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POLITICAL NOTES : A Score 'in the 90s' Puts Dills in the Green With Conservation Group

October 13, 1994|TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IMPROVED SCORE: During the primary, the California League of Conservation Voters characterized state Sen. Ralph C. Dills(D-El Segundo) as an environmental fraud.

Now, the group is endorsing him over his Republican opponent, David Barrett Cohen.

Dills "has shown this year that he became a very good vote on the environment," said Doug Linney, political director for the group. "He's been very straightforward and sincere with us. We're going to believe it."

The group based much of its opposition to Dills during the primary on his 1993 record: He voted for legislation that the group supported only 39% of the time, Linney said.

This year, he scored "in the 90s," Linney said. Among other things, Dills backed a ban on offshore oil drilling in state tidelands.

"We want people to improve their scores and he certainly has shown he has improved his," he said.

Dills has said that he's been going green because he's in a new district with more eco-conscious constituents. His old district was carved up in reapportionment.

But Cohen says the group's about-face "proves they are a partisan organization."

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ON THE AIR: At 84, Dills' political career predates TV, but he is the first candidate in his race to take command of the airwaves.

His campaign debuted a nostalgia-themed commercial on South Bay cable systems Monday, in which he trumpets his endorsements from police, firefighters, teachers and nursing groups, as old-time piano music plays in the background.

The ad, which cost $5,000 to produce, will be seen up to 10 times a night on Paragon Cable in Torrance, the heart of Dills' district. The campaign chose to invest in the commercials--which cost as little as $11 per airing--rather than on new billboards.

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DOLLARS FOR DILLS: At a debate two weeks ago, Dills predicted that state Republicans would invest as much as $500,000 in challenger Cohen's campaign.

It hasn't happened yet. Cohen had a war chest of $53,085 to Dills' $77,834 as of Sept. 30, according to campaign finance documents. Since July, Dills has spent $84,776 to Cohen's $26,271.

"We're not expecting $500,000," Cohen said. "(Dills) just wanted to take the spotlight off his own fund raising and special interest contributions."

Dills has defended his campaign fund raising. While almost all of it in the latest reports comes from political action committees and corporations, he said that the money represents a wide range of interests, including the beer and wine industry, waste haulers, teachers and labor unions.

In the race for the 54th Assembly District, Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Steven Kuykendall has $32,439 in cash on hand, ahead of Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), who had $26,224. But she has outspent him: $59,711 since July. Kuykendall has spent $44,722.

Assemblywoman Debra Bowen's (D-Marina del Rey) funding was far ahead of challenger Julian Sirull in the 53th Assembly District. She has $79,546 on hand to Sirull's $15,946. She has spent $53,960 to Sirull's $4,988.

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TAX AND SPEND: Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks has pressed Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills) for a one-on-one debate, but she was recently left to spar with a surrogate.

Harman's spokesman Roy Behr stood in for the congresswoman Saturday at a forum sponsored by United We Stand America, the group organized by Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign, at the Torrance Airport on Saturday. Harman had been in session in Washington until late the night before. Brooks, however, said Harman refuses to debate her one-on-one.

Even without Harman, the clashes were forceful. Brooks chided Harman for voting for President Clinton's economic plan, which raised taxes; Behr said Brooks supported taxes while on the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council, including levies for landscaping and lighting and another on rounds of golf.

And he charged that she also supported the statewide snack tax, placed on cookies, chips, candy bars and bottled water. He was referring to a 1992 vote in which Brooks and the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council opposed a move by state lawmakers to repeal the snack tax. Voters repealed the tax in 1992.

The snack tax "would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars for California taxpayers," Behr said.

At the debate, Brooks denied that she backed the snack tax. But her campaign said she simply opposed the erosion of the city's revenue base. "This tax was already on the books," said campaign manager John Perkins.

She campaigned for City Council in 1991 saying that she would not support a tax unless it went to a vote of the people. She characterized the landscape and lighting fees as assessments that are "absolutely accountable" to the people. The golf tax, she said, will be imposed on a private course "that has not been built yet."

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EVENTS: Assemblywoman Karnette and challenger Kuykendall will square off Tuesday before the San Pedro Coordinating Council. The two are candidates in the 54th Assembly District, which covers the Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Pedro and Long Beach. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. at Peck Park Auditorium, San Pedro. Call (310) 832-5289.

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