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Nolan Sets Tone for Campaign : Primary: The assemblyman, who is under the cloud of a corruption investigation, lambastes Democratic front- runner Jeanette Mann.

May 31, 1990|DOUG SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The last days of the 41st Assembly District primary campaign turned into a likely prelude to next fall's runoff as six-term Republican Pat Nolan, facing his gravest political crisis, launched an attack on the Democratic front-runner, Jeanette Mann.

Though unopposed in the primary, Nolan, who remains a target of a federal investigation into corruption in the Legislature, sent mailers and planned to walk precincts with party allies at his side Saturday and during Tuesday's election.

Nolan also recently set the tone for the rough campaign that is to come by attacking Mann, the likely Democratic nominee, for her opposition to the death penalty.

Although declining to declare her primary victory a sure thing, Mann said she planned to focus in the general election on abortion rights and the ethical cloud over Nolan to win the crossover vote she would need to carry the Republican stronghold, which includes Glendale, Eagle Rock, Altadena and a large part of Pasadena.

Mann, a trustee of Pasadena City College and director of affirmative action at Cal State Northridge, has gained the endorsement of virtually every Democratic organization and elected official in the district, other high-profile Democrats such as gubernatorial candidate John Van de Kamp and major labor organizations. She has raised approximately $27,000, one-fourth of the goal she set to carry the campaign through November.

Her Democratic rival, USC geography professor Rod McKenzie, has virtually conceded the election, saying that he has been unable to reach the party's voters with his message that he is a centrist Democrat, and is thus far more likely to unseat Nolan than the more liberal Mann.

A fourth candidate, David Velasquez, is running unopposed for the nomination as the Peace and Freedom party candidate.

McKenzie, 52, said he was unable to raise enough money for a mailer and that voters were not moved by his humorous outlook.

"The electorate doesn't really have much of a sense of humor, which I worry about," McKenzie said. "A lot of sociologists and psychologists have come to see that as a problem."

McKenzie predicted trouble ahead for Mann in trying to win over the conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans whose votes are crucial to victory in a district that has 14,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

McKenzie believes Mann has moved herself into too liberal a posture by seeking endorsements from liberal Democrats such as Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson) and Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), as well as political groups such as the Mexican American Political Assn.

"Yes, I'm liberal compared to Pat Nolan," Mann said. Yet she considers herself "much more middle-of-the-road than he is" on many issues.

Mann said she will concentrate on making sure Democrats vote on Election Day and on winning support from Republicans who have lost faith in Nolan's integrity or are dissatisfied with his anti-abortion stance.

Mann said she has yet to form a strategy for the assault on Nolan, but said it would probably include targeted mailings to Republican and independent women, single heads of households and the elderly.

The 39-year-old Nolan is most likely to be attacked as a result of the continuing threat of indictment in connection with a corruption investigation which surfaced when FBI agents raided six Capitol offices, including Nolan's, in August, 1988.

The first lawmaker to be charged in the probe, state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), resigned after his conviction in February on extortion, racketeering and money laundering charges. A second target in the probe, former state Sen. Paul Carpenter, who is now a member of the State Board of Equalization, has been charged on four counts of racketeering, corruption and conspiracy. His trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.

More indictments are expected but federal prosecutors will not say when.

Last November, a former top Nolan aide, Karin Watson, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to extorting $12,500 for Republican lawmakers in exchange for help in passing a bill to benefit a bogus shrimp company set up by the FBI. Watson is expected to provide testimony against others.

"I say when the investigation is concluded, I think I'll be completely exonerated," he has said.

But the inquiry, coupled with Republican setbacks in the 1988 elections, led to Nolan's losing his position as GOP Assembly leader.

Mann said she has encountered many Republicans who "won't vote for Nolan because of the cloud that falls over his name."

"Whether or not Assemblyman Nolan is ultimately charged and convicted of any felony, it is clear that his judgment is highly suspect," Mann wrote in an editorial printed in a Pasadena newspaper in March.

Nolan began a counterattack against Mann early in the primary season, using comments she made on the death penalty to a Democratic club the same month.

Nolan quoted Mann as saying that she stood outside a prison during an execution and wept as the lights dimmed.

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