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House Candidates Clash on Use of Clinton Photo in Campaign Literature : Debate: Harman says flyer showing her with President is a distortion, but Brooks defends it. Other opponents face off.

October 06, 1994|TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yes, they argued the issues, but in their first public matchup, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills) and Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks exchanged some of their fiercest words over a photograph.

The picture--of Harman and President Clinton during a White House ceremony--has been used in Brooks' campaign literature with the caption: "Jane Harman beams with approval while Bill Clinton signs the largest tax increase in history."

Although Harman, who represents Marina del Rey, Venice and Westchester, voted for the Clinton budget, she says the caption is a distortion. "I wasn't there," she said.

The August, 1993, photo was taken at another White House event where Clinton issued an executive order on deficit reduction.

"I was with Bill Clinton . . . when he signed the Deficit Reduction Trust Fund. And yet here we are today, with the Brooks campaign handing out the same misleading captions."

The photo flap was the latest confrontation between the two candidates vying for the 36th Congressional District seat, which is split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans in voter registration. Sunday's event also included Libertarian candidate Jack Tyler and American Independent Joseph Fields.

Brooks' campaign has refused to stop distributing the flyer, saying that it underscores Harman's support of Clinton's overall economic program, even as Harman tries to characterize herself as independent from the White House.

Brooks tried to align her opponent with Washington's Democratic leadership. She accused Harman of voting for defense budgets that have created a "meltdown" in national security.

Harman, however, said that she has fought for full funding of military aircraft projects in the district, as well as defense conversion programs. And she pointed to her support of a line-item veto, a balanced-budget amendment and further efforts to reduce the deficit--all measures Clinton has opposed.

Both candidates took tough stands on the immigration issue. Brooks supports Proposition 187, which would deny state services to undocumented immigrants. Harman called for adding 6,000 Border Patrol agents, stepping up workplace enforcement and for limiting benefits. She said after the debate that she has not decided whether to support the state initiative.

Fields went even further: He called on the military to patrol the borders.

Tyler, however, argued that the real issue should be government regulations that stem job growth.

"If we get rid of red tape, there won't be any problem with (immigrants) taking jobs at all," he said.

The audience of more than 500 at the James Armstrong Theater in Torrance also heard candidates in the 28th State Senate District and the 53rd Assembly District.

In their debate, state Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-El Segundo), who represents Playa del Rey, and challenger David Barrett Cohen sparred over campaign finance reform. Cohen questioned Dills' acceptance of contributions from special interest groups, including $20,000 from the liquor industry.

Dills, 84, angrily denied that he was influenced by the campaign contributions, pointing out that his support comes from a broad range of groups, including teachers and senior citizens.

Dills and Cohen were joined by Libertarian Neal Arvid Donner and Peace and Freedom candidate Cindy Henderson.

Henderson called for limits to what the candidates may accept and spend in a campaign.

Donner said the "prize is worth the cost" to lobbyists. His solution: a part-time Legislature, which would not have as much influence.

"The legislators would not have time to do as much damage," he said.

Much of the 53rd Assembly District matchup focused on the state bureaucracy. Incumbent Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) highlighted her attempts to cut Sacramento bureaucracy, such as her success in speeding up environmental permits so Smith's Food and Drug could build a shopping center at a former aerospace site in Redondo Beach. Her Republican challenger, Julian Sirull, said that the state government has to weigh the "cost and benefits" of environmental laws so it does not damage the business climate.

But Peace and Freedom candidate Kevin Bishop argued that too much money has been spent to keep companies in the state. "Give them a profit and they will take the money and run," he said. Libertarian William Gaillard said that up to three-fourths of the state government could be eliminated to get the state out of its fiscal troubles.

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