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Feinstein Joins Riordan to Hail New Crime Bill : Politics: Senator visits L.A. and helps showcase the city's potential $240-million share from the measure. Huffington camp is irked by mayor's cooperation with rival.

August 30, 1994|DAVE LESHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Campaigning on the theme that she is a senator who can deliver, Dianne Feinstein took a victory lap through Los Angeles on Monday as she joined Mayor Richard Riordan in showcasing the city's potential $240-million share of a sweeping anti-crime bill that Congress passed Thursday.

Both Feinstein and Riordan fought to pass the $30-billion legislation in Washington when it was threatened by GOP critics of its anti-crime programs and the ban on assault weapons. Monday, the two lawmakers focused on the benefits for Los Angeles by appearing at a Reseda police station where outdated equipment is now scheduled to be replaced.

Feinstein said Los Angeles could add as many as 1,500 police officers to the city's 7,600-member force with the more than $100 million in the bill for law enforcement salaries. She said the city should also receive another $66 million for new prisons and boot camps as well as almost $70 million for drug treatment and anti-crime programs.

"Being a former mayor and being from California, where violence is the No. 1 concern, this is the most important legislation--bar none--to pass the Congress since I've been there," Feinstein said. "Fighting crime by putting more cops on the street and preventing our youngsters from living a life of crime is our most important responsibility."

Riordan praised Feinstein as one who "led the way on the crime bill" and cast the recent vote in Congress as a major step for the city's law enforcement effort.

"The crime bill sent a message to the people of the United States that they have hope," he said. "If Congress had turned it down, people would have lost hope about making their cities safe. I think the crime bill is a very, very positive, giant effort toward helping the cities turn crime around and making them safer."

At a time when crime is the hottest political issue in California, it was a given that the new legislation would be a fresh campaign issue in Feinstein's race against Republican Mike Huffington. Feinstein's campaign commercials cast her as a fighter in Washington, particularly on the issues of crime, immigration and jobs.

Huffington, a congressman from Santa Barbara, also supported the crime bill in the House, but he hesitated along the way, voting against a procedural rule. Huffington said the earlier version of the bill contained too much "pork" in its anti-crime programs.

Feinstein has spent relatively little time on the campaign trail so far and Monday's event was particularly important because she has made the bill a cornerstone of her effort to show California voters that she can deliver.

The crime bill--which includes the assault weapons ban that she authored--was the major element of that strategy. And it has been even more important since some of her other major initiatives--a package of immigration reforms and the desert protection bill--are still pending in Congress.

Having her work praised by the Republican mayor of Los Angeles was also a helpful boost in her attempt to demonstrate bipartisan support for her work. In the last few weeks, Feinstein's campaign has highlighted major Republican supporters in agriculture and business, hoping to show that she is not part of the gridlock in Washington and to portray her opponent as weak even within his own party.

Huffington's campaign criticized the mayor for participating in the event with Feinstein Monday. It also disputed Feinstein's claim that she deserves credit for helping pass the crime bill or that her work has benefited the state.

"The one thing she can argue (that she) pushed in the crime bill is the assault weapon ban, but Mike Huffington voted for it," said Ken Khachigian, an adviser for Huffington, who was vacationing Monday in Hawaii. "The fact is that she has not changed the course of California for the better. She has no claim on delivering anything."

Khachigian added that "Mayor Riordan's Republican credentials are disappointing."

A spokeswoman for Riordan defended the mayor's appearance Monday saying that "he was setting aside politics and partisanship to do what's good for the city of Los Angeles."

Political analyst William Schneider said the crime bill could also be important for Feinstein because women candidates are traditionally considered weak on the issue. In her previous race for governor and Senate, Schneider said Feinstein sought to counter that image by highlighting her support for the death penalty.

"All women candidates have problems with the crime issue and that's because of the fact of gender stereotyping," he said. "Women have to do whatever they can to neutralize the crime issue. . . . She has an opening with the crime bill and the assault weapons ban."

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