Abortion, racism and theft became issues Wednesday in the 40th Assembly District race, a tight, heated contest between two San Fernando Valley Democrats who support reproductive rights for women.
Incensed by a mailer that suggests candidate Lloyd Levine is anti-abortion, a San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women endorsed Levine on Wednesday over opponent Andrei Cherny. The NOW chapter had remained neutral in the race because it considered both Democrats to be allies.
The Cherny flier that questioned Levine's credentials on women's rights is "just absolutely absurd, and it's really dirty politics," said Jan Tucker, spokeswoman for NOW's San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles chapter.
Levine has been rated "100% pro-choice" by the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood, Tucker said at a news conference at Levine's Van Nuys office.
The mailer from Cherny implied that Levine opposed women's reproductive rights because he once worked for an assemblyman who "tried to stop" a bill requiring California health insurers to cover contraception for women.
The legislator, now-state Sen. Edward Vincent (D-Inglewood), said Wednesday he supported the bill on one vote but that he was absent when it came up for another vote.
Cherny's mailer, Vincent said, is "not misconception. It's outright lies."
Vincent said Levine wasn't working for him when the bill came up in 1999--he was working for Assemblyman John Longville (D-Rialto), one of the bill's sponsors.
"Well, [I] don't have a defense for that," Cherny campaign strategist Rick Taylor said Wednesday.
Levine's campaign also accused Cherny's side of scaring Valley voters by alluding to Vincent as being from "South-Central Los Angeles." The label "South-Central" is racist and connotes a crime-ridden area, Levine said.
But Taylor accused Levine of racism.
"'South-Central' is not a derogatory word unless you're a racist," Taylor said.
Taylor also stood behind another flier picturing Levine next to a tattooed gangster with a gun. "Lloyd Levine cares more about criminals than our families," it reads.
The flier was leaked Tuesday night--before it was mailed, Taylor said--which led Cherny's campaign to accuse Levine's side of stealing it from the Van Nuys mailing firm they both use.
Levine is "a thief and he knows it, and he'd better come forward," Taylor said.
Cherny and Levine, both first-time candidates, know Tuesday's Democratic primary will almost certainly determine the 40th District's next assemblyman. Because Democrats outnumber Republicans 49% to 31% in the southwestern Valley district, the Republican in the race, businesswoman Connie Friedman, is a longshot.