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OUR SCANDALOUS PAST : In Officials We Trust : Assemblywoman Wright, a survivor of corruption charges, is 74th in integrity survey.

September 06, 1990|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Measuring an elected official's rectitude is no easy thing, and no one in Ventura County has formally tried it with city, county or federal officials. In March, however, the California Journal published a state Legislature ratings table, drawing on assessments by legislative staffers and Sacramento reporters.

In the "integrity" category, Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) was rated highest of 40 state senators; Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita) was rated eighth.

In the Assembly, Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) was ranked eighth among 80; Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), 34th. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), perhaps the county's most prominent survivor of corruption charges, was ranked 74th.

Wright was first elected to the state Assembly in 1980. Two years later, the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined her $5,000 for improprieties in that campaign--soliciting a $5,000 contribution from a land developer in the form of a loan to her husband so she would not have to report it; accepting cash contributions totaling $2,600, and failing to report $19,855 in income.

She discounted the violations as bookkeeping errors and won elections that kept her in office throughout the decade.

This year, with Wright up for reelection, her opponents thought they had another issue: Wright's efforts to help her daughter evade penalties for 27 traffic tickets in seven years, including 24 for speeding.

The case prompted an investigation by Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury, who inquired, among other things, about suggestions that Wright had sought help from Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) in the case, and that Brown may have personally called Municipal Judge Herbert Curtis III to seek a break for Wright's daughter.

Wright denied any improprieties, as did Brown, and Bradbury concluded that Wright had committed no prosecutable offenses. In June's primary election, Wright had 59% of the vote in a victory over challenger Hunt Braly. Wright "ran a much more positive campaign," Wright campaign consultant Carlos Rodriguez said in the afterglow of victory, and "was able to refresh the people of the district of her achievements over the past 10 years."

She's a heavy favorite in November's general election.

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