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KATZ DROPS VOTE CHALLENGE; POLITICIAN TO SUE POLANCO, ALARCON AIDE OVER MAILER.

Byline: Rick Orlov Daily News Staff Writer

Ten weeks after the June 2 primary, former Assemblyman Richard Katz called an end Thursday to his legal battle against Councilman Richard Alarcon, withdrawing a lawsuit challenging Alarcon's 32-vote victory and conceding the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 20.

However, Katz announced he is filing a defamation of character lawsuit against state Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, and Alarcon consultant Richard Ross for a mailing sent out in the final days of the campaign.

``The despicable campaign tactics that decided this race cannot go unchallenged,'' Katz said at a news conference in the offices of his attorney, Tony Glassman.

``As our electoral process degrades, too many people are just willing to move on so the political campaign tactics get worse. I've decided enough is enough.''

Alarcon, who announced Thursday that he is dropping a countersuit against Katz as part of a negotiated agreement, said he was glad that Katz dropped his suit and conceded the election.

``I thought the time to have conceded was back in June,'' Alarcon said. ``But this hasn't stopped me from campaigning since then.''

Katz, who said the loss could be the end of his political career, has been particularly upset over a last-minute mailing developed by Ross and paid for by Polanco implying he was involved in a 1988 incident in Orange County where poll guards attempted to intimidate Latino voters.

``That is just so far from the truth,'' Katz said. ``I was the one who discovered this and won $400,000 in compensation. They knew it was not the truth.

``The lies that Polanco and Ross used to motivate voters were so far over the line that they should not be allowed to get away with it,'' Katz said. ``I know that politics is a rough and tumble, full-contact endeavor. I also strongly believe in the sanctity of the First Amendment. But with the First Amendment comes responsibility. Responsibility that was sorely lacking in the Polanco-Ross attack.''

suit seeks unspecified damages.

Glassman acknowledged the case could prove difficult because Katz is a public figure. However, he said he believes that a case could be made based on Polanco and Ross knowing the information was wrong.

Polanco spokesman Bill Mabie said the senator rejects Katz's assertions.

``The bottom line is no way did the senator defame Richard Katz,'' Mabie said. ``Katz has tried to blame everybody for his loss. Now is the time to move on.''

Ross said he didn't believe the mailing was defamatory.

``I think everything we did was factually correct and within the realm of protected speech,'' Ross said. ``He thinks it infers something, but it doesn't say it. He's a public figure.

``(Katz) has gone through a lot and it's hard to lose an election,'' Ross said. ``It hurts more in an election like this.''

Katz's lawsuit against Alarcon had asked that the election results be overturned because of voting irregularities and the mailer. In addition, he had paid for a recount of some 40,000 of the 90,000 ballots cast in the election. The recount results showed a widening of Alarcon's lead until Katz called it off.

Alarcon said he was somewhat surprised by the defamation lawsuit filed against Polanco and Ross.

``The election is over,'' Alarcon said. ``We should be moving on. I find this somewhat ironic in that Richie Ross has worked for Katz in the past. For 16 years, Katz played in state Democratic politics and sometimes things aren't as nice as we would like them to be.''

Even with the bitterness that developed between the two since the election, Katz indicated he would be open to endorsing Alarcon in the general election against Republican Ollie McCaulley and Libertarian Linda Starr.

``I'm not ruling it out,'' Katz said. ``It's open to discussion.''

Katz said he has not decided what he will do next, other than continue in his $94,000-a-year post on the California Medical Assistance Commission.

``I am not thinking of politics,'' Katz said. ``I am definitely not a candidate for the City Council if Alarcon does win.

``Besides, after this election, I'm not sure I could win with all the damage that this mailing did to me.''

Katz served in the state Assembly for 16 years from his north San Fernando Valley district and rose to the point of Democratic leader during his last term.

In 1996, he was given the credit for taking back the lower house from Republican control with an aggressive campaign across the state for Democratic candidates.

Forced from office by term limits in late 1996, Katz waited for the chance to run for the state Senate seat that is being vacated this year by Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, also because of term limits.

The only other political loss Katz suffered was in 1993 when he came in fourth in a bid for Los Angeles mayor.

McCaulley, the GOP candidate, said he was surprised that Katz would concede the election.

``It seemed like he was intent on fighting this all the way through because he felt it was his one chance at the Senate,'' McCaulley said. ``What this does mean is we now have a clear indication of who we will be running against and I'm hopeful we can have some debates.''

McCaulley also said he is concerned that Alarcon will try to use racial or ethnic factors in the campaign against him.

``I'm sure he will try to tie me, as a Republican, to all the anti-Latino Republicans.''

Also on Thursday, McCaulley led a group of marchers carrying American flags on a seven-block stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard in Van Nuys. The event, which his campaign staff had announced several weeks ago, was described as a unity march and a call for an end to racial and ethnic divisions in political campaigning.

DIVISIVE MAILER

Dear Friends:

Richard Katz attacked the first Latino to become Speaker of the Assembly. Now Katz is attacking Richard Alarcon.

Richard Alarcon is a good mayen. Richard Alarcon is supported by Mayor Riordan and Assemblyman Tony Cardenas.

Together, Richard Katz and Pete Wilson...

-- Pushed 167,000 young people out of college.

-- Cut aid to disabled, blind and elderly.

One of Pete Wilson's Republican leaders was guilty in Federal Court of hiring guards to scare immigrants away from voting.

Attached is your Voting Rights Identification Card. Bring it with you to VOTE ON TUESDAY.

Don't let Wilson and Katz win. Don't be afraid to vote.

Senator Richard Polanco

Chairman

California Latino Caucus

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos, box

PHOTO (1) ALARCON

(2) KATZ

Box: Divisive mailer (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 14, 1998
Words:1098
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