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Power In Motion 

Hayden move would shake up Westside

Wednesday, Jul 7 1999
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Photo by Debra DiPaolo

State Senator Tom Hayden’s unsettled plans for where he will greet the 21st century are unsettling the plans — and the nerves — of would-be legislators across the Westside. The peripatetic Hayden, who moved from Santa Monica to Brentwood in 1996 before launching his challenge to unseat Mayor Richard Riordan the following year, is contemplating another move — out of the 41st Assembly District where he announced he would run to replace termed-out Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, and inland across the 405, to the equally vacant 42nd District.

Hayden, who now represents both districts in the state Senate, is himself forced out of that body by term limits. Kuehl will face off against Wally Knox, current assemblyman in the 42nd, for the position Hayden is leaving.

The senator is now "reviewing the options," said his staff chief, Rocky Rushing.

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Sources close to Hayden make somewhat cryptic allusions about the senator weighing which district would fit better with his future concerns. If these "concerns" include a second run for mayor of L.A., it is possible to discern a relevant — if minor — difference between the districts: While both are composed mainly of L.A. residents, the proportion is higher (about 90 percent) in the 42nd than in the 41st, where non-Angelenos make up a third of the district. There are no sharp demographic distinctions between the districts, both of them substantially Caucasian, Jewish and upper-middle to upper class.

However, the 42nd is notably more
Democratic in registration than Hayden’s coastal turf, so the victor in the primary can coast through November without much expenditure of time or money. This would be an upside for Hayden should he make the move, but on the other hand he would need to fight his way through the Demo cratic primary.

While other aspirants in the 41st (which stretches from Santa Monica and Malibu north to Woodland Hills) folded their tents after Hayden claimed that district, the field in the Hancock Park–to–Sherman Oaks 42nd is already crowded with contenders. West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz, who finished only slightly behind Knox in the contentious ’94 primary, has been waiting six years for a second shot and has already amassed over $200,000 in contributions.

Also to be taken seriously, though by no means a household name, is Beverly Hills attorney Amanda Susskind, a former senior deputy county counsel who left her law firm July 1 to campaign full time, and has raised more than $100,000. She boasts backing from six state senators, five of
them female. The sixth, notably, is East L.A.’s Richard Polanco, the Senate majority leader, who has now started to dabble in primaries in mainly Anglo districts, much as the Westside’s Waxman-Berman machine used to pick its favorites in black and Latino district primaries in the ’70s and ’80s.

There’s also West Hollywood’s ex-mayor, Steve Martin, who segued without interruption from this spring’s municipal council re-election campaign into promoting his Assembly prospects. Unfortunately for Martin, his most significant endorser so far was none other than Senator Hayden.

Though she lacks experience in government, some observers warn not to dismiss Jill Barad, a political consultant for two decades who has a geographical base as the only candidate from the district’s Valley side. Barad has garnered some support from the National Women’s Political Caucus, and says she’ll run whether Hayden moves or not.

If Hayden’s projected move closes doors to some wannabe legislators, it’s a window opening farther west for others. Tom Soto, a gay Latino environmentalist, says he was given Sheila Kuehl’s blessing as her successor last year, and — after taking seven months to weigh the pros and cons — decided to jump in. Shortly thereafter, Hayden announced his "move down" from the Senate, and Kuehl apologetically told Soto she’d have to be in Hayden’s corner. He dropped out, said Soto, because of Hayden’s effective record as a legislator, his formidable war chest and name identification, and because "I’m a friend of Tom’s," but is ready to drop back in should friend Tom make some room. A board member of the League of Conservation Voters and ex-president of the Coalition for Clean Air, Soto is an environmental consultant who developed the "Green Power" program for the Department of Water and Power. While a board member of L.A.’s Gay and Lesbian Center for four years, he helped develop its youth drop-in center.

Also waiting impatiently for Hayden’s decision is attorney Edward Tabash, a Malibu resident who was runner-up to Kuehl in her first primary election in 1994 and believes he has "residual good will and recognition" from that campaign. Ready for another round, he had just opened a campaign account and made himself a loan but suspended activity when Hayden announced his designs on the seat. A member of the board of the California Abortion Rights Action League for 17 years, Tabash styles himself "the most public pro-choice male activist" in Southern California. He also chairs the national legal commission for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "There’s a need for people like me if George Bush gets elected and reshapes the Supreme Court," said Tabash. "Then the battle for individual rights and civil liberties reverts to the state legislatures."

Former Agoura Hills Mayor Fran Pavley, an alternate member of the state Coastal Commission, had also sought Kuehl’s support before Hayden began to waver; should she emerge as the sole woman and sole Valley resident in the race, she also could be a formidable candidate.

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