To his critics, Sen. Robert Beverly epitomizes all that is wrong with the political system today.
He's a career politician with a reputation as a Capitol insider, and is running a well-financed campaign fueled by contributions from political action committees and corporations.
Now a pack of challengers, sensing there is growing anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, is going after this Republican senator in the 27th District with the zeal of bloodhounds hot on the trail. And a longtime legislator is facing similar anti-incumbent attacks in the 25th District, another South Bay-area Senate race on the ballot in Tuesday's state primary elections.
In the 27th District, three Republicans are trying to topple Beverly, a consummate legislator and political powerhouse.
Beverly served 16 years in the Assembly before advancing to the state Senate in 1976. Beverly has won race after race with the ease of a man on a Sunday stroll. He has a respected moderate record, the backing of many Republican leaders, the support of labor and even the admiration of some Democrats. He has won the endorsement of nearly every local elected official in the district as well as support from several unions and the Republican leadership in Sacramento. Beverly also started the campaign with a $400,000 war chest.
Glenn Posey, a 40-year-old aerospace technical writer, Don J. Bullock, a 36-year-old consultant and John Ward, a longtime Long Beach businessman, are trying to unseat Beverly, with Ward leading the pack.
The 57-year-old owner of Ward's Furniture complains that Beverly is so much of an insider that he has lost touch with his district. The 27th District stretches from Rancho Palos Verdes and San Pedro, east along the coast and includes most of Long Beach, Lakewood and Downey. Most of the predominantly Anglo, working-class district is new to Beverly, who has represented much of the South Bay for the past 25 years.
"I was really scared about how the people in Ranchos Palos Verdes would receive me because they don't know me," Ward said. "But they have welcomed me with open arms, and you know why? It's because they haven't seen Bob Beverly for 25 years. It's terrible to say but he basically lives in Sacramento or in Manhattan Beach and has not truly been their representative."
Beverly describes Ward's criticism as "absurd."
"My surveys show we are doing quite well in the peninsula," the 66-year-old senator said. "I have been endorsed by every elected official on the peninsula. I don't know who he is talking to. But with a district of 700,000, I can hardly stand on the corner and shake hands with everybody."
Ward is particularly critical of Beverly's contributions from political action committees and corporations. Beverly is vice chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and sits on the Governmental Organization Committee, the Banking, Commerce and International Trade Committee and the Select Committee on Maritime Industry. His position has drawn thousands of dollars from political action committees. But Beverly defended his ties, saying that "all PACs are not evil. Anybody who contributes to your campaign does so because they feel you will support their point of view or have been voting that way all along.
"We can't just stand there with a tin cup and have enough money to run a campaign."
Ward is determined to prove Beverly wrong. Though he is not pounding the pavement with a tin cup, Ward has scrimped and scraped on a campaign he estimates will cost him $25,000. Starting with his nine children and the family Christmas list, Ward has built an impressive corps of volunteer envelope-stuffers, precinct-walkers and sign-bearers. He points out Beverly's expensive signs and proudly describes the butcher-paper signs he has made for about $2 apiece.
"Sen. Beverly represents what people are now saying about incumbents, how the system corrupts in the sense that you become dependent on political action money," Ward said. "He has $400,000 given to him by people who want his vote, and that's wrong because it does tend to influence."
For all his criticism of the system, Ward has had relatively little to say about Beverly's record. His main complaint has been directed at Beverly's support of several tax increases, which Ward said totaled $1,021 per family. Beverly was one of only five Republicans who voted for the tax increases.
"I admit I did vote for those taxes," Beverly said. "It was part of a package passed when the state faced a $14-billion deficit. . . . I thought it was the only responsible thing I could do under the circumstances. You know, Ward has talked about money for education. Well, if we had not raised taxes we would have had to cut education by $2.8 billion."