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Old Pro Anderson Runs on Record as Harbor's Helper

November 02, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

After nine terms in Congress preceded by long stretches in state offices, the rituals of reelection should be familiar and generally comfortable for Democrat Glenn Anderson.

The routine calls for him to make the rounds of friendly business, labor and civic groups in the 32nd Congressional District, put up some billboards and lawn posters and distribute flyers to remind the voters--as a current one does--that Glenn Anderson has established "A Record of Proven Service to Our Community."

And Anderson's record is clear. He has perhaps done more than any lawmaker since World War II to ensure a steady flow of federal dollars into the harbor area.

Under his aegis, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have become the nation's largest in terms of customs collected from shippers, and a new plan that Anderson pushed through this year envisions tripling port activity by the year 2020.

Big Votes, Big Money

Voter appreciation for Anderson has been reflected in comfortable reelection margins (61% in 1984) and generous campaign contributions (about $432,000 over the last two years) from shipping and other business interests, labor and hundreds of individuals in the predominantly Democratic harbor district.

Still, in politics nothing is totally certain, even for an incumbent who is used to batting 1,000. Conservative tides, swelled by concerns over such issues as the federal deficit and the bedraggled state of traditional values in contemporary America, could conceivably undermine the party loyalties of some Democrats in the working-class district.

Those concerns were evident in 1984, when the district gave 58% of its vote to President Reagan. But Anderson escaped untouched. In fact, he received an even higher percentage than the President--61%.

This time around, the Republican challenger trying to tap into the district's conservative sentiments--and hang Anderson out to dry as a "big spender"--is Joyce Robertson.

Robertson's Platform

A young businesswoman with an attractive personality, Robertson tags Anderson as an "aggressive advocate for big government, higher taxes and the welfare state," while she favors a balanced budget, a strong national defense, lower taxes and stronger measures to control the nation's problems with drugs and crime.

She opposes California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird's reconfirmation and backs Reagan's intervention in Nicaragua.

"Mr. Anderson is clearly out of step with the district," said Robertson, 27, a native of Downey, who quit her job as a Xerox marketing executive to work on her campaign.

Standing on the sidelines in the contest, but wanting to be heard, is John S. Donohue, the Peace and Freedom candidate. Donohue, 61, a retired refinery worker, has run half a dozen times in his crusade to educate the voters on issues of war and peace and the dangers of polluting the earth with nuclear and other toxic wastes.

'Pretty Good Return'

The 73-year-old Anderson, whose 50-year political career includes terms as a state assemblyman and lieutenant governor, sighed in a recent interview when asked about the tax-and-spend image that Republicans have pinned on him over the years.

The federal money he has funneled into the harbor area, he said, is in the millions--well, hundreds of millions--but the return is in the billions in terms of higher port revenues, flourishing businesses and more jobs.

"I think we're seeing a pretty good return on our investment," he said.

Anderson, often described by political commentators as an old-fashioned New Deal Democrat, receives high ratings from ultraliberal organizations such as Americans for Democratic Action and the American Civil Liberties Union.

And in the 99th Congress, he opposed Reagan's position on legislative issues 77% of the time, according to tabulations of votes by the Congressional Quarterly.

Stand on Immigration

But Anderson, particularly during the election seasons, seems to enjoy confounding his critics by talking like a conservative on most issues of the day.

True, he opposed past attempts to reform the nation's immigration laws. "I was uncomfortable with the employer sanctions," he said. But, he said, he backed the new reform bill passed recently by Congress "because we have to do something to control our borders."

As for the war on drugs, Anderson said he wanted even stronger provisions in the bill signed last month by the President, like the death penalty for "drug kings" and the use of military forces at the border.

When those provisions dropped out as a result of pressure from civil libertarians in the Senate, Anderson said, he voted against a revised version of the bill to protest the deletions.

The maneuver caused some confusion in the Robertson camp, where campaign aides thought they had caught the congressman talking with a forked tongue. However, Anderson said he voted for the final compromise and he presented a letter from the White House praising him for his support of anti-drug efforts.

Stand on Bird Issue

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