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21st State Senate District

Assemblyman, Councilman Are Waging a Million-Dollar Battle to Succeed Adam Schiff

October 29, 2000|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is opinion page editor for the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County editions of The Times

The battle between Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale) and state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) for the 27th District congressional seat has drawn most of the attention surrounding this fall's local elections, as befitting a race where millions of dollars are being spent.

But smack dab in the same neighborhood, another million-dollar campaign is being waged between Assemblyman Jack Scott (D-Altadena) and South Pasadena Councilman Paul Zee, a Republican, for Schiff's state Senate seat.

Scott has raised more than $1 million and Zee close to that in the race to represent the 21st District, which includes parts of Glendale, Burbank, Sunland-Tujunga, La Canada-Flintridge, Altadena, San Marino and South Pasadena.

Elected to the Assembly four years ago, Scott is the former president of Pasadena City College. As an assemblyman, he is most closely identified with gun control issues. A son, Adam, was killed in a gun accident in 1993.

Scott also chaired the Assembly Insurance Committee, which conducted hearings into the practices of scandal-plagued Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, who subsequently resigned.

Zee is a classic American immigrant success story. Born in China, he was raised in Hong Kong and educated in the United States. He moved permanently to the United States in the 1970s, and now owns and operates a company that manufactures industrial safety equipment.

Zee has served on the South Pasadena City Council since 1992 and was mayor of that city.

The Times, as part of its series of interviews with candidates from select races, recently talked with Scott and Zee about their views on issues and their campaigns.

Jack Scott

Question: What do you offer the voters of your district?

Jack Scott: I went to the Legislature with the idea in mind that I could make a difference in terms of policy, in terms of leadership.

I've had 47 bills signed into law. They've dealt with everything from education to health care to gun control to getting tough on crime.

I was the chair of the Assembly committee investigating the [former Insurance Commissioner Chuck] Quackenbush scandal, and we really were able to bind together the Republicans and Democrats. It was evenhanded, it was impartial, it was bipartisan, and we did the work of the people. We protected the consumer whereas the Department of Insurance, which was supposed to protect the consumer, didn't.

Whether it's initiating legislation or giving leadership in terms of committees or whatever, I think I can do the job. That's more or less my platform. It simply says, "Here's somebody who can do the job for us in the next four years and deserves to be elected to the [state] Senate."


Q: As you walk the precincts, what do people tell you are their greatest concerns?

A: Education remains a very central issue to a lot of people. They want to see the public schools improve. I think they are favorably inclined toward public education, but they're concerned about the deterioration of quality of the schools.

Health care is a big issue. People are deeply concerned about the numbers of the uninsured, about how they've been treated by their HMOs. I don't sense that crime and violence is quite as high on the public agenda as it was maybe 5 to 10 years ago, although that's still a topic.


Q: Is that because the district is relatively safe?

A: No, I think it's the reduction in the violent crime rate because we have stepped up police activity. Still, people are concerned. You read about this young Latino youth who was killed, allegedly by Armenian gang members . . . the possibility of ethnic tensions are there.


Q: What about those tensions? What can be done about them?

A: Gov. [Gray] Davis just signed a hate-crime bill I wrote that says $2 million will be set aside so that high school students can go into places like the Museum of Tolerance to learn something about the whole issue. Hatred is taught. And we can teach tolerance. We can teach respect.

I don't think we can wave a magic wand and get rid of all the ethnic tensions in the world. But leadership on the part of both of those communities can help. As someone who wants to be a voice of rationality and peace, I want to be active in that. I want to be involved in teaching and mediation.


Q: A lot of candidates and sitting legislators are talking about term limits and whether they should be modified. Your views?

A: Given the time in my life that I entered politics, it doesn't affect me. My own sense is that it might be wiser for there to be terms that are a little longer. I remember when this was on the ballot. There was an option of the Assembly at 12 [years] and the Senate at 12, and I voted for that option. I thought it made more sense. It seems like it still represents the will of the people.


Q: Back to education, what do you think about the school voucher initiative?

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