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Waters Confident Despite Primary Foe's Attacks on Jackson-Brown Ties

May 22, 1988|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

Assemblywoman Maxine Waters, an outspoken, combative legislator who has been in office for 12 years, appears confident as ever that she will win her seventh two-year term in the 48th Assembly District.

"I campaign every day of my life for the needs of my district. I'm in the churches. I attend community meetings," the 49-year-old Democrat from Los Angeles said.

Waters' opposition in the June 7 primary is Cynthia Green-Geter, a 38-year-old Lynwood businesswoman.

There are no Republican candidates in this heavily Democratic district. More than 87,000 of the 104,000 registered voters at the first of the year were Democrats. There were just 10,000 Republicans.

Cities in District

The district is composed of the cities of Lynwood and South Gate and predominantly black South-Central Los Angeles, which includes Watts.

During the last general election in November, 1986, Waters trounced her Republican opponent, 41,000 to 6,000. She has never been seriously challenged and was first elected in 1976.

Waters, who is well-known for her aggressive style, has been described as one of the most powerful black politicians in the country. A close ally of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), Waters is head of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, the first woman to hold the position.

Waters can be fiery and intimidating in her speeches. She is also sometimes intimidating when she doesn't speak: A couple of years ago, the Lynwood City Council, without consulting Waters, decided to annex some land in the 48th District for a proposed jail. Waters showed up at the council with a busload of constituents who lived in the area of the proposed site and opposed the idea. Council members decided it was not necessary for Waters to speak before they shelved the annexation.

"Let's go. The people have won," Waters said as she led the group from the tiny City Hall chambers.

'Neglecting the District'

Green-Geter has accused Waters of "being out of touch and neglecting the district."

Green-Geter, who is owner-manager of J. C. & Son General Contractor, said the No. 1 issue in the district is gang warfare. She said Waters has been slow to respond to the gang problem.

She pointed out that Waters waited until a gang shooting outside the district to call for more police involvement. "We have had deaths here," Green-Geter said.

Waters called for "high visibility" by police after a 27-year-old Long Beach woman was killed in Westwood during a shoot-out involving rival gang members.

Waters said her statements on the Westwood shooting "were timely and made good sense," because she wanted police to respond to gang-related shootings in South-Central Los Angeles as quickly as they responded in Westwood.

The challenger also accused Waters and Brown of misusing their positions with the the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. Waters is co-chairwoman of Jackson's California campaign; Brown is national chairman.

Green-Geter said a recent mailer to voters implied that Jackson was supporting Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood) in his race in the nearby 50th Assembly District against challenger Danny Tabor, an Inglewood city councilman.

Waters said she did not send out the mailer but supports Tucker.

Foe 'Grabbing at Straws'

Waters described Green-Geter's allegations as those of "an inexperienced campaigner who is grabbing at straws."

This is Green-Geter's first attempt at state-level office. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education in 1985.

Green-Geter has lived in Lynwood for 15 years. She is married to James C. Green, general contractor for the family business. They have four daughters. Green-Geter has a degree in comparative literature from Cal State Long Beach.

Waters said she supported the recent gang sweeps by the Los Angeles Police Department because "we are facing a crisis."

The recent outbreak of gang violence, which has resulted in 123 deaths since January, is symptomatic of a larger economic problems, including the need for more jobs, she said.

"But no matter what triggers the problems, there is a need to be tough on crime, and I've done that," Waters said.

In addition to supporting the sweeps, she said she has proposed that the Los Angeles City Council budget $600,000 to help organize neighborhood block clubs to deal with the gang crisis. Neighborhoods would set up emergency hot lines and informational centers to work with already established Police Neighborhood Block Watch Programs to fight crime.

Started Job Program

Out of her concern for jobs for her district, Waters said she started a job training program called Project Build two years ago, which operates in the district's five housing projects. The program teaches basic job skills, including how to fill out a job application and the proper clothing for a job interview, to residents of the housing projects.

Waters suffered her biggest political defeat last year when she spent more than $200,000 on her son's unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Assembly. Ed Waters was defeated by Republican Assemblyman Paul E. Zeltner of Lakewood.

Waters has two children, Ed and Karen, from her first marriage. Waters has a degree in sociology from Cal State L.A. She is married to Sidney William, a former professional football player with the Cleveland Browns and a Mercedes-Benz salesman in Hollywood.

The latest campaign financial disclosure statement showed that Waters' campaign chest had grown to $91,416 in mid-March, swamping the $4,000 raised by Green-Geter.

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