Crowded race in 42nd District
Health care, schools top issues in Assembly race
BY HARRISON SHEPPARD, Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – It’s a crowded scramble in the Assembly’s 42nd District race, as five Democrats, two Republicans and a Libertarian are seeking to replace outgoing Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, in the June primary.
But the district has traditionally been considered one of the most liberal in the region, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a 54-21 margin.
And among the five Democrats, two have emerged as likely front-runners based on fundraising and endorsements: former Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Feuer and West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land.
Feuer served as a councilman representing much of the same territory from 1995 to 2001, then left the council after an unsuccessful bid for city attorney. Since then he has been working in private law practice as a litigator and teaching law and public affairs at University of California, Los Angeles.
But he is eager to jump back into public service.
“For me there’s nothing more important than making a big impact,” Feuer said. “Life is very short and the opportunity to serve is extremely meaningful to me. I just can’t sit on the sidelines.”
If elected, he would first work on improving the education system, with efforts to reduce class size, increase the number of teachers and improve training for teachers and principals, including establishing principal academies around the state. He would also like to reduce tuition at community colleges.
He would like to write legislation to provide health insurance for uninsured children, and supports the state-run single-payer health care system proposed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles.
He would help transportation in the Los Angeles region by seeking funding to provide synchronization for the city’s traffic light system.
One way to help pay for some of the improvements would be through a split roll property tax, where businesses are charged higher property tax rates. He would also like the state to increase its tax collection efforts and reduce tax loopholes.
Abbe Land is a councilwoman and former mayor of West Hollywood, and co-director of the Los Angeles Free Clinic, which provides free medical and dental care and social services at three sites around the city.
Health care is her biggest interest and if elected she would work to support Kuehl’s single-payer bill and other efforts to improve the state’s health care system.
“Health care is an issue I’ve been involved with for the last eight years,” Land said. “I want to go to Sacramento because so many of the critical decisions affecting health care are made there and I want to take the expertise I have to make a difference.”
While she doesn’t support efforts to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District or submit it to mayoral control, she does believe the board needs more members, and thinks they should serve full-time to help deal with the size of the district.
On transportation, she would support a bond measure to provide more funding for mass transit. She would also like to continue improvements to the 405-101 freeway interchange, and further synchronize the transit systems around the region.
She supports a split roll tax system, but also thinks the state needs to review the tax incentives it has authorized over the years to see if they are still needed. If not, she says, closing them could represent a chance to save some money.
Cynthia Toussaint knows she’s an underdog in the race, but she doesn’t mind – she’s been an underdog most of her life.
At age 21, she was an aspiring ballerina when a leg injury triggered an intense pain that eventually spread throughout her body. She was finally diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a neurological syndrome characterized by chronic pain.
Now in a wheelchair, Toussaint still struggles with constant pain, though usually not as severe as it once was. She has dedicated herself as an activist for issues of chronic pain and health care. She founded her own nonprofit organization, For Grace, named for the daughter she and her longtime partner John Garrett could never have, to help women struggling with chronic pain.
She decided to run for Assembly after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year vetoed a bill that would have created a state program for RSD awareness and outreach.
“I’m always ready for, and loving, an uphill climb,” Toussaint said. “When I go to meet the voters, they like me because I’m not a quote-unquote politician. I come from a place of great passion.”
If elected, trying to get that bill passed would be one of her top priorities. She would also work on other issues related to chronic pain and health care. She would like to reform the health care system and supports Kuehl’s single-payer plan.
On other issues, she would like to abolish the death penalty, supports abortion rights and medical marijuana and favors the right of physician-assisted suicide.
Mark Gonzaga, who makes his living in real estate, believes he has a good chance even though he hasn’t raised much funding.
“Being able to make a difference is why I’m running in this race,” Gonzaga said.
Gonzaga is an author from West Hollywood who makes his living buying and selling real estate, but also teaches and produces a television show on environmental issues for local cable.
Gonzaga would like to see the suspension of executions in California. He would like to expand animal rights, with additional criminal penalties for cruelty toward animals. He also supports clean money public financing of campaigns.
He would also like to amend the “three strikes, you’re out” law so that it applies just to violent criminal offenses.
Eric Fine is running primarily to advocate for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, not just for medicinal purposes but recreationally.
He said he started using marijuana recreationally in 2000, but said he now has diabetes and the drug helps him deal with nausea induced by some of his medications.
He has worked with advocacy groups to support legalization of marijuana and also supports legalization of all other recreational drugs, believing people should have the right to decide for themselves and that it would lessen drug-related crime.
“There’s a lot of crime on the streets right now,” Fine said. “People are going to get their drugs of choice whether it’s legal or illegal. Right now it’s dangerous.”
Besides marijuana legalization, he would also like to work on redistricting and legalizing gambling.
Fine makes his living by owning and managing property in Beverly Hills and Palms.
Attorney Steven Sion knows that as a Republican he will have a difficult time, if he wins his party’s nomination, taking on a Democrat in the general election. But he sees himself as a moderate who can show voters they have other options.
“I want to give the voters in my district a clear choice this election,” Sion said. “Historically our district has been dominated by one party. This time I’m going to compete for the seat because I want to show there’s an alternative.”
He believes Democrats that have represented the district have failed to improve the education system and the business climate.
Sion would like to see reforms to the health care system and supports a plan put forward in the Legislature last year that would make health insurance similar to car insurance – with everyone required to have it – and a state purchasing pool for those who can’t easily obtain it.
Sion also supports efforts to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying there is a need for greater local control and accountability, and he would like to see more charter schools.
On transportation, he would like to see the state look at a monorail system, starting with a model program in his district.
Clark Baker is a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer and ex-Marine. He describes himself as a one-time liberal who became a Republican after joining the police force.
“I saw from the inside, the street level, what goes on in L.A. city politics. I never pursued politics before. I never wanted to be a politician, but when I found out who the other candidates were, I thought, More of the same?”
Baker would like to give parents full vouchers to send their children to private school for no cost, and he would like public school parents to have their choice of public schools.
He would also like the state to encourage the federal government to tighten border security, through additional border patrol agents, the building of a wall on the border and employing new technologies.
He would also like to see public services denied to illegal immigrants, along with driver’s licenses and in-state tuition.
He would also like to toughen the prison system by establishing a series of tent encampments for prisoners in the desert to relieve overcrowded jails.
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