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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.

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Question: Why are you running for state Assembly?

Carol Liu: I've watched the school system decline. And the public is suddenly aware that our schools aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. For the past 30 years, I've watched school districts defer maintenance and, all of a sudden, you've got holes in the walls and paint peeling and you say, "What's going on?"

So, for me, it was an opportunity to get to the table, to add a little expertise, to assure that we don't take a Band-Aid approach to reform, that what we do is sustainable over a long period of time.

My oldest child has three kids and her oldest is a gifted student. She pulled them out of a public school in Monterey, which is not a bad district, because she was unhappy with the system and did home schooling for a year.

So I just thought, something's going on that's not healthy if you're pulling out bright kids and they're not getting what they need out of the school system. I want to go back and ensure that everybody has an opportunity to get a good education. I just view this as a challenge and a wonderful opportunity for me to give back to a society that's been very good to me.

Q: How are you different from your opponent?

A: There is nothing we have in common, and it starts with perceptions about life and style and issues. I mean, we just don't see eye-to-eye on anything. She comes at problem solving from a different point of view. I really believe that I am inclusive. I'm a minority in a majority, and I'm used to being that, so I have the ability to work together to solve issues and problems of common concern.

I am not as partisan as Susan [Carpenter McMillan]. I mean, there are things that I really do believe in that perhaps the Democrats have more of a commitment to. But I'm fiscally very conservative, and I believe in spending the public dollar very carefully.

Q: Let's say you have been elected and find yourself in Sacramento. What would be the first thing you'd want to do?

A: I just want to make sure that we stay the course on education reform. I want to make sure that we offer incentives to young people to get into teaching because we have an incredible need. I want to make sure that those who are in teaching now with emergency credentials get certified, that they have an opportunity to finish up their course work, that we give teachers the support they need, especially in the urban areas, revolving around classroom management and classroom discipline, that we also do training sessions.

I know that Gov. Gray Davis has given money to UC Berkeley and UCLA to train managers, principals. They can set a tone, raise the standards, get their team to work more effectively, be supportive of discipline. I think that they can make a marked difference.

Q: Do you favor Proposition 39, which would reduce the number of votes required to pass a school bond measure from two-thirds to 55%?

A: I am in support of that proposition because I think this is a time of dire need. I really feel that the people in this state have to make a concerted commitment to reinvest in our schools. We are at a point where if school districts cannot raise the money to repair or build schools, I don't know what will happen.

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