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Decision '92 : VOTING IN THE VALLEY / AN ELECTION GUIDE : ASSEMBLY / 40th DISTRICT : Friedman Favored on New Political Turf

October 25, 1992|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

By most accounts, the race for the 40th Assembly District seat is Barbara Friedman's to lose.

Anointed by a powerful coalition of Democratic politicians, the freshman lawmaker who lost her political home in last year's reapportionment stands the best chance of winning the seat vacated by retiring Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana), according to analysts and candidates.

But four challengers--three from minor parties--are seeking to upset the conventional wisdom, hoping that the nation's dissatisfaction with incumbents in general will work to their advantage Nov. 3 and steal votes from Friedman.

Although the main contest in the race is between Friedman, a Democrat, and Republican Horace Heidt, minor party candidates such as the Green Party's Glenn Bailey said they hope tough economic times will turn frustrated voters away from the major parties.

It is unlikely.

The 40th Assembly District--bordered roughly by Roscoe and Topanga Canyon boulevards and the Ventura and Hollywood freeways--is a traditional Democratic stronghold. About 54% of the registered voters are Democrats, compared to about 35% for the GOP and about 11% for minor parties. Voters in the district elected Bane to office 12 times before he announced his retirement earlier this year.

In the June primary election, Friedman dominated a field of four Democratic candidates, garnering 71% of the vote. Heidt received 42% of the Republican votes in a three-way race.

In many ways, the race between Friedman and Heidt is a face-off between traditional party platforms.

Friedman supports the unrestricted right to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Heidt opposes it. Heidt supports easing air quality regulations to reduce financial burdens on businesses. Friedman opposes it.

Friedman supports gun control. Heidt opposes it. Friedman believed Anita Hill. Heidt had no comment.

On issues dealing with making California businesses competitive and turning around the current economic malaise, the two have similar views. As in most races this year, getting the state's economy back on track has emerged as the primary issue. Both, for instance, agree that the state's workers' compensation system needs overhauling. Both support measures to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the state.

Both also support the death penalty and oppose additional oil drilling off the California coast.

Friedman, who was elected last year to a 15-month term in the 46th Assembly District, is part of the powerful political machine headed by Reps. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles). After she lost her Griffith Park-Los Feliz district to reapportionment, Friedman announced she would run in the 41st Assembly District against Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale).

But Bane's surprise retirement announcement changed those plans and Friedman switched to the 40th Assembly District, where it was thought her chances would be better. That has raised accusations from other candidates that Friedman is a political carpetbagger, a wheel in the Democratic machine.

"I'm sure she is a bright, qualified candidate, but the fact is, the Valley is her third choice," said Heidt, a Sherman Oaks resident who manages a family-owned apartment complex for entertainers and artists. "I live here. I care about the Valley."

Friedman defended herself, saying she grew up in the Valley and graduated from Van Nuys High School. "I am running because I believe in public service," she said.

It appears to make little difference to community leaders, many of whom are only vaguely aware of the candidates. "Who's running again?" responded Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., when asked to discuss what issues residents want candidates to address.

And in this "Year of the Woman," political analysts are divided over the impact of gender on the race. "Being a woman is worth three or four points in this election year," Democratic consultant Parke Skelton said.

But Republican consultant Paul Clarke said Friedman's gender may backfire because voters who cast ballots for female U. S. Senate candidates Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein may be less inclined to vote for women further down the ticket.

"This Year of the Woman thing cuts both ways," Clarke said. "Do voters stop after voting for two women or do they not stop at all? It's imponderable."

Also running are Peace and Freedom candidate Jean K. Glasser and Libertarian John Vernon.

40th DISTRICT

Where: The district includes portions of the communities of Encino, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Reseda, Sherman Oaks, Tarzana, Van Nuys and Winnetka. To find out if you live in the district, call the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office at (213) 721-1100.

Candidates:

Barbara Friedman, Democrat, assemblywoman

Horace H. Heidt, Republican, businessman

Jean K. Glasser, Peace and Freedom, teacher

Glenn Bailey, Green Party, community issues specialist

John Vernon, Libertarian, businessman

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