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Wives Called Upon to Help Their Husbands on the Hustings : Campaigning: Women are playing key roles as symbols of domestic values in local races. Some say the trend is a reaction against feminism.

October 30, 1994|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Christine Rogan's letter, for example, seeks to deal with accusations by Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, that Rogan is a captive of right-wing Christians who want to use government to advance their agenda of banning abortion and teaching creationism, and that Rogan failed to live up to his self-made image as a tough fiscal conservative when he accepted a $20,000 pay hike for legislators.

"I can't help but laugh when Adam Schiff tries to paint Jim as some sort of greedy politician," Christine Rogan wrote. "Not only did Jim wash dishes to stay off welfare (as a teen-ager growing up in a poor family), but he took a 50% pay cut as a corporate attorney to become a prosecutor trying gang murder cases" before winning a judgeship appointment and then being elected to the Assembly in a May, 1994, special election.

Meanwhile, as family values have circled the campaign--Rogan recently told a debate audience that if Schiff had a family, he'd appreciate why he accepted the pay hike--Schiff has played his own domestic card by introducing his fiancee, Eve Sanderson, to voters in his campaign literature.

While early Schiff literature includes a photo of the pair and identifies them as affianced, later renditions tell voters the actual date of the wedding. It looks like the Schiff campaign is fighting fire with fire, one political analyst speculated.

At a recent debate, Schiff also introduced Sanderson, who had been sitting in the audience (actively booing Rogan at times). "We are, in fact, Adam and Eve," Schiff joked.

Nor has the involvement of the wives been confined to letter-writing.

GOP congressional candidate Sybert has been particularly active in involving his wife in his campaign.

During a campaign year marked by controversy over illegal immigration, Sybert--who supports Proposition 187, the measure to deny benefits to illegals--has insisted that his views are not informed by raw nativism, that he supports quality legal immigration.

Here, he has pointed to Greta (a Brazilian native who is not yet a U. S. citizen) as the ideal immigrant.

"With her work skills and college education, she is exactly the kind of person we should encourage to live here," Sybert told The Times during an interview in July.

On another occasion, during a GOP primary candidate forum in Thousand Oaks, where the talk had turned to immigration, Sybert introduced his wife by saying, according to a California Journal reporter: "That's the kind of immigration policy we need--where we skim off all the pretty women from these countries."

And while Greta Sybert does not have a U. S. passport, she has helped provide her husband with a passport of sorts to the congressional seat he seeks.

Sybert has cited the fact that his wife graduated from Newbury Park High School as a sign of his ties to the 24th District--even though he himself set up housekeeping in the district only a year ago.

Greta Sybert also has been pressed to add a human dimension to her husband and possibly shield him from future political attacks, according to Jeffe, the Claremont political analyst.

In a letter to voters recently, Greta assured readers that her husband--an avowed policy wonk--won't forget them if he beats Beilenson and goes to Washington. Her husband, Greta Sybert also averred, got into politics to make the world a better place for their 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Stephanie, and other children like her.

Greta Sybert also warns voters against the coming attacks on her husband and all but asks voters to take pity on the Sybert family during these hard times.

"The political attacks and distortions about my husband Rich Sybert are hard on me. And they're hard on our daughter Stephanie, too, because children sense when their parents are hurt or upset," Greta Sybert wrote in her two-page letter to voters of Oct. 21.

In the same letter, Greta Sybert also revealed to her readers that "sometimes my feet are so tired that Rich has to practically carry me home" after a day of precinct walking with her husband.

"This looks like an attempt to inoculate the candidate from future attack by trying to build up a bond of sympathy with the voters," Jeffe said. And it's a campaign ploy, she added, that's as old as the hills.

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