his mother's name is Maxine."
Brown said Waters' campaign will receive his financial support as well as his endorsement. But the Speaker said he had not decided whether to ask the Democratic caucus to join in supporTing Waters.
The Speaker had said previously that he was attempting to find a "consensus candidate" to support and that he would prefer a black nominee. Waters, who is black, was unavailable for comment.
The heavily Democratic district covers the cities of Bellflower, Compton, Paramount, portions of Lakewood, Long Beach and some unincorporated areas including eastern Compton and Willowbrook. Black voters make up an estimated 20% of the district's voters.
Prompted by Retirement
The scramble for the 54th Assembly District nomination was prompted by the retirement of Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower), who was first elected in 1974.
Other candidates in the June 3 election said they anticipated Brown's announcement because the Speaker has a close working relationship with Assemblywoman Waters, who heads the Assembly Democratic Caucus.
Doris Davis, former Compton mayor, said she was not surprised by Brown's action, especially because Assemblywoman Waters and Brown are political allies. "I think it's just part of the political system of cronyism," Davis said.
Still, Davis acknowledged that Brown's endorsement, and especially his ability to contribute large sums of money to Waters' campaign, could make a difference in the outcome. "You have to contend with that big money," she said.
Larry Ward, a member of the Bellflower Unified School District Board of Education, echoed those sentiments.
"Any time the Speaker backs a candidate it has an effect on the race. What effect it will have on this race, I'm not sure yet," Ward said.
Willard Murray, who has taken a leave as an aide to Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D- Compton) to run for the office, said voters in the district "sort of resent being dictated to from Sacramento" by Brown.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who is one of the leaders of a powerful but loose-knit West Los Angeles political coalition, said Wednesday that he and other members of the group are endorsing Murray. Waxman said Murray was endorsed because he is a longtime political ally but that he was unsure whether he would help raise money for Murray's campaign.
Brown listed a number of reasons for endorsing Waters, whom he described as "unusually religious" and "soft-spoken." He also praised Waters' efforts to drive the South African consulate out of Beverly Hills.
Waters is a coordinator for the Free South Africa Movement, which has protested the consulate's presence in Beverly Hills. In response to anti-apartheid demands, the Beverly Hills City Council in January voted to ask the State Department to order the removal of the consulate from the city.
Brown said Tuesday that Waters has "literally forced the consulate out of Beverly Hills . . . "
Vice Consul Chris Liebenberg said on Tuesday that--contrary to Brown's assertion--the consulate is still in Beverly Hills. If the State Deparment makes a decision, "we would be the first to know about it," he said.
Brown also praised Waters for his work as a state investigator who reviews complaints lodged by people left homeless by the construction of the Century Freeway.
The other candidates in the Democratic contest are Dan Branstine, a former Lakewood city councilman; Thomas Cochee, a former Compton police chief; Ray O'Neal, a Bellflower city councilman; Kent Spieller, a lawyer and Democratic fund-raiser, and Marty Israel, whose nomination papers list him as a consumer advocate.
Paul Zeltner, a Lakewood city councilman, is seeking the Republican nomination. Vikki Murdock, an organizer, is seeking the Peace and Freedom Party nomination.