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DECISION 96

Meet the Candidates

November 03, 1996

19th State Senate District

State Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) is making a bid for her final four-year term allowed under term limits. She faces Democrat John Birke in the Nov. 5 election.

John Birke

Age: 32

Occupation: Attorney

Residence: Chatsworth

Party: Democrat

Education: Bachelor's degree in communications, UCLA; law degree from UC Berkeley

Background: A native of Northridge, Birke has been practicing law for seven years, specializing in patents, copyrights and trademarks. As a Democratic activist, he has worked on various political campaigns and volunteered his legal expertise to anti-smoking campaigns and to court challenges of Proposition 187, which cuts off benefits to illegal immigrants. This is his first bid for public office.

Issues: Birke wants to increase school funding for new buildings, after-school programs and other improvements to restore quality in California's schools. He strongly supports affirmative action programs, hiking the minimum wage and making it easier for workers to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits, particularly in high-tech and service industries. He wants to reform HMOs and work toward universal access to medical care.

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Cathie Wright

Age: 67

Occupation: State senator

Residence: Simi Valley

Party: Republican

Education: Two-year degree from Lackawanna Junior Business College in Scranton, Pa.; attended drafting and surveying classes at Scranton University

Background: A Simi Valley resident for 30 years, Wright was elected to the City Council in 1978 and served as mayor in 1979. She was elected to the state Assembly six times, serving from 1980 to 1992, when she was elected to the state Senate. She is one of the Legislature's most conservative members. She wrote a law creating the Ventura Project to aid emotionally disturbed children.

Issues: Wright wants to make California more attractive to business by streamlining the process to get permits and making environmental rules more balanced between protecting public health and making them more practical. She seeks statewide expansion of the Ventura Project, a program to aid emotionally disturbed children and reduce recidivism in the juvenile justice system. She wants to continue to explore innovative ways to implement federal welfare reforms. She supports Proposition 209, the initiative to end affirmative action.

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