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CAMPAIGN 2000

Fran Pavley Defeats DWP Chief

Victory Over Better-Funded Opponent Shows Growing Power of West Valley

March 09, 2000|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AGOURA HILLS — Fran Pavley, a former Agoura Hills mayor and City Council member far from the traditional Westside centers of power in the heavily Democratic 41st Assembly district, rose up and defeated better-funded DWP head David Freeman, capturing 20% of the vote to Freeman's 17%.

She will run against Republican child advocate Jayne Murphy Shapiro this fall in what is an overwhelmingly liberal district.

A combination of local government experience and a 28-year teaching career carried her to victory, Pavley said Wednesday.

Freeman came into the Assembly race with a national profile, having run the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the New York Power Authority. Mayor Richard Riordan appointed him two years ago to head Los Angeles' troubled Department of Water and Power and his performance has drawn praise from most city officials.

Freeman was the early favorite in the race, raising most of his estimated $400,000 from contributors in Northern California and out of state, and distributing a vast array of campaign paraphernalia, including 70,000 58-page biographies.

Pavley raised only $175,000, less than former Santa Monica City Councilman Tony Vasquez and Shapiro, and most of it came from within the 41st District.

"Politically, it's reassuring that someone so massively outspent by several candidates can still win," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Early on, he told Pavley she would need at least $300,000 to run a viable campaign.

"I'm glad I was wrong," he said.

Pavley's victory was a clear signal of the growing political weight of the West Valley, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon and Agoura Hills section of the district.

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While Democratic contenders Freeman, Vasquez, William Wallace and Brenda Gottfried cannibalized each other on the Westside, Pavley was the only candidate from the San Fernando or Conejo valleys.

"She had a strong geographic base," said Parke Skelton, a Democratic consultant who worked on Sheila James Kuehl's campaign. But Pavley also picked up votes in Santa Monica and Malibu, where she is known for her environmental work with the California Coastal Commission, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Committee and the Resource Conservation District.

"Her experience perfectly fit the district's profile," said Yaroslavsky. "There is change of perspective here that is significant and needed. The Santa Monica Mountains and Santa Monica Bay are the two things we obsess about--now we have someone who understands both to the core of her bones."

Pavley helped to incorporate Agoura Hills after residents there objected to relatively unchecked development during the 1970s and '80s. In 1982, she became the city's first mayor and served four terms on the City Council. In 1995, she was appointed to the Coastal Commission where she was viewed as a strong environmental advocate.

Freeman also ran on his environmental record--touting a DWP initiative that invited customers to use alternative forms of energy for a slightly higher cost--but in the end Pavley was endorsed by several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the League for Coastal Protection.

If elected in the fall, Pavley said she would be a protector of open space along the coastline and the mountains in the 41st District. She said she would also concentrate on education issues.

Throughout her political career Pavley has continued to teach history and government at Chaparral Middle School in Agoura Hills, an experience that she says gives her unique insight into the problems afflicting California's schools. Pavley said she would fight to expand early childhood education programs and to gain more local control for school districts.

"The timing is right for a teacher to run," she said. "Education was the No. 1 issue throughout the 41st district."

Most political observers agree that Pavley is the candidate to beat in November. Shapiro was already at a disadvantage in a district that has advanced the political careers of liberal heavyweights Tom Hayden and Kuehl.

Now Shapiro will face a candidate with a wealth of local government experience and friends in both political camps.

"Quality-of-life issues transcend political parties," Pavley said.

"That has to be Jayne Shapiro's worst nightmare," said Allan Hoffenblum, editor of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan political newsletter. "Pavley is the strongest Democratic candidate and running against another woman will take away an advantage she was counting on over Freeman."

Freeman, a native Tennessean with a drawl and a penchant for cowboy hats, congratulated Pavley and offered a concession speech Tuesday night: "I like Fran and she likes me, she sent me back to DWP."

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