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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / 43rd ASSEMBLY DISTRICT

Candidates Offer Contrasts on Abortion, Guns, School Bonds

October 23, 2000|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One is an attorney who went to Glendale's Hoover High School and supports abortion rights, handgun registration and making it easier to pass school bond proposals.

The other, also an attorney, graduated from cross-town rival Glendale High School and wants to restrict abortions and opposes handgun registration and the proposal to lower the two-thirds majority required to pass school bonds.

So there are stark contrasts between Democrat Dario Frommer and Republican Craig Missakian, battling for a seat in the 43rd Assembly District, which stretches from entertainment industry centers in Burbank and Glendale to the trendy streets of Silver Lake and Los Feliz and the working-class neighborhoods of east Hollywood.

But the candidates have faced the challenge of having their differences heard above the noise generated by the nationally watched congressional battle in some of the same territory between Rep. James Rogan and state Sen. Adam Schiff.

Whoever wins Nov. 7 will make district history. Frommer, whose mother is Mexican American and father is Hungarian American, would be the first Latino elected to the seat and Missakian would be the first Armenian American elected.

Armenians make up about 8% of the voters and Latinos account for about 15%. It's a district that has seen tensions rise this year between young Armenian Americans and Latinos; each candidate has reached out to the other's community.

History appears to be on the side of Frommer, the Democrat.

In the former Republican stronghold, which was represented in the 1980s by GOP leader Pat Nolan and the early '90s by Rogan, population shifts have given Democrats an 11% edge in voter registration. Scott Wildman, a Democrat, won the seat four years ago and gave it up this year to run for the state Senate, but lost in the primary.

Both candidates have garnered significant support from their parties, and each expects to break $1 million in spending. Frommer had $105,000 on hand as of Sept. 30, compared with $95,000 for Missakian.

Longtime Republican political consultant Allan Hoffenblum, who publishes a respected guide that gauges legislative races, said Frommer appears to have the advantage.

But Hoffenblum said Missakian still has a chance, especially if he succeeds in rallying the large and active Armenian community.

A poll last week by Missakian's campaign put Frommer 3.5 points ahead, a narrower margin than a month ago and just within the margin of error, but Democratic strategist Darry Sragow said Democratic polling indicates that Frommer has a double-digit lead.

"He is comfortably ahead, but we are not taking it for granted," Sragow said.

Because Frommer and Missakian are relatively unknown to the electorate, they have spent much of their campaigns introducing themselves to voters.

In more than a dozen forums, they have sparred over hot-button issues such as education reform, crime, health care reform, gun control and abortion.

Frommer, 37, has served as a Sacramento lobbyist, a legislative chief of staff to former state Sen. Art Torres, and most recently as appointments secretary for Gov. Gray Davis, who has endorsed him. He teaches a political science class at Glendale Community College.

Missakian, 40, is a former deputy district attorney and business attorney. He ran for the Assembly seat in 1996 but lost the GOP primary.

Missakian lives in Glendale and Frommer lives in the Los Feliz area.

Missakian said his work as a county prosecutor gives him special knowledge to deal effectively with crime, while his work as a business attorney will help him understand how to improve the state's business climate.

He charged that Frommer is a Sacramento insider.

"People have a right not to have their representative beholden to interests in Sacramento, as opposed to the interests of the district," Missakian said. "I am independent."

His Sacramento experience will benefit the district, Frommer said.

"I know how to cut through red tape and get things done in Sacramento," he said. "On education, as someone who has firsthand experience as a teacher, I will go to Sacramento better prepared to make judgments about which reforms will work."

The state can help ensure that teachers are better trained and compensated, and cut red tape that delays new school construction, Frommer said.

He supports a ballot measure that would reduce the margin required for passage of school bonds from two-thirds to 55%. Missakian, who has been endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., opposes the measure, Proposition 39.

Voters have shown a willingness to approve school bonds when necessary and the standard should not be lowered, Missakian said.

His education platform includes the promotion of charter schools to give parents more control of their children's educations.

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