Flanked by advocates for the disabled, feminists, students and animal rights, Democratic congressional candidate Val Marmillion charged Thursday that Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) has opposed the interests of the elderly, Southern California motorists, veterans and others and has lost touch with his constituents.
Marmillion, a West Hollywood businessman, emphasized Beilenson's 1984 vote against Social Security cost-of-living increases and his proposed 25-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax. He called the Social Security vote an act "of broken faith with the American people" and said the gas tax was regressive and especially harmful to San Fernando Valley commuters, the poor, students and those on fixed incomes.
Marmillion sought to spell out his differences with the six-term incumbent at a news conference called to herald a 36-page issues booklet that his campaign is sending to 100,000 registered Democrats. Aides described the unusually detailed booklet--the first mailing sent to voters after several months of door-to-door stumping--as a cornerstone of Marmillion's uphill June 7th primary campaign in the 23rd District.
The campaign is spending $40,000 to $50,000 on the mailing, called "Political Access," said campaign coordinator Norma Jane Sabiston. This is at least half the $80,000 Marmillion said he has raised.
"We're using a book instead of a potholder because people have the right to know the difference between two candidates," Marmillion said. "What our campaign is trying to do is reach out to people and their causes."
Marmillion's charges drew an angry response from Beilenson.
"I've voted 8,000 or 9,000 times in the 12 years I've been here, and it seems to me these issues he brings up are not serious or substantial," Beilenson said in a telephone interview from Washington. "Obviously you can pick a dozen or several dozen votes out of context.
"I have great faith in the people and the voters," he added. "I have been a good representative. I've served them well. Otherwise, I would not be reelected."
He said he hoped to raise enough money to respond to the brochure with a mailing of his own to the 157,000 registered Democrats in the district, which stretches from West Hollywood to Malibu and across the Santa Monica Mountains to the western San Fernando Valley. Beilenson, who had garnered only $25,000 as of late March, has vowed to raise only as much as necessary to answer Marmillion's charges.
Marmillion used the setting of the news conference, also the first of his campaign, to demonstrate his point about political inclusion. It was held in the parking lot, rather than the auditorium, of the Greater Los Angeles Press Club because the building is not physically accessible to the handicapped. Yvonne and Lou Nau, disabled activists from Tarzana who participated in the event, are wheelchair-bound.
Speaking above the din of trucks and car radios from nearby Vermont Avenue, helicopters overhead and a lawn mower across the street, Marmillion said the parking lot was chosen "to make a point about the campaign in a very visual way but also in a sensible way."
He said he seeks to contrast what he called "the Beilenson myth" of a favorable record on such issues as support for the elderly, environmental protection and women's rights--each a concern of numerous Democratic activists--with a far different reality.
"Many of the incumbent's votes and positions on key issues show indifference rather than independence--a tendency to be out of step with those he represents," Marmillion's brochure states.
The issues Marmillion cited were social and economic. He did not point to any differences on defense or foreign policy issues. On topics such as environmental protection and increased support for research and treatment of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, for example, Marmillion did not criticize Beilenson's voting record but instead maintained he should be more visible and outspoken.
On Social Security, Marmillion cited Beilenson as one of four House members who voted against Social Security cost-of-living increases in October, 1984. He also pointed out that Beilenson was the sole House member to oppose a measure to exempt Social Security income from taxation in 1980.
"Social Security is funded out of the pockets of individuals and, as such, should not be a part of any plan for cuts in benefits," Marmillion said in the brochure.
Beilenson said both measures were "demagogic, self-serving votes that were put on the floor so people could go home and say they supported Social Security. Neither was a real vote, neither had real meaning, neither affected the real world. I'm a strong supporter of Social Security. Everybody here and everybody in senior citizen groups knows it."