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Mirror, Mirror, Let Us See Who Is Purest of the Three? : Politics: The race for state insurance commissioner sets off infighting within consumerist circles.

January 28, 1990|Joe Scott | Joe Scott is a Los Angeles political journalist.

Who's the purest consumer advocate in the land?

That's how Harvey Rosenfield, Voter Revolt chairman, wants to cast the race for the state's first elected insurance commissioner, judging by a memo he wrote. Purity concerns may also be behind Bill Press' decision to stop his commentary on television and radio and begin running full-time for commissioner. Tomorrow is his last day on the air.

Rosenfield's internal memo to Voter Revolt staffers makes the case for state Board of Equalization member Conway Collis to be insurance commissioner. Collis, the memo argues, is the only candidate with a "commitment" to defend Proposition 103, the successful insurance-reform measure authored by Rosenfield. Many Voter Revolt staffers are expected to take leaves of absence to campaign for Collis.

Then the memo moves on to examine the consumer-advocacy credentials of Press and Walter Zelman, executive director of Common Cause and also candidate for insurance commissioner. Rosenfield reminds his readers that neither Press nor Zelman supports the 103 enforcement initiative that Voter Revolt is trying to qualify for the November ballot.

Press gets a backslap for backing Proposition 103, though he came late to the cause. He's faulted for lacking experience on insurance issues. He's chastised for reportedly trying to parlay his support for Proposition 100 into trial-lawyer backing for his candidacy. The trial lawyers were the chief proponents of that losing measure. Press' campaign manager, Rick Taylor, calls the charge "hearsay."

Rosenfield's memo is far more critical of Zelman. The Common Cause director is accused of attempting to derail Proposition 103 before eventually backing it. Most galling to Rosenfield is Zelman's claim of responsibility for originally drafting 103--and for calling himself the California equivalent of consumer icon Ralph Nader.

In response, Zelman has said that Rosenfield has "exaggerated" his previous statements.

Will California be the site of the 1992 Republican National Convention? The last time Republicans came West was in 1964, when they nominated Barry Goldwater for President at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego and San Francisco are among the California cities being mailed convention specifications this week. Scouts for the Republican National Committee have already visited the cities.

Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater has the final say in where the convention will be held. But helping the state's chances is an emerging electoral fact. California's electoral votes are no longer available for Republican taking. George Bush barely carried the state in 1988.

State GOP Chairman Frank Visco favors San Diego because of its mild August climate. But convention scheduling conflicts could hurt the city's chances.

The California Teachers Assn. appears ready to drop its threat to remain neutral or oppose Senate Constitutional Amendment 1. The measure, which will be on the June ballot, would hike the state gas tax and raise the Gann spending limit. The revenue would be used to upgrade the state's transportation system.

California's most powerful teachers' group has criticized the measure because it lacks a firm guarantee that the public schools will continue to get their share of the budget as specified in Proposition 98.

But after closed-door meetings with Mike Frost, Gov. George Deukmejian's chief of staff, and legislative leaders, the CTA's president, Ed Foglia, said that "things are moving in the right direction."

But Foglia still wants some solid guarantees, among them that the ballot argument favoring the constitutional amendment include language that the schools would not lose gains won in Proposition 98.

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