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MUD, WORDS FLY IN PRIMARY RACE FOR ASSEMBLY BATTLE: TWO DEMS SOURCE OF NASTINESS IN 40TH DISTRICT CONTEST.

Byline: Jerry Berrios

Staff Writer

The race for the state Assembly's 40th District has been testy for weeks. Now, it's downright ugly.

As the June 3 primary approaches, negative mailers, money-laundering charges and accusations of backroom deals are only part of the race's charm.

Seven candidates -- four Democrats, two Republicans and a Libertarian -- are vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys.

Democrats Bob Blumenfield, Laurette Healey, Dan McCrory and Stuart Waldman are looking to face a Republican opponent in November in this traditionally Democratic district that includes Winnetka, Reseda and Woodland Hills.

Blumenfield, 40, and Waldman, 39, are leading the insult charge, with Waldman accusing Blumenfield of laundering money to his campaign through an independent expenditure committee -- a charge Blumenfield dismisses as "nonsense."

Even Waldman's wife, Nicole Kuklok-Waldman, has gotten involved, filing two complaints against Blumenfield with the Fair Political Practices Commission last week.

"State Assembly and state Senate seats are coveted, especially for those who see them as springboards for other things in life," said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

"That's why they get competitive. That's why they get nasty."

Waldman was Levine's chief of staff until last year, when the assemblyman fired him and later withdrew his endorsement of Waldman to succeed him. Levine instead threw his support behind Blumenfield, Rep. Howard Berman's district director.

Levine's decision has drawn criticism, with some saying it was a political move designed to please the influential Berman -- who later endorsed Levine in his bid for the state Senate. Levine has said his decision wasn't political. Levine's father, Larry Levine, is a political consultant advising Blumenfield's campaign.

Waldman's accusation of wrongdoing in Blumenfield's campaign stems from donations to an independent expenditure committee, Valley Democrats for Change. The donations include $120,000 from Michael Blumenfield, Blumenfield's father, and $200,000 from Berman for Congress.

State law allows unlimited donations to an independent expenditure, but there must be no coordination between the committee and the campaign. The maximum donation allowed to a legislative candidate's campaign is $3,600.

Blumenfield countered that a group supporting Waldman, Californians for Civil Justice Reform, is a mix of special interests, including oil and tobacco companies.

Healey bristles at all the mudslinging and political maneuvering and uses it as a chance to cast herself as "a sincere and honest legislator."

"I don't see myself as a politician," said Healey, 53. "I see myself as a public servant."

She wants to bring high-tech manufacturing jobs to the San Fernando Valley. A former deputy state controller, she said upgrades need to be made to the state's Medi-Cal payment-processing reimbursement system to find inefficiencies that could eventually reduce future budget shortfalls.

Blumenfield supports two-year budgeting instead of the current one-year cycle. To fix the budget deficit, he said he would study a potential sales-tax increase.

He wants to lower the voting margin needed to pass municipal bonds in the hopes of encouraging cities to build and improve roads, bridges, sewers and other infrastructure.

Waldman wants to bring back an oversight committee that would analyze state programs, and wants those programs to have a built-in review to evaluate how viable they are.

He also supports a one-time tax amnesty in which delinquent taxpayers could pay their taxes without any penalties or interest, saying it could bring in $8.5 billion to the state.

Dan McCrory, a 53-year-old freelance writer, AT&T technician and chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Writers Union, rounds out the group of Democrats. He wants all California residents to have health insurance.

All the Democrats agree that vocational training needs to be improved and expanded to give students more career options, and the vehicle license fee that could bring an estimated $6 billion to the state's coffers should be reinstated.

Although Republicans have not traditionally fared well in 40th District elections, candidates Armineh Chelebian, 46, and Ken Sherman, 41, say this could be the time for change.

Chelebian supports charter schools and suggests that the Los Angeles Unified School District be divided into eight smaller school districts, with the union maintaining control over salaries and benefits in those eight districts.

For Sherman, tackling illegal immigration is one short-term solution to help stem the state budget crisis.

Pamela J. Brown, an economics professor at Pierce College, is running as a Libertarian candidate.

jerry.berrios(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 23, 2008
Words:742
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