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ELECTIONS / 37TH ASSEMBLY SEAT : Longtime Rivals Find Plenty to Disagree On


Assemblyman Nao Takasugi, a retired grocery store owner, ran for the Legislature two years ago because he wanted to bring a more businesslike attitude to Sacramento.

Since his election, the Oxnard Republican said, he has voted to reform workers' compensation laws, give tax credits to manufacturing businesses and get the state budget passed on schedule for the first time in seven years.

Takasugi said he wants to return to the Assembly for another term to continue his work to boost the state's economy and to make California more attractive to business.

"We need to roll out the red carpet for businesses and cut out the red tape," said Takasugi, whose 37th Assembly District stretches from Oxnard to Thousand Oaks and Moorpark.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 9, 1994 Ventura West Edition Metro Part B Page 8 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong district--Biographical information published Saturday about Republican Assemblyman Nao Takasugi and Democratic challenger Dorothy Maron incorrectly reported the district they are seeking to represent. They are running for the 37th Assembly District.

But Dorothy Maron, Takasugi's Democratic opponent in the November election, paints a different picture of his effectiveness as a 72-year-old freshman legislator.

Not one to mince words, Maron described Takasugi as an "elitist" politician, more concerned about the interests of big business, particularly those who contribute to his campaign, than about the people he represents.

"He's wrong for this district," said Maron, 65, a former Oxnard councilwoman whose candidacy has resumed a decade-long grudge match with Takasugi. "He votes against the people."

As an example, she cites his vote against a 2-cent sales tax on cigarette companies to help fund breast cancer research.

"That's a vote against women," Maron said, noting that Takasugi has received campaign contributions from tobacco giant Philip Morris U.S.A.

Takasugi defended his vote against the tax, saying he believed that breast cancer research should be funded by "a more permanent source of income." He also said the proposed tax was unfair because such tobacco companies as Philip Morris not only sell cigarettes, but are involved in other businesses as well. Such a tax, he said, would hurt those businesses at a time when the state is trying to boost the economy.

"I'm not just for big business," said Takasugi, a former grocery store owner. "I've been a small-business operator myself for 35 years."

As for his Democratic opponent, Takasugi dismissed Maron's criticisms as nothing more than the rabble-rousing of a desperate politician who has lost two elections in the last four years.

"She's clutching at straws," said Takasugi, who soundly defeated Maron in 1990 when she challenged him for his then job as mayor of Oxnard.

On other issues, Maron criticized Takasugi for voting against a bill signed into law recently by Gov. Pete Wilson. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria), bans offshore oil drilling along California's 1,100-mile coastline, a ban that for the first time includes unprotected portions of Ventura County.

"I can't believe he would vote against this," said Maron, noting that Takasugi has also received large contributions from oil companies. "It's our coastline. If we had a spill, can you imagine what a mess it would be?"

Takasugi said he voted against the bill because he believed it would hurt the local economy, of which the oil industry is a large part.

"I think a ban is bad for business," Takasugi said. "Ventura County has been hit hard by the recession. This would be another hit to the local oil industry. That's a very important part of our county economy."

Republican leaders said that Takasugi has served his district well and that they don't consider Maron a serious threat. Besides, they point out, voter registration in the district favors Republicans.

"We're pretty confident this is a safe seat," said Bob Larkin, chairman of Ventura County's Republican Central Committee.

Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez, a Democrat who has endorsed Maron, said in order to win Maron would have to receive a large number of crossover votes.

"Whether she is able to do that will determine whether she is successful or not," he said.

In the Assembly race, Takasugi and Maron quickly fell back into their longtime grudge match, trading charges of racism left over from their battles at City Hall.

"I'm sure folks out there will tell you I'm nutty to be in this race, and maybe I am," said Maron, who has lent her cash-starved campaign $6,000. "But when things are not right, you have to try and make them right."

Ironically, the two candidates were not always enemies. Indeed, it was Takasugi who encouraged Maron to first run for the Oxnard City Council in 1980.

"I thought she would make a good councilwoman," he said.

Over the years, however, their relationship soured and the two often found themselves at odds with one another, until finally Maron announced that she would challenge Takasugi for mayor in 1990.

It was in the mayor's race, Maron said, that Takasugi's campaign made an issue of the fact that she was Jewish.

"They had people call up and ask voters, 'How would you feel about having a Jew for mayor,' " Maron said. "About a half dozen people called to tell me" that they had received such calls.

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