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CAMPAIGN 2000

Primary Results Show Valley Voters Still Lean to Right

At the same time, term limits rule opens up opportunities for minorities and women.

March 09, 2000|PATRICK MCGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Fernando Valley voters again showed their fiscally conservative stripes Tuesday, but were less supportive of Republican front-runner George W. Bush and more supportive of Democratic Vice President Al Gore than voters statewide.

Valley voters also were slightly less willing than those statewide to support the proposition to prohibit gay marriages, an analysis of complete, unofficial returns showed.

And, with doors opened by term limits, several relatively new faces won their party nominations for state legislative seats in the Valley, with ethnic minorities, women and wealthy candidates among the big winners. At the same time, traditional powerful interests suffered major defeats.

A bellwether measure was Proposition 26, which would have lowered the vote required to approve school bonds from two-thirds to a simple majority.

Statewide, 51.2% of voters opposed the measure, while in the Valley, birthplace of the anti-tax Proposition 13, the latest measure was opposed by 58.8% of voters. That was no surprise to some, who said the Valley has traditionally been more right of center than California as a whole.

"The Valley is a little more active participating in elections than other parts of the city, and the Valley is a place where voters tend to be more moderate and conservative in views," said Richard Lichtenstein, a political consultant.

Larry Berg said more was at work in the Valley's strong support for Gore.

Berg, former head of USC's Unruh Institute of Politics, noted that Gore has spent a lot of time in the Valley in recent years.

A breakdown of votes by Los Angeles City Council districts, released by the county Registrar of Voters, indicates Gore had much more support in the Valley than Bush.

*

Statewide, 34.5% of voters in the open primary supported Gore, 28.3% supported Bush and 23.3 backed Republican John McCain.

In the four council districts that make up most of the Valley portion of Los Angeles, Gore received 40% of the vote, Bush, 22.9%, and McCain 20.2%.

Perhaps the most controversial state ballot measure was Proposition 22, which restricted the state's recognition of marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

That measure was supported by 58.9% of Valley residents, just a few percentage points below the statewide vote.

There were other trends:

* Strong victories, including some upsets, by women including La Canada Flintridge Mayor Carol Liu, Agoura Hills founder Fran Pavley and Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), in each case defeating high-profile male opponents.

"I think it's definitely our turn," said Helen Grieco, state president of the National Organization for Women, who credited term limits for giving women more opportunities to move into state legislative seats.

* The normally strong hand of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican, failed to help Democratic candidates including S. David Freeman, Amanda Susskind and Wally Knox. Riordan did support city commissioner Keith Stuart Richman, who won his Republican primary in the more conservative 38th Assembly District.

"The mayor had a rough night," said political consultant Rick Taylor.

* The Democratic primary victory of Liu in the 44th Assembly District excited Asian American leaders because it may have set the stage for the first Chinese American from Southern California to be elected to the state Legislature. Paul Zee won the Republican primary in the 21st Senate District, but faces longer odds to capture that predominantly Democratic district in November.

* The growing Armenian American vote in the West Valley's 43rd District was out in force, but split between two candidates with mixed results. Republican Craig Henry Missakian of Glendale won his primary, but Democrat Paul Krekorian fell short against the labor backed candidacy of Dario Frommer, a former appointments secretary of Gov. Gray Davis.

* Money from wealthy candidates continued to be a major factor in races. Richman and Liu each put about $400,000 of their own money into their contests, helping to eclipse the spending of their opponents.

"We're really getting to see some new faces," said Berg, the former Unruh Institute chief.

Term limits have forced the old guard from state offices, giving relative newcomers a chance, he said.

One beneficiary has been women, said Grieco, of NOW.

"We started with the year of the woman in 1992 and we are seeing that it is more than a one-year trend," Grieco said.

Kuehl, who beat fellow Assembly member Wally Knox in the 23rd Senate District primary, said voters weigh many factors, "although they may prefer women when they see candidates who are very well matched up."

Pavley, a founder of Agoura Hills who serves on the state Coastal Commission, surprised many people by besting utility manager S. David Freeman of Santa Monica in the Democratic primary of the 41st Assembly District.

*

One of Freeman's supporters groused about how liberal the district had become.

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