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Dymally regrets using 'racist' label

The assemblyman was attacking a colleague probing his issuance of badges to supporters.

December 20, 2006|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Five days after he called a fellow lawmaker "the most racist legislator I have encountered in over 40 years," Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) expressed remorse.

In a four-paragraph statement to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), Dymally, an African American, said, "I have been around long enough to know that you do not mix your personal feelings with public policy. I deeply regret my statement about Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, and it is my hope that this is now behind us."

Dymally called De La Torre, a Democrat from South Gate, a racist after Nunez asked De La Torre to investigate the practice by Dymally's office of giving official-looking "Assembly commissioner" badges to campaign donors and other supporters. De La Torre heads the Assembly Rules Committee.

Earlier this month one of Dymally's supporters, Pirikana Johnson, 27, of Compton was charged by the Redondo Beach city attorney with impersonating a state official. Johnson allegedly twice flashed at police a badge issued by Dymally's office.

De La Torre told The Times that giving out badges was "ridiculous" and "a crime." De La Torre also said that his "very strong feelings" about the issue would be reflected in a report due to Nunez by Jan. 12.

Dymally, 80, blamed racism for the scrutiny. In response to a question from a Capitol Television News Service reporter, Dymally last week called De La Torre, 39, racist and said Nunez was "unaware that De La Torre has a reputation of racial antagonism towards African Americans."

Nunez spoke to both men separately in recent days about Dymally's comments, spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

In his Tuesday statement, Dymally called his comments "intemperate" and said he supported Nunez's effort to develop a policy on badges.

Dymally, a former congressman and lieutenant governor, heads the nine-member Legislative Black Caucus.

Asked to respond to Dymally's expression of regret, De La Torre said: "I've been asked to perform a investigation and prepare a report, and that's what I'm going to do."

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nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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