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Term Limits Leave Field Wide Open


It's open political season on the Westside.

Last week's surprise decision by Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Brentwood) not to seek reelection ensures there will be three wide-open Westside state legislative races this year. Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles), a political buddy of Friedman's, is also stepping down. And so, too, is Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles), who has decided to run for secretary of state.

The explanation for this unusual exodus: term limits.

"It changed the face of California politics," said political consultant Parke Skelton, who has been hired by Abbe Land, a West Hollywood councilwoman interested in running for Margolin's seat.

Margolin, like Moore, is expected to run for statewide office, in his case insurance commissioner. Friedman is hanging up the political gloves to run for election to the Los Angeles Superior Court bench. Because of term limits, all three legislators faced retirement in 1996.

The other thing the trio of state legislators share is their allegiance to the powerful Democratic Westside political organization headed by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Howard Berman (D-Panorama City).

Skelton said this year's elections will demonstrate whether the Berman-Waxman machine still packs a wallop.

"It's the heart of what's left of the Berman-Waxman operation," Skelton said. "It's really a battle to determine whether the operation is still a force on the Westside. The days when they could handpick a successor are, I think, over."

All three districts favor Democrats, so the action will be in the June primary.

In Friedman's 41st Assembly District, which stretches from Santa Monica to Agoura Hills, Democrats have a 49% to 36.6% registration edge over Republicans.

Margolin's 42nd Assembly District to the east of Santa Monica is even better for Democrats, with a 59% to 29% spread between the two major parties.

Moore's 47th Assembly District, south of Margolin's, has, because of court-ordered reapportionment, an even wider margin of 75% of registered voters in the Democratic column versus 14% for Republicans. Though it's early in the season, hopefuls are lining up for all three seats.

Even before Friedman's announcement, attorney William Rothbard, a friend who is a member of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy board, was calling around seeking endorsements.

Others said to be eyeing the seat are attorney Sheila Kuehl and former Santa Monica mayors Dennis Zane and Christine Reed. Reed is a moderate Republican who lost to Friedman in 1990.

The word on Margolin's retirement has been out for some time, and there are a slew of contenders lining up to replace him. Land is one of several West Hollywood politicos who are interested. Her fellow council member Paul Koretz, attorney John Duran and Los Angeles Community College board member Wally Knox are among them. Another well-known contender is Los Angeles school board member Mark Slavkin.

Moore's departure has also brought out a long list of would-be legislators, her sister-in-law Dorothy Jackson among them. Others include attorney Jeffrey Gibbs, Valerie Shaw, who used to work for Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, and Ed Johnson, who used to work for Rep. Julian Dixon.

These are by no means complete lists. The political season has just begun.

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