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Democratic Feud for Assembly Seat Could Cost $1 Million

April 13, 1986|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

During a recent session of the state Assembly, Speaker Willie Brown introduced Edward K. Waters of Compton as the likely Democratic nominee in the 54th Assembly District.

The San Francisco Democrat noted that if Waters, 30, is elected, he and his mother, Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), would form the Assembly's first mother-son combination.

However, the eight other Democrats in the June 3 primary are not quite ready to concede that historical footnote to the Waters family.

Indeed, the race to succeed six-term Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower), who is retiring, is turning into one of the hottest political dogfights in Los Angeles County. The nine candidates could wind up spending a total of $1 million in the primary, which also would make the contest one of the more costly in the county.

Meanwhile, the candidates have begun to raise such issues as the need to crack down on crime by passing tougher laws and improving the quality of schools by decreasing classroom size.

The 54th District covers the cities of Bellflower, Compton, Lakewood and Paramount and portions of eastern Long Beach and some unincorporated areas including eastern Compton and Willowbrook. Democratic registration stands at 66% compared to 26% for Republicans with the remainder scattered among small parties and those who decline to state their party preference.

Attracting Most Attention

the campaign kicks into high gear, Democrats are attracting most of the attention because of the large field in the race, their registration bulge and Waters' campaign and his high-powered endorsements. Only one Republican--Lakewood City Councilman Paul Zeltner--is on the GOP ballot.

In a move to maintain good relations with Assemblywoman Waters, who heads the Democratic Assembly caucus, and Brown, Vicencia last week endorsed Ed Waters.

Vicencia's endorsement came in the wake of two attacks on the Waters campaign on April 4.

First, a half-dozen Compton city officials assailed Brown for interfering in the legislative contest and supporting Waters. At a news conference, they endorsed former Compton Mayor Doris A. Davis, 50, for the seat. Richard Ross, Brown's chief lieutenant who is overseeing Waters' campaign, downplayed the importance of Davis' campaign and said he would not trade charges with her supporters "in the press."

Also on April 4, candidate Kent A. Spieller, 34, a Bellflower lawyer, successfully challenged Waters' ballot designation as a "state investigator."

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents Waters from calling himself a "state investigator" on the ballot. Judge Ralph A. Biggerstaff called that a "misleading" description of Waters' job.

Waters has worked for a federally financed agency that helps families relocate out of the path of the Century Freeway right-of-way. His new ballot designation is "relocation programs investigator."

3-Word Description

Waters said Tuesday that he believes his initial designation was an accurate reflection of his duties because his office monitored the state Department of Transportation and community development agencies. He said the problem was caused by the secretary of state's office, which limits a candidate to a three-word description.

Waters questioned how voters could make an accurate determination about Spieller, who is identified on the ballot as a businessman-attorney. "What type of businessman or attorney is he? The voters don't have any idea," Waters said.

The Waters campaign has set up a large Compton Boulevard headquarters, and he has been meeting with voters in the district. Still, he has maintained a low profile with the press and until last week declined to respond to campaign allegations lodged against him by other candidates.

Waters a 'Rookie'

A campaign aide, who asked not to be identified, explained that Waters is a "rookie" candidate and before granting press interviews tested himself in front of small groups of voters.

Another charge leveled against Waters and four other candidates by candidate Larry Ward is that they only recently moved into the district. Ward, 42, a Bellflower school board member, said he has the most ties to the district as a result of his position on the school board.

He asserted that Waters, Spieller and Willard Murray, 55, an aide to Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton), and former Compton Police Chief Thomas Cochee, moved into the district in recent months.

He also said that former Compton Mayor Davis maintains a residence on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. In response, Davis said she lives in Compton and that her Peninsula property is leased out.

Cochee was unavailable for comment. Spieller and Murray acknowledged that they have moved into the district since last summer. Spieller said he moved to Bellflower because he could afford a home there, it was close to his wife's medical school, and he has legal clients in the area. Murray said he has worked in the area for many years as an aide to Dymally, who has endorsed him.

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