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44th Assembly District

Candidates Seeking to Succeed Scott Marked by Contrast in Style, Personality as Well as Politics

November 05, 2000|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is opinion page editor for the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County editions of The Times

If they matched up political opponents based on differences in style and personality, the race between Susan Carpenter McMillan and Carol Liu would be a textbook example.

Carpenter McMillan, a Republican, and Liu, a Democrat, are meeting in the race to represent the 44th Assembly District, replacing Democrat Jack Scott, who is running for the state Senate. The district encompasses Pasadena, Altadena, La Canada-Flintridge, Sunland-Tujunga and parts of Glendale.

Carpenter McMillan is a walking sound bite. A former TV political commentator and spokeswoman for Paula Jones during her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, she doesn't shy away from the spotlight.

She is unabashedly adorning of George W. Bush, blasts Democrats for a lengthy list of political misdeeds while at the same time criticizing her own Republican Party for its treatment of female candidates.

She is concentrating on precinct walking, where she touts her honesty and openness.

Liu has been most formidable in print. Her colorful brochures and mailers tout her experience as a former teacher, a City Council member and mayor of La Canada-Flintridge, a person who can balance budgets and bring bipartisan cooperation on issues. She spends most of her time attending small coffees in private homes and campaigning door-to-door.

Liu, who has contributed more than $600,000 to her campaign, has amassed more than five times as much as Carpenter McMillan.

The Times, as part of its series of interviews with select political candidates, recently talked to Carpenter McMillan and Liu about their campaigns.

* * *

Question: Why are you running for office?

Susan Carpenter McMillan: I'm running because the Republican Party is in a great deal of trouble here in California. The Democrats own the Assembly, the Senate and the governor's seat. And we can blame the media and the Democratic Party, but after that, we have to stop and look inward. And we have certainly not been minority friendly. Most importantly, we have not been female friendly. In the Republican Party, women are looked at as useful for licking stamps and answering phones. They don't really welcome us as candidates.

Q: What would you bring to this district as a legislator that the residents aren't getting now?

A: Let's talk about education. I think the word "chutzpah" has been given a whole new meaning by the Democratic Party. They all stand up and are campaigning on how terrible our educational system is, and yet they're the ones who have given us this horrible system.

You know, it's a little bit like a robber who breaks into your home, steals your stereo, your radio and your television and then comes the next day and says, "Isn't this just an awful thing what's happened? Can I sell you a security system?" There is no way that the Democrats should be allowed to try to fix the system that they have so destroyed.

Q: What concerns do people have as you talk to them while campaigning?

A: Education. And honesty. In the beginning, my consultants had all these messages that they wanted me to say. And I watched Carol Liu as she turns the page every time they ask her about a subject and she reads what her consultant has written down. And I did that in the beginning. Then I went to my consultant and said, "You know, this just doesn't feel honest. This just doesn't feel good. Why can't I answer the questions from just my heart?"

Q: And he said what?

A: Well, he kind of chuckled and smiled and said, "Well, you know, politicians answer the way the polls tell you to." And I said, "I can't do that." And so as I've gone door-to-door, I would just start answering from my heart. And people would say, "This is so refreshing!"

Q: If you're elected, what are you going to do about education reform?

A: The first thing that I want to do is try to implement a law that mandates 90% of our educational budget goes directly into the classroom. If I can get our money back into the local school districts, then each school is going to decide how it uses the money. We'll then be able to give teachers a pay raise. We'll be able to air condition those rooms. [Los Angeles schools] Supt. Roy Romer is so symbolic of how the Democrats think. He comes into Los Angeles, takes over a system that is in shambles and one of the first things that he does is give the bureaucrats a pay raise so they're now making $140,000 a year. And yet we have schools without books and teachers who are only making $32,000. The Democrats can't be trusted.

The second thing that I want to do is end social promotion. Instead of waiting until a child is in junior high or high school to recognize that he is illiterate, we need to say that a child cannot go from third to fourth grade without passing a reading test.

Q: Speaking of education, there is a proposition on the ballot that would provide school vouchers to students. Do you support vouchers?

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