To an outsider, the top contenders in the special 33rd state Senate District election would appear to be cut from the same cloth.
Both Assemblyman Wayne Grisham and City Councilman Cecil N. Green are from Norwalk and both go to great lengths to embrace the same suburban values held dear by the district's largely conservative blue-collar constituency.
Republican Grisham, 64, and Democrat Green, 63, both support the death penalty, oppose Medi-Cal cuts and talk of protecting and strengthening the family unit.
But the similarities end there, especially when it comes to education, transportation and the implementation of Proposition 65, the anti-toxics initiative approved by Californians last November.
On education and the anti-toxics law, the differences fall along party lines, with Grisham endorsing Gov. George Deukmejian's handling of both issues. Green, however, has denounced the governor's proposed cuts in special school programs for minority, handicapped and gifted children, and he said Deukmejian has been "dragging his feet" on putting Proposition 65 into practice.
In the end, however, Tuesday's race to replace former Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Cypress) may hinge more on the reputations, personalities and campaign tactics of Grisham and Green than the two men's viewpoints.
Although eight candidates are in the race, Grisham and Green are regarded as the front-runners. If none of the challengers wins a majority of the votes cast, then the top vote-getters from each party will compete in a May 12 runoff.
The issues in recent weeks have been overshadowed by charges on both sides.
Carpenter, who vacated the Senate seat after his election to the state Board of Equalization, accused Grisham of making sexual advances to a secretary and then firing her when she rebuffed him. Grisham denied the accusation.
And Green has alleged that Grisham distorted the councilman's record in mailers sent to many of the district's 285,290 registered voters in northwest Orange and Southeast Los Angeles counties.
Green was so unnerved by what he called "falsehoods" in Grisham's literature, that he labled the Assemblyman "a liar" at a Cerritos candidates' forum. Visibly angry, Green stared long and hard at Grisham as he said, "I thought you were a better man than that."
Grisham has since said he did not see some of the mailers prepared by a Sacramento consultant before they were sent out. Also, several campaign aides said Grisham was "very upset" that some of the allegations about Green in the flyers may not have been true. One mailer said Green had not supported Proposition 51, the so-called "deep pockets" initiative limiting cities' liability, and had not taken a stand on Proposition 13, the property tax cutting measure approved by voters in 1978. Green said he has proved both allegations are false.
Another letter sent to voters by state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Northridge) has also drawn fire from Green--and an apology from Davis. In the letter, which endorses Grisham, Davis says that Green failed to publicly oppose the reconfirmation of then-Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and two other state Supreme Court justices. But Green is listed on a March, 1985, press release as one of several hundred people working with Davis' own committee, Californians to Defeat Rose Bird.
Called to Apologize
Davis called Green personally on Tuesday to apologize for the mistake. Hunt Braly, the senator's administrative assistant, said Davis agreed to sign the letter after receiving assurances from Grisham's political consultants, Tony Marsh and Associates, that the allegations in it were true. "The senator (Davis) certainly regrets that he was misinformed as to the accuracy of the research," Braly said.
Green said the letter was another example of the "cheap, low-blow campaigning that my opponent is engaging in. He has challenged my integrity . . . and he will be held accountable."
Because this is the only state Senate race this year, it has significance well beyond district boundaries. Both candidates have received money and endorsements from around the state. And the leadership of each party--including Deukmejian and Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles)--have placed a premium on winning the vacant seat.
As of Monday, Grisham said his polls showed him leading Green by a margin of 37% to 25%. But he said the same poll revealed that more than 30% of the district's voters were still undecided.
Both candidates are better known in Los Angeles County, where three-quarters of the district's voters live in Downey, Norwalk, Lakewood, Cerritos, Bellflower, Santa Fe Springs, South Whittier and Hawaiian Gardens. Aides say Grisham and Green are both virtually unknown in the Orange County portion of the district, and they expect voters in Buena Park, La Palma, Cypress and Los Alamitos to cast ballots along party lines.
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