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Torres Holds All the Cards but Will Play Out Campaign Hand

October 23, 1986|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

Despite running in a district with nearly 68% of the voters registered as Democrats, state Sen. Art Torres said that he is not taking his seat in the 24th District for granted.

"Whether a district is safe or unsafe, people are accountable to their constituents. You're still vulnerable," said Torres, a Democrat who is running for a second four-year term in a district that includes Eagle Rock, Highland Park, South Pasadena, and East Los Angeles.

His two opponents are Republican Lee D. Prentiss, a Los Angeles Police Department detective from South Pasadena, and Libertarian Laura G. Brown, an English tutor from Los Angeles.

Finances and registration heavily favor Torres. As of Oct. 6, he reported having $111,607 in a campaign war chest after spending $132,220 this year on his own campaign and that of fellow Democrats. In sharp contrast, Prentiss and Brown report having raised less than $500 each.

Democrats in Majority

Of the 141,375 registered voters, 95,885 are Democrats, 31,472 are Republicans, 3,526 are with minor parties and 10,492 are unaffiliated.

Prentiss, who also serves as mayor of South Pasadena, conceded that Torres may be unbeatable but said he is running against the senator to protest a district alignment that he calls basically unfair.

"I object to the philosophy of lopsided gerrymandering," Prentiss said. "It becomes extremely obvious to anybody that you can't possibly win. He could do virtually anything and not be defeated."

Prentiss, 41, said that he also is running to "represent what a great governor we have in George Deukmejian," and to protest Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, who he said "has made the California judicial system the laughingstock of the United States."

Brown, Torres' other opponent, said she admires some of the senator's accomplishments but objects to "the type of big government" that she said the Democrats support.

Appeal to Yuppies

As a Libertarian, Brown, 24, described herself as pro-civil liberties, pro-free market economics and anti-interventionist.

"We like to think we appeal to the yuppie population, the overtaxed and the people who don't want to be drafted to fight against the Nicaraguan government," she said.

Torres, who won the heavily Latino district in 1982 after a bitterly fought primary, said he will concentrate on streamlining the criminal justice system, overseeing toxic waste disposal methods and working to implement Proposition 65, the anti-toxics initiative, if it passes.

Torres, 40, was uncontested in this year's primary election.

"I'd give the governor an F on toxics," Torres said. "It's my responsibility to check up on him."

No Opinion on Bird

Prentiss and Brown both said they oppose Bird, and Torres said that, although he supports the death penalty, he is not taking a position on Bird's confirmation.

Torres and Brown both said they think people should be encouraged to learn English, but that Proposition 63, which they oppose, is a hostile gesture toward minority groups.

Prentiss said he supports the measure because failing to make English the official language would be handicapping minorities and "enslaving" them in a lower class.

"If they're going to be productive Americans, there's only one language to speak," Prentiss said.

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