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Facing Token Opposition, Waxman Works for Other Democrats

October 30, 1986|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

This month, as lingering business in Washington played havoc with the campaign plans of many congressmen, Rep. Henry A. Waxman could relax.

The powerful Los Angeles Democrat, best known for his work on health and environmental issues, was given a free ride by Republicans, who put up no opposition this year. He has only token opposition from the Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties.

"This is unusual, but it happens sometimes," said Waxman, 47.

Waxman has represented the 24th District, which includes Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hollywood, Atwater, and parts of West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley for 12 years. He received more than 60% of the vote in each of his last two outings, so the Republicans are concentrating on making inroads elsewhere Nov. 4.

Helping Other Democrats

Waxman, meanwhile, is meeting constituents and helping other Democrats. Last week, the sharp-tongued champion of liberal causes made brief stops in Colorado and Maryland on behalf of other Democratic congressman facing races tougher than his.

Waxman is also deeply involved in local elections. He and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) are the leaders of the Berman-Waxman organization, a powerful political alliance composed of liberal Westside and San Fernando Valley political figures such as Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica), state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles).

"We are personal friends," Waxman said of the group, which some have labeled a political machine. "We have shared values, objectives and goals."

In Washington, Waxman is known as an aggressive advocate of health and environmental causes. He is chairman of the health and environment subcommittee of the Commerce Committee, and was a leader in the successful drive to ban television and radio advertising of chewing tobacco.

Role in Clean Air Act

Waxman also helped write the federal Clean Air Act. He has been a leader in protecting medical and Social Security benefits for the poor and elderly, and was instrumental in obtaining federal funding for AIDS research.

Waxman is also known for his opposition to Metro Rail, the Los Angeles subway system proposal that would cost an estimated $3.3 billion. Waxman called Metro Rail "an absurd waste of money" that could end up being a white elephant.

"I support mass transit for Los Angeles and alternatives for people using automobiles," Waxman said. "But I think we can make better use of our money than spending it all on a short-run subway that will be very expensive and dangerous to build. We need to cover longer distances and be more flexible."

Waxman's opponents are George Abrahams, a Libertarian, and James Green of the Peace and Freedom Party. Both expect to spend less than $1,000 on the campaign.

Abrahams, 35, said he is running to publicize the Libertarian Party's opposition to government spending for social welfare programs and to legislation such as rent control. "I'm for the taxpayer and the consumer," Abrahams said, "those who foot the bill for the grand schemes of people in Washington."

Supports Military Aid

Abrahams noted that Waxman is a supporter of social welfare programs and an opponent of military aid to the contras in Nicaragua. He said he supports military aid to people in other countries as long as the United States has a clear plan for victory. "Our own freedom and security is enhanced by helping others that care about it," Abrahams said.

Abrahams, a stock investor who lives in Los Angeles, opposes spending money for Metro Rail. He said he would gradually phase out Social Security by encouraging workers to invest in private retirement plans.

Abrahams has run for office as a Libertarian twice before. He chal lenged Supervisor Edmund D. Edelman in 1982 and ran against Margolin in 1984.

Green, 34, a socialist, is running on an ultra-liberal platform. He opposes military intervention in other countries and favors nationwide rent control. He said he would propose legislation to cut rents in half across the country. "Rents are out of control," he said.

Moving to the Right

Green contends that the Democratic Party is moving too far to the right, Waxman included. He said the Peace and Freedom Party stands for many of the liberal social values abandoned by Democrats.

Green said he would withdraw U.S. aid to Israel and put the money into AIDS research. He said he also opposes any law aimed at restricting illegal immigrants and that he would disband the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"I'm running, not to win this election, but to win the majority of the people in this country over to our ideas," said Green, a social services worker who lives in Los Angeles. "And that's a long-term process."

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