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Richman Running in 2 Races at Once

Assembly incumbent is challenged by Paula Calderon and Karl Lembke for 38th District seat while also vying for Valley mayoral job.

November 01, 2002|Massie Ritsch | Times Staff Writer

Keith Richman could win two political offices Tuesday, but he can keep only one -- either his state Assembly seat or the mayoral job in a newly independent San Fernando Valley.

It might be an easy choice; if voters shoot down Valley secession, the Republican physician could be a mayor without a city.

"I'm looking forward to whatever the voters decide, but we'll be very pleased and honored to represent my community either in Sacramento as a member of the Legislature or as mayor of the San Fernando Valley," Richman said.

Richman has already served two years in the Assembly. His district, the 38th, straddles Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Redrawn in 2001, it includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, portions of the northwest and northeast San Fernando Valley, and the northwest edge of Glendale.

The district was drawn to be a secure seat for Republicans. The party cannot claim a clear majority, but about 45% of the district's 229,000 registered voters belong to the GOP. About 36% are Democrats.

Challenging Richman are Democrat Paula Calderon, a health care manager from Saugus, and water quality inspector Karl Lembke, a Libertarian who lives in Tujunga.

Richman describes himself as a "moderate, mainstream" Republican, selected by the California Journal and his colleagues in July as the Assembly's "rookie of the year" for his cooperative nature and ambitious legislation.

The Legislature's only physician, Richman has worked to extend health coverage to the uninsured, and he co-authored a constitutional amendment to devote a set percentage of state funds to improving roads, water systems and other components of California's infrastructure.

He got that measure on the 2004 ballot in exchange for his vote to end the state's 60-day budget deadlock in September.

This week, Richman held a news conference at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar to call for a special session of the Legislature to deal with the health care crisis in Los Angeles County and statewide.

Calderon happens to work at Olive View in admissions. Los Angeles County supervisors are considering turning the full-service hospital into an outpatient center. That, she said, would be disastrous.

If elected, Calderon said, she would like to get more children enrolled in California's health insurance program, find ways to make prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and increase teacher salaries.

"We're losing a lot of the good teachers because the money is not there," she said. "Who is going to work around the clock for very little pay when there are other opportunities?"

When Calderon's home was in the 36th Assembly District, she challenged Assemblyman George Runner (R-Lancaster) in 1998 and 2000 -- and lost badly. Against Richman, she said, she won't spend more than a few thousand dollars on her campaign.

Richman reports raising about $268,000 for his reelection, much of it from medical and insurance interests.

"I know it's an uphill battle," Calderon said, "and it's just a matter of putting my name out and giving people a choice."

"Uphill battle" is the same characterization Richman offered for Valley secession, which trailed in a recent Times poll. If the Valley does become a city and he is elected mayor -- the same poll showed him leading -- Richman says he will quit the Assembly.

Calderon concedes that Richman has done "a good job" since being elected in 2000. But she questions why he wants to be the Valley's mayor more than he wants to return to Sacramento.

"I don't know why, when he has a good job right now, he's looking for something that might not happen," she said. "I know he wants to give people a voice, but so do I."

The Libertarian candidate, Lembke, said politicians need to remember that "the citizens are really the employers, government's the employees."

Lembke works for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and campaigns when he can find the time.

"I do have some notions of what I would like to fix in the event that I would get elected," he said, "but I'm not betting the farm on getting there."

Lembke is active in a Los Angeles society of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts.

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