By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
PRESIDENT: Ralph Nader (conditionally)
Ralph Nader is the clear choice for progressive voters in November’s presidential contest. At a time when the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee have drifted far from the party’s liberal roots and working-class concerns, Ralph Nader has emerged as a strong voice — the only one in this year’s campaign — for democratizing the new global order, for universal health care, for getting money out of politics. Over the course of the campaign, Nader has become the foremost critic of the financial world’s hostile takeover of civilization, and the foremost proponent of an alternative approach that would restore popular control over the growing sovereignty of the markets. A vote for Nader is a cri de coeur against the cult of laissez faire — and a knock upside the head to a Democratic Party that has grown far too comfortable with Wall Street’s world-view and campaign contributions.
So why a conditional endorsement? Because in some states (although probably not our own) a vote for Nader would help put George W. Bush in the White House. Which brings us to the condition in this year’s endorsement.
Defeating Governor Bush must be the paramount concern of progressive voters this November. Behind W.’s happy face lurk forces that want to turn America in the 21st century into a New Age version of America in the 19th — when individuals provided for their own retirement and medical care, when abortions (and gays and lesbians) belonged in closets, when unions barely existed and health, safety and environmental regulations didn’t exist at all. For all of Al Gore’s shortcomings, the differences between Gore and Bush are gaping. Gore has consistently advocated stronger action to arrest global warming; W. still questions whether global warming actually exists. The steadily growing projections of the budget surplus have only widened the differences between the two: Gore now calls for public investments to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, make preschool universal and enable the middle class to afford college tuition payments, while Bush now calls for a huge tax giveaway to the rich.
So what’s a voter to do? Our recommendation is to vote for Ralph Nader, assuming the late polls show that California (or whatever your state may be) is firmly in Gore’s camp. But if those last polls before election day make it too close to call, hold your nose and vote for Al Gore. From where we sit, flexibility in the cause of progressivism is no vice.
Throughout American history, third-party candidates have raised issues the two major parties wouldn’t otherwise touch. Third-party nominees have set goals that the nation would realize only after several decades; they have also inspired idealists and young people to commit some portion of their lives to political action. Such was the effect of socialists Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, progressives Theodore Roosevelt, Robert LaFollette and Henry Wallace.
And now, Ralph Nader. In the course of Campaign 2000, this critic of corporations and champion of economic democracy has been posing a deeper, more fundamental question: What has happened to the nation, to its commitment to civic life, to its spirit? In effect, he has become the personification of the spirit of Seattle, giving voice to the fierce indignation that underlies that movement. The takeover of government and politics by big money, the trivialization of TV news, global warming — Nader places all of these into a larger context: the shrinking of the public sphere, the reduction of citizens to consumers, producers, investors. He challenges his audiences, particularly on campuses, to become public citizens to help stem this tide. Nader has assumed the inspirational mantle of the best third-party candidates; he is, by the power of words and example, turning many of his listeners into activists. By this measure, his campaign is already a success.
The changes that Nader is calling for are clearly the changes that America needs to make. To counter rising inequality, he advocates a national living wage, rather than a mere minimum wage. He supports changes in the law that would enable workers to organize without fear of retaliation. He stands for universal single-payer health care, for a public commitment to affordable housing, and for reclaiming our democracy through full public financing of campaigns. Crucially, he is the only candidate in the field who does not view globalization through a corporate prism, who sees the race to the bottom that corporate globalization sets off, who documents its wreckage and its casualties.
He is also the only candidate willing to label as folly two failed and costly national priorities that the two main candidates embrace. Nader opposes creating an anti-ballistic-missile system, on the reasonable grounds that it’s unworkable, hugely expensive, not calibrated to stop any real nuclear attack (which is more likely, he says, to be delivered by a terrorist than a missile), likely only to destabilize our relations with the Russians and make any moment on the threshold of war insanely dangerous. He also points out that our drug war is an abysmal failure and calls instead for a national commitment to drug-treatment programs. He stands against the death penalty. And he has ventured into areas that are new for him — calling, for instance, for civilian review boards to oversee America’s police departments.
Can Nader win? Of course not. Can he alter what passes for our public discourse? In some instances, he already has: Al Gore’s newfound populism is partly a response to Nader’s anti-corporate appeal. Can he build a new political party that will change American politics? Probably not: Our nonparliamentary, winner-take-all system is structured to strangle such parties in their cribs. Neither do we think that the concentration of progressive efforts within the Green Party is necessarily a good thing — at least not here in California, where an active and powerful left is battling an active and powerful center within the state Democratic Party.
Nonetheless, Nader is charting a kind of global social democracy which is precisely the course that globalization — if it is to preserve and enhance the lives of people and their democracies, and the planet’s ecosystem — must take. As well, Nader’s candidacy can be a brake on the rightward rush of the Democratic Party nationally. For these two reasons above all, Ralph Nader is our clear choice for president.
Problem is, George W. Bush embraces a frightening agenda that would shift this nation radically rightward — as such pillars of reaction as The Wall Street Journal, The National Review, the Christian Coalition and the National Rifle Association have all enthusiastically noted. A Bush administration would pose a clear and present danger to social insurance, workers’ rights, low-income Americans, the environment, choice, equality. Virtually every achievement from America’s two decades of social reform, the ’30s and the ’60s, will be under attack from a Bush White House. If you think we’re overstating, W.’s own platform and his record as governor bear us out.
Bush’s most far-reaching proposal — going where even Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich dared not go — is to begin to dismantle the notion and reality of the common obligation Americans have toward one another. Social Security, it’s important to understand, is primarily an anti-poverty program for seniors, who, before Social Security’s expansion in the early 1970s, were the poorest age group in the country. It is an unabashedly redistributive program, redirecting some of the money from the highest earners — and therefore highest contributors to the Social Security system — to low-wage workers who were unable to contribute as much. Through Social Security (and only through Social Security for a majority of recipients even today), most of America’s seniors have escaped the trap of poverty — and their children have escaped a crushing economic obligation to provide for them.
Nonetheless, W. is proposing to eliminate the “social” in the security — establishing a program to have 2 percent of American workers’ paychecks go into personal investment accounts. (And the conservative press and think tanks view this 2 percent as the camel’s nose inside the tent — just the start of a sweeping dismantling of the entire system.) The more funds devoted to personal accounts, though, the smaller the guaranteed payout for seniors who were low-wage workers. If the market goes south, as it one day certainly will, Americans run the risk of losing their nest eggs — again, a particular calamity for workers with modest incomes. Finally, W.’s proposal to siphon funds from the system will, if enacted, soon imperil the benefits of retirees, unless he can come up with hundreds of billions of dollars from some as yet unidentified source.
When we turn to Bush’s record as governor, his conservatism is a lot more evident than his compassion. W.’s Texas is a state where poverty is both extensive and unaddressed. The hourly minimum wage for agricultural workers (who are not covered by federal law) in Texas is an astonishing $3.35. As Al Gore has pointed out, and W. declined to dispute, Texas ranks 50th among the states in the percentage of families, and 49th in the percentage of children, with health insurance.
Texas also ranks fourth from last in the percentage of workers who are unionized, and there’s little doubt that the chief political goal of a Bush administration would be to bust America’s unions. Since John Sweeney became AFL-CIO president in 1995, unions have become the most effective operation for Democratic candidates at election time; it is only by virtue of their efforts that the Democrats are close to retaking both houses of Congress. Bush has repeatedly pledged to cripple unions’ political clout. The revival of American labor still has a long way to go, and W. could clearly try to stop it — shackling the nation’s most effective force on behalf of low-wage workers and immigrant rights, the power behind the municipal living-wage movements and all campaigns to preserve social insurance.
Moreover, Bush’s record on worker rights and environmental standards while serving as governor is appalling. He has actually advocated voluntary compliance rather than state enforcement of Texas’ environmental laws.
When it comes to the rights of minorities, Bush has a clear record of opposition to affirmative action. Earlier this year, he told a national police association that his Justice Department would not file the kind of lawsuits against police departments for patterns of rights violations that compelled Los Angeles to enter into a police-reform consent decree with the Feds. (If the negotiators don’t hurry up with the final language, there may be no decree.) He opposes federal civil rights legislation that would extend protections to gays and lesbians. And when it comes to administering the death penalty, the governor, by numerous accounts, spends about as much time reviewing a clemency appeal as it might take to select an entrĂ©e from a slightly-larger-than-average dinner menu: 15 minutes. (And, always, he orders death.) But then, there’s very little about Bush to suggest he is in any sense a serious person.
He is, however, a serious threat to the Supreme Court. With a number of its elderly justices poised to retire, the court is beginning to deliver decisions saying that federal civil rights statutes don’t apply to the states. By a narrow margin, the court still affirms Roe v. Wade. But W. has said that his favorite justice is Antonin Scalia, the court’s most brilliant and forceful opponent of individual and civil rights, and of a woman’s right to choose.
You get the picture.
Which brings us to a cold, hard fact. Although we want Nader — agree with him just about down the line — we can’t have him. And even more than we want Nader, we don’t want Bush, which for some voters, in states where Bush and Gore are running neck-and-neck, means swallowing hard and voting for Gore. On many major issues, there are night-and-day differences between W. and Al Gore. To be sure, Ralph Nader is dead right that both have supported the deregulation of various key industries, at considerable cost to consumers; that as regards military spending, each favors a ridiculous increase; that both avidly backed axing welfare; that each favors the death penalty (though Gore is not the booster that W. is).
Indeed, Gore is intellectually closer to the Democratic Leadership Council and its ongoing campaign to push the party rightward than Bill Clinton ever was. He was a more zealous advocate for ending welfare and for cutting social programs to balance the budget than his boss; he took the lead in the fight for NAFTA. During this year’s campaign, he has stated repeatedly that his first domestic priority would be to pay off the national debt; all his other programs would be subordinated to that. This is government in the shadow of Calvin Coolidge, not Franklin Roosevelt.
And yet, and yet — the differences between Gore and Bush are clear and decisive, and they have grown more so over the course of the campaign. Gore is flatly opposed to the privatization of social insurance. He proposes covering half the cost of seniors’ prescription-drug purchases, and all the cost incurred by low-income seniors. Gore promotes a major expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover all uninsured children and, eventually, their parents. He has worked for a hike in the minimum wage, and he is the foremost advocate in public life for strengthening the right of workers to organize.
The vice president has a long and clear record of support for civil rights and the right to obtain an abortion. He probably knows more about global warming and nuclear proliferation than any American elected official, and has a keener sense of the remedies these problems require. He supports a patients’ bill of rights allowing patients to sue their HMOs; Bush opposes it. He supports registering new handguns; Bush signed legislation allowing virtually any Texan to walk the streets with a concealed weapon.
We would, obviously, prefer a more progressive Al Gore who wasn’t so patently a creature of calculation, who could kindle some fires of idealism. But that’s not who Gore is. He is a brilliant (in an intellectual, not a political sense) centrist, far too comfortable with the rightward drift of the political spectrum, with the increasing sway of the corporate and financial world. That’s why we’re endorsing Ralph Nader.
But Gore is also vastly better on the causes of social provision, workers’ rights, the environment and choice than George W. Bush, whose election would threaten all these causes and more. That’s why, although we strongly endorse Nader, we’re recommending a vote for Gore if the polls just before election day show his lead in California at less than 5 percent (a number we’re alarmingly close to at press time). If you don’t have access to last-minute polls, here’s one rule of thumb: Should the Gore campaign find it necessary to start running television ads here, 1) vote for Gore, and 2) be very afraid.
In key states where the race is closer, though, a vote for Gore is, unfortunately, crucial to keeping Bush out of office. If (and we have a lot of Internet readers) you live in Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Iowa or, most especially, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin, the size of the Nader vote may determine (in the case of the last six states, likely will determine) who carries your state. White middle-class progressives especially have an obligation to think twice about helping to elect a president whose policies will particularly hurt the nonwhite, the working class and the poor.
UNITED STATES SENATOR: Medea Susan Benjamin
If you moved Dianne Feinstein to a more conservative state, she would be about as good a Democratic senator as you could hope for. On a national political continuum, she’s just a smidgen left of center. Her environmental record is excellent, and she deserves credit for the Desert Protection Act, which preserves a vast tract of California’s natural resources. She’s taken an active role in the ongoing fight for a patients’ bill of rights; she’s a solid defender of gay rights and a woman’s right to choose. She was the author and driving force behind the federal ban on assault weapons.
On the other side of the ledger, Feinstein led the charge to make capital punishment a Democratic as well as a Republican cause cĂ©lĂ¨bre; she’s the author of some superheated anti-gang legislation that today seems like a bit of ’90s hysteria; she withdrew her support from Bill Clinton’s universal health-care program, under pressure from business lobbies, at a critical moment; she ran ads in her last Senate campaign (1994) that both reflected and inflamed that year’s anti-immigrant backlash. For years, she’s been a leading promoter of stronger U.S. trade ties to China, laying the groundwork for Congress’s vote this year to grant China permanent normalized trade status.
After just barely surviving a challenge from the mega-rich and mega-unqualified Michael Huffington in 1994, Feinstein isn’t really facing a serious challenge this year. Indeed, her Republican opponent, Silicon Valley Congressman Tom Campbell, is waging something close to a third-party campaign, as he’s critically short of money and talks chiefly about issues that are outside the political mainstream. Campbell is one of two California GOP congressmen (the other is Glendale’s James Rogan) whose support for President Clinton’s impeachment greatly diminished their prospects for re-election this year, and who considered running against Feinstein. Losing statewide beats losing your House district hands down, but only Campbell took the plunge.
Campbell is considered very moderate by Republican standards. Actually, his bounding from right to left is largely a function of his libertarian beliefs. A constitutional-law professor at Stanford, with a Ph.D. from the economics department of the University of Chicago (Milton Friedman’s old stomping grounds), Campbell is no great fan of unions, or higher minimum wages, or public and universal social insurance. On matters economic, he’s clearly to Feinstein’s right: She’s normally in the 70 percentiles, and he’s in the 20s, on the unions’ indices of pro-labor voting. Similarly, he’s far less supportive than Feinstein of environmental regulation.
But Campbell is also anti-government on cultural questions in which his GOP colleagues want the state to get involved. He’s strongly pro-choice and anti–Internet censorship. Remarkably, his campaign centers on his opposition to the nation’s utterly failed and wrong-headed war on drugs, and his support for an alternative national program of drug treatment. In both its message and its lack of funding, his campaign resembles no statewide Republican campaign in recent memory.
Happily, there’s an alternative to both Feinstein and Campbell on November’s ballot, a candidate we enthusiastically recommend. We do not mean to damn by faint praise when we say that Medea Benjamin is the best candidate the California Green Party has yet offered the voters. Both a visionary and a very effective hands-on organizer, Benjamin is the founding director of the human-rights group Global Exchange, an author and activist who’s played a central role in exposing the new global sweatshops. An economist and nutritionist, she worked for the U.N., the World Health Organization and the Swedish International Development Agency before she founded Global Exchange, the organization that turned the spotlight on Nike’s use of abused, poverty-wage workers in Asia, and that helped expose the near-slavery conditions under which Saipan’s garment workers were forced to labor. She was a key figure in starting up the student anti-sweatshop campaign that’s swept America’s campuses, and she was one of the major leaders of the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle last November. Benjamin is running on essentially the same platform as Ralph Nader this year; if there’s a difference between the two, it’s chiefly that in her speeches she dwells more on global economic issues than he does. From outside the Senate, Medea Benjamin has already done more to create a more just and livable planet than perhaps 97 of the members inside the Senate.
This is a race in which progressives can vote their conscience for Medea Benjamin without fear that a Tom Campbell upset will thwart the Democrats’ attempt to retake the Senate. Feinstein’s lead is large and unassailable; the underfunded Campbell is sure to remain an invisible man for the duration of this campaign. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but DiFi is here to stay.
We strongly urge a vote for Medea Benjamin. Ă¨
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE
24th District: Brad Sherman
Democrat Sherman is seeking his third term in this West Valley seat. Sherman’s a reasonably progressive Democrat — about as progressive as this district can bear — and has done a yeoman’s job securing funds to acquire more land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and slowing down the rush to build a large housing tract on the Ahmanson Ranch near Woodland Hills. This year, he voted against bringing China into the WTO; in 1997, he opposed the administration’s fast-track proposal. Sherman’s ongoing resistance to free-trade panaceas is a pleasant surprise. He has our clear support.
26th District: Howard Berman
If anyone personifies the split personality of much of the Democratic Party on matters of economic world-view — capitalist on global economics, laborist on domestic economics — it’s Howard Berman, the veteran Democratic congressman from this mid-Valley district. Though he supported NAFTA and trade with China, he’s also the member the United Farm Workers rely upon to derail such dubious legislation as the re-establishment of the bracero “guest worker” program. He’s the leading House strategist to increase funding for Legal Services, a key figure in the battle to protect online privacy, and the single most powerful House member to press the cause of immigrant rights (and lately, immigrant amnesty). His value and virtues far outweigh what, from our perspective, is his free-trade deviation from everything else he’s about.
27th District: Adam Schiff
This is the big one. The race between incumbent Republican James Rogan, the most zealous of Bill Clinton’s prosecutors in last year’s impeachment trial, and Democratic state Senator Adam Schiff is both a belated referendum on Clinton’s impeachers and, for that reason, the single most costly race for a House seat in the history of the Republic. When it’s all over, Rogan will likely have spent $7 million, raised in part from Clinton-haters everywhere, and Schiff $4.5 million, raised in part from Democrats still steamed over the House Republicans’ impeachment travesty of justice.
On top of that, the race is one of three hotly contested House elections in L.A. County that could just well determine which party controls the next session of Congress. This question takes on a particular urgency in light of the possibility that the Republicans could win the trifecta on election day — taking the White House, holding the Senate and the House. At the moment, the Democrats’ best shot is probably in the House, which is why the national parties have also poured money into this very close race.
Democrat Schiff, a former criminal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has represented most of this Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena district in the state Senate for the past four years, where he’s authored and steered to enactment some notable consumer, labor and environmental legislation. He’s played a key role in the fight to spare the Glendale hills from overdevelopment. He’s our clear choice over Jim Rogan. But let’s be straight about this: Anyone selected at random off the streets would be our clear choice over Jim Rogan.
The issue isn’t just that Rogan represents this increasingly Democratic and nonwhite district with a voting record suitable to Orange County in the ’50s. It isn’t just that he opposes a woman’s right to choose, or restrictions on tobacco companies, or campaign-finance reform, or linking trade treaties to a minimum standard for worker rights and environmental safeguards (all policies that Schiff supports). Nor is it just that he masquerades as a moderate in his district, when in fact he’s a right-wing zealot on the Hill.
The real issue, of course, is Rogan’s starring role in the impeachment farce that he and his colleagues inflicted on the nation. As one of the most rabid members of the House Judiciary Committee, Rogan argued to release even more salacious material than Henry Hyde was willing to put on the Internet and to call more witnesses than anyone else wanted. Few people are more responsible for putting the country through this avoidable partisan jihad than Rogan. He does not deserve to sit in Congress, or any other body that requires of its members a scintilla of good judgment and sense.
29th District: Henry Waxman
Veteran Westside Congressman Henry Waxman remains the legislative genius of American liberalism, with an amazing ability during his 26 years in Congress to get bills extending health care, cleaning up the air and water, and regulating tobacco through Republican Congresses and signed by Republican presidents (a skill he may have to call upon again in the coming term). But really, all you need to know about Waxman is this: At the Green Party’s national convention this summer, a reporter asked Ralph Nader during a press conference to list three things he liked about America. Thing number two (after the First Amendment and before the nation’s system of tort law) was Henry Waxman.
30th District: Xavier Becerra
In his eight years in Congress, Becerra has consistently been one of the most progressive members of the House and — after numerous battles for immigrants’ rights — has increasingly become one of its more accomplished members as well. Should the Democrats retake the House, Becerra may become one of the subcommittee chairs on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. This would be excellent news for people concerned about public policy, and for people concerned about next spring’s mayoral election.
Since spring, Becerra has been waging an altogether bizarre candidacy for mayor. To call this effort a long shot would be too kind. The only conceivable effect of his candidacy is, by splitting the Latino vote, to keep Assembly speaker emeritus and mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa — who’s even more progressive and accomplished than Becerra — from making it into the mayoral run-off.
So if the Democrats retake the House — a very good thing in itself — Becerra could just decide to stay in D.C., banging a gavel and writing good legislation. For L.A. liberals, that would be a happy ending all around.
31st District: Hilda Solis
The real election in the 31st came in the March Democratic primary, when state Senator Hilda Solis did the unheard of: She ran against and unseated a longtime congressional incumbent from her own party. That incumbent was Marty Martinez, who has since become a Republican.
For the past six years, Hilda Solis has been as bright a light in the state Senate as Martinez has been a dim bulb in the House. She authored a bill raising the state minimum wage, and, when Pete Wilson vetoed it, she provided out of her own campaign treasury the seed money for the initiative campaign in which state voters authorized the raise. She authored the pioneering Environmental Justice Act, which gives the state the authority to review proposed new developments in communities already home to a number of polluting projects. She was the staunchest champion imaginable of workers’ rights, gun control and choice. She’ll make a terrific member of Congress.
32nd District: Julian Dixon
Quiet and effective, this Crenshaw-area congressional veteran has navigated L.A.’s transit wars to win federal funding both to augment L.A.’s inadequate bus fleet and to complete the Red Line subway to North Hollywood. He’s also been ahead of the curve on police-brutality issues, holding hearings on that topic in the summer of 1999 and securing federal money to restart the D.A.’s rollout unit, which had investigated officer-involved shootings until Gil Garcetti closed it down in 1995. Dixon clearly merits re-election.
33rd District: Lucille Roybal-Allard
The 33rd, which starts downtown and runs down the 710 corridor, is probably home to more immigrants than any other congressional district in the nation. Roybal-Allard, a dedicated representative who now sits on the House Appropriations Committee, has authored health-outreach legislation particularly important to the medically uninsured in which her district abounds. She’s won funding for more buses in the cities that abut the Long Beach Freeway, and worked with Julian Dixon to get the funds to restart the rollout unit.
34th District: Grace Flores Napolitano
Napolitano had a lackluster career in the state Legislature, and she hasn’t really made a mark in the House during this, her first term in Congress. She was one of a handful of major elected officials to have backed Marty Martinez in his primary battle against Hilda Solis (see District 31), perhaps because she saw in the lunkish Martinez a kindred spirit. Nonetheless, if the Democrats are to take back the House from Tom DeLay and his minions, they need to hold on to every seat, Grace Napolitano’s included.
35th District: Maxine Waters
The indomitable Maxine remains Congress’ foremost advocate for the very people — inner-city youth — that many of her colleagues just want to lock up. Her maneuvering in city politics, where she has seen more virtue in such officeholders as Richard Riordan and Barbara Boudreaux than we could ever discern, has often disappointed and baffled us. Nonetheless, we think she did exactly the right thing at this summer’s Democratic Convention, when she essentially forced Joe Lieberman to come before African-American members of Congress to “clarify” his positions on affirmative action, vouchers and the like. Lieberman has been one of the most conservative Democratic senators, and he needs to feel some heat from the Democratic base. We count on Maxine to keep turning up the burner.
36th District: Jane Harman
Of the three L.A. County congressional contests that could determine the make-up of the next House, this one, in a South Bay district running from Venice to Long Beach, is the closest — a dead heat between Republican Steve Kuykendall and Democrat Jane Harman. We can’t emphasize enough that this is a race where you, your mother and your dog must all turn out to cast your votes for Harman.
Kuykendall is a first-term member of Congress, who was elected in 1998 when three-term incumbent Harman chose not to seek re-election so that she could run for governor and have Al Checchi beat the living crap out of her. Kuykendall is a garden-variety Republican, notable chiefly for winning election to the Assembly in 1994 by virtue of a last-minute $125,000 contribution from Philip Morris. In the current campaign, Kuykendall is busily trying to fuzz the differences between Harman and himself, claiming he supports a genuine patients’ bill of rights when he actually supports the GOP alternative, which curtails a patient’s right to sue his or her health insurance company. He also opposes, and Harman supports, legislation to expand Medicare to cover seniors’ prescription drug purchases.
Harman’s short-lived gubernatorial campaign only confirmed what she’d been saying for years, that she’s a centrist Democrat in the Feinstein mold. In her three terms in the House, she was a strong advocate for choice and environmental protections, and a premature debt-retirement zealot. She also proved quite adept at bringing high-tech businesses into the district. In the current campaign, she’s vowed to hold up Federal Aviation Administration funding if the agency doesn’t address the district’s concerns about airport noise and traffic problems. She is almost certainly the most progressive candidate this district, evenly divided between the two parties, could elect, and this is most certainly a seat the Democrats need if they’re to take back the House. For both these reasons, we strongly support Jane Harman.
37th District: Juanita Millender-McDonald
As the representative from this Carson-Compton district, Millender- Ă¨ McDonald has championed voting rights for the homeless, domestic-violence insurance, and funding for the Alameda Corridor, with set-asides for local hiring.
38th District: Gerrie Schipske
This Long Beach–area district, where over half the registered voters are Democrats and fewer than one-third are Republicans, is one of the long-running conundrums of L.A.-area politics. Since 1992, it’s been represented by Republican Steve Horn, a former university president who, as Republicans go, is more or less a moderate. But when Horn took the distinctly immoderate step of voting to impeach the president in December of ’98, he was voting to negate the clear preference of his district, where voters had returned Clinton to office in ’96 by a 17 percent margin over Bob Dole.
This is the third of the three local districts in which Democrats have a shot at ousting a Republican incumbent — and though it’s more of an uphill climb here than it is in the other two, Democratic challenger Gerrie Schipske is still within striking distance of Horn.
Schipske, who narrowly lost an Assembly race in the mid-’90s, is a forthright progressive in this leftward-moving district. Initially a nurse-practitioner, she worked as a legislative assistant in Congress, then became an attorney specializing in issues of health access and care. She’s run prenatal and senior health-care programs in Long Beach, and until the campaign, she was a health-care-policy consultant to the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest health-care-worker union. Schipske has a clear understanding of how to expand health coverage and working people’s rights.
Horn’s moderation only extends so far. He’s voted against the union position on legislation more than 60 percent of the time. Nor is he all that supportive of immigrants: Horn favors denying all but emergency care to undocumented immigrants, and authored legislation (as yet unpassed) to allow voting officials in the states with the largest immigrant populations to run citizenship checks at the polls. It’s time for Horn to go, and Schipske has our enthusiastic backing in this important race.
21st District: Jack Scott
In 1996, Adam Schiff was elected to represent this Silver Lake–Glendale–Pasadena–La CaĂ±ada–Flintridge–East Valley district, the first time a Democrat had won this seat since the early years of the century. That same year, in the Assembly district that makes up the northern half of the district, Jack Scott was elected to the Assembly, the first time a Democrat had won that seat since the early years of the century.
Now, after a bruising battle in the March primary against Scott Wildman, the assemblyman from the next district over, Jack Scott is the Democratic nominee to succeed Schiff in the November election. Scott, an affable, low-key historian and former president of Pasadena City College, has been, during his tenure in the Assembly, a moving force for gun-control legislation and a steady voice for education funding, especially at the college level. He’s the author of much of the handgun-control legislation that Gray Davis has signed, and has vowed to keep pushing for the registration of all handguns. As chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, he authored the act that established low-cost ($450 per year) auto-insurance policies in L.A. and San Francisco counties. This year, he very ably chaired the hearings that forced the resignation of Chuck Quackenbush, the state’s corrupt insurance commissioner. Scott has shown himself to be an effective legislator, if not the most progressive one — but then, this isn’t the most progressive district.
Scott’s Republican opponent, South Pasadena City Council Member Paul Zee, has received major funding from the state Republican leadership, which is focusing on the relative handful of state legislative races that are genuinely competitive. This is one such race — another reason why we recommend a vote for Scott.
23rd District: Sheila James Kuehl
The real race in this Westside and Valley district was in the March primary, where termed-out Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl battled termed-out Assemblyman Wally Knox for the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out state Senator Tom Hayden. Kuehl prevailed, which in this heavily Democratic district was tantamount to election.
Still known to old Dobie Gillis fans as Zelda — the brightest kid in Dobie’s high school class — Sheila Kuehl was a founding director of the Women’s Law Center and a law professor at Loyola Law School before being elected to the Assembly in 1994. As the first open lesbian (or gay) in the Legislature, she was widely expected — by people who didn’t know her — to have trouble fitting into its old-boy culture. By her second year, however, she became the member to whom other members turned to broker their disputes and intercede with their colleagues. (She even gets along with Gray Davis.) Ranked year after year in the annual California Journal survey as the most intelligent, honest and effective member of the Assembly, she was elected by her colleagues in 1997 to be speaker pro tem — the No. 2 position in the lower House.
More important, she’s used her talents to push the envelope of social tolerance and generosity. She authored and steered to enactment the act mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in California hospitals, and the state’s Patients’ Bill of Rights, which she negotiated with the Guv. Her bill protecting gay students from harassment failed three times before she finally garnered 41 votes to get it passed. We fully expect she will be a brilliant and tenacious state senator.
25th District: Ed Vincent
In March, Inglewood-area Assemblyman (and former Inglewood mayor) Ed Vincent won the Democratic primary contest to succeed state Senator Teresa Hughes in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. As the legislator from the district that’s home to Hollywood Park and its casino, Vincent carries water for the gambling industry and, for good measure, Big Tobacco. Still, there’s one factor that inclines us to endorse him: Almost alone among L.A.’s African-American elected officials, Vincent is actively promoting Latino political involvement and cultivating a whole generation of Latino political leaders within his district. In this all-too-Balkanized time and place, Vincent’s multiracialism is far-sighted and, sad to say, brave. It’s enough for us to endorse him, despite his manifest flaws.
27th District: Betty Karnette
Democratic incumbent Karnette is seeking a second term in this Long Beach– Harbor area–Palos Verdes district. Republicans, led by former Governor George Deukmejian, are putting major bucks into the campaign of her opponent, Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Marilyn Lyon. Chiefly for this reason, the largely centrist Karnette has our support.
MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY
39th District: Tony Cardenas
Tony Cardenas has had a relatively unimpressive two terms in the Assembly, perhaps because he’s been building a mini-TELACU (Latino L.A.’s ranking business-political machine) in his northeast San Fernando Valley district. He is, nonetheless, the best of the candidates in the 39th.
40th District: Bob Hertzberg
Hurricane Hertzberg continues to storm through Sacramento, a whirlwind of activity, affability, deal-making and hugs. Earlier this year, he was elected to succeed Antonio Villaraigosa as Assembly speaker by an unprecedented unanimous vote. There was no doubt that Hertzberg would be a more centrist legislative leader than Villaraigosa; indeed, his membership in the Democratic Business Council has been the cause of some anxiety among his more liberal colleagues. For these, at least some aspects of Hertzberg’s speakership have come as a pleasant surprise. At the behest of L.A. labor chief Miguel Contreras, Hertzberg intervened on the workers’ side in both the janitors’ and bus drivers’ strikes. He brokered the deal in which the downsizing of L.A. County General Hospital was partly offset by state funding for a new facility in the San Gabriel Valley. Most important, he worked with state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton — Sacramento’s last liberal lion — to squeeze a more generous budget out of Governor Gray Davis. The significant achievements of Davis’ first two years in office — gun control, HMO regulations, and, just recently, greatly expanded grant programs to students attending the state’s public colleges and universities — have come largely as a result of pressure from the legislative leaders. Keep at it, Bob!
41st District: Fran Pavley
Democratic nominee Fran Pavley, a middle school teacher and four-term Agoura Hills council member, is a longtime environmental activist and has been a member of the California Coastal Commission since 1995. She’s won awards and endorsements from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, and boasts sterling credentials in both environmental protection and containment of urban sprawl. But this district (vacated by the termed-out Sheila Kuehl), which extends south to the Santa Monica–Venice boundary, is as urban as it is suburban and exurban, and we’re not sure how familiar Pavley is with the full panoply of urban issues. One good sign is her opposition to Santa Monica’s Proposition KK, the hotel industry’s bogus living-wage initiative, actually intended to keep the city from adopting a living wage. We hope her learning curve is just as steep on other issues where Kuehl’s progressivism could almost always be counted upon. Pavley is clearly preferable to Republican Jayne Shapiro.
42nd District: Paul Koretz
As in Sheila Kuehl’s assembly district next door, the race to succeed the termed-out Wally Knox in the 42nd district on the Westside was settled in the March Democratic primary, when West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz dispatched his Democratic opponents. In his career both as an activist and on the council, Koretz has demonstrated a tenacious liberalism at times reminiscent of Henry Waxman’s — and an absence of charisma that’s Waxmanesque as well. The onetime Southern California director of the League of Conservation Voters and a former aide to L.A. Councilman Marvin Braude, Koretz has involved himself in just about every Westside liberal movement imaginable. He’s been active in gun-control efforts for a full two decades, and it was due to his leadership that West Hollywood became the first city in the nation to ban Saturday-night specials. He authored the city’s 1985 ordinance limiting smoking in public places. Most notably, he’s been deeply involved in the battles of the new L.A. labor movement for decent wages and living standards.
The Green Party’s Sara Amir, an environmental scientist whom the Weekly endorsed for lieutenant governor in 1998, is in the race as well, which mystifies us. Koretz may not have a perfect record on the West Hollywood council, but his record of activism on behalf of progressive causes — often way out in front of public opinion — exceeds that of any California Green we know. Koretz is not the kind of Democrat the Greens should be running against. He’s a stand-up guy, and we’re standing with him this November.
43rd District: Dario Frommer
Attorney and Democratic nominee Dario Frommer comes to this race from a longstanding professional relationship with Gray Davis, whom he most recently served as appointments secretary. Anyone who can survive working with Davis, a notoriously volatile boss, will doubtless thrive under adversity. Unlike his GOP opponent, Frommer is a supporter of choice and of gun control.
Frommer’s opponent in this Silver Lake–Glendale–Los Feliz–Burbank district formerly represented by Scott Wildman is Republican Craig Missakian, a law-and-order former prosecutor in the mold of George Deukmejian, who is raising money for him. Of the four competitive races taking place in the legislative Ă¨ districts clustered around Glendale (including the Rogan-Schiff congressional match-up), this is probably the closest — one more reason why we strongly prefer Frommer.
44th District: Carol Liu
The Democratic nominee to succeed Jack Scott in this Pasadena-centered district is Carol Liu, a longtime Bay Area schoolteacher, administrator, teachers-union officer and Democratic activist who moved to La CaĂ±ada–Flintridge 16 years ago. She’s been a City Council member there since 1992, twice serving as mayor during that time. On the council, she’s focused on balanced-growth and environmental-protection issues, but her urban-activist past gives her a broader, more progressive perspective on social issues than you might expect from the mayor of an upscale suburb. She’d be a thoughtful and accomplished legislator.
Her opponent is one of the genuine gargoyles of L.A. life — Susan Carpenter-McMillan. Carpenter-McMillan first shlopped into public consciousness more than a decade ago when she assumed the role of designated anti-choice spokesperson on every local TV talk show. She only truly found her mĂ©tier a few years ago, however, when she attached herself to Paula Corbin Jones as public spokesperson and all-around handler. No more local talk shows for Suzie; now there was a national audience before whom she could revile Bill Clinton and regale us with Paula Jones’ every burp. She is a self-aggrandizing fruitcake, Matt Drudge in drag, and her tenure in the Legislature would be as ridiculous as Liu’s will be distinguished.
45th District: Jackie Goldberg
Antonio Villaraigosa is termed out of this Echo Park–to–East Hollywood district, and Jackie Goldberg — herself termed out of her L.A. City Council seat next spring — is the only candidate on the ballot to succeed him. Sometimes bumptious, sometimes difficult, but a brilliant organizer, a canny strategist and the most far-sighted, dedicated officeholder in city government, Goldberg has put her mark on her city in her seven years at City Hall. She authored and steered, stunningly, to unanimous passage the city’s landmark living-wage ordinance; she also authored the city’s worker-retention ordinance, which bars new city contractors from sacking the workers they inherit. It’s hard to think of another official who’s done more to revive urban progressivism during the ’90s, and we expect she will be just as creative and diligent in Sacramento.
46th District: Gil Cedillo
The invaluable Mr. Cedillo persuaded his legislative colleagues to pass some of the most humane and progressive legislation of the past session: expanding prenatal care to undocumented women; expanding Medicaid to 250,000 working adults; extending food stamps to legal immigrants; prohibiting state contractors from using state funds on union-busting activities; requiring hospital chains to get the attorney general’s approval when they take over nonprofit facilities, to assure that patient-care standards don’t decline; authorizing the issuance of drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, he failed to persuade the governor to sign the last one, but Cedillo’s a wily and determined guy. We support him wholeheartedly.
47th District: Herb Wesson
Freshman legislator Wesson was plainly out of his depth when he was sent in to mediate the recent bus drivers’ strike — which, admittedly, often seemed a riddle wrapped in a mystery cloaked in an enigma. By all accounts, though, in Sacramento Wesson is regarded as an accomplished legislator, a rising star. Maybe he should stay up north.
49th District: Gloria Romero
With Antonio Villaraigosa and Gil Cedillo, Romero has formed a trio of Latino electeds who’ve all done serious time in the labor movement. The three, along with Hilda Solis, are at the epicenter of the most dynamic force in L.A. politics, the labor-Latino alliance. Romero is a conscientious progressive, and she has our unalloyed backing.
51st District: Jerome Horton
Horton, a CPA with the State Board of Equalization and a member of the Inglewood City Council, waged a dismally unimpressive but nonetheless victorious campaign in the March Democratic primary to succeed Ed Vincent in this Assembly seat. The slim hopes we hold out for his coming tenure in Sacramento are occasioned by his efforts on behalf of workers, which includes forming a community group that supported employees organizing a union at the Hollywood Park Casino.
53rd District: George Nakano
Like Jane Harman (running in a congressional district that overlaps the 53rd Assembly District), one-term Assembly member George Nakano is a painfully moderate Democrat in a painfully moderate (South Bay) district. He is, nonetheless, distinctly preferable to Gerald Felando, his Republican opponent.
54th District: Alan Lowenthal
In his first term representing this Long Beach–San Pedro–Palos Verdes district, former Long Beach City Councilman Alan Lowenthal distinguished himself as a fighter for environmental justice and economic revitalization in this heavily industrial, largely working-class region. He’s championed stricter pollution standards on the harbor’s petroleum coke piles, and authored legislation banning gun sales in residential neighborhoods — one reason the Republicans, in the person of L.A. City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., are coming after him. Lowenthal is a dedicated progressive who is fighting exactly the right battles for his district, and he has our unstinting support in what is shaping up as one of the tightest Assembly races in the state.
55th District: Jenny Oropeza
Suddenly, the Long Beach area has become home to a number of dynamic progressive candidates — none more dynamic or progressive than Long Beach City Council member Jenny Oropeza, who won the March Democratic primary to succeed the bizarre and bombastic Dick Floyd. Oropeza seems a perfect fit for this multiracial, heavily Democratic, working-class-to-the-core district. Now in her second term on the Long Beach City Council, she secured funding for the city’s first new park in 20 years and for badly needed affordable housing. She played a key role in persuading the owners of the Long Beach downtown high-rises to recognize the union their janitors sought to join, and has assisted the various unionization campaigns in Long Beach hospitals. Oropeza is the most effective politician and organizer on behalf of economic-justice issues we’ve met in some time, and we endorse her avidly.
56th District: Sally Havice
Havice, a moderate Democrat, faces her usual biennial tough fight in this Cerritos-area district, which has a huge Democratic registration edge but dismal Democratic turnout. Her opponent, Cerritos Mayor Grace Hu, is running a very well-funded campaign, and Havice needs all the help she can get.
Assessor: Rick Auerbach
District Attorney: Steve Cooley
We were cautiously hopeful when Gil Garcetti was elected District Attorney in 1992. The city was still reeling from rioting that followed the not-guilty verdicts of police officers charged in the Rodney King case and from the light punishment of a Korean grocer given probation after killing an unarmed black girl in his store. Garcetti, the ambitious son of working-class Mexican immigrants, seemed at least not so clueless as Ira Reiner about the city and its needs. He promised to use the office as a bully pulpit. He would speak out for crime prevention rather than just for locking criminals up. He would put office resources into prosecuting political corruption and hate crimes and deadbeat dads.
And in his eight years in office, Garcetti has done some decent things. He’s appointed more women and deputies of color; he’s gone after perpetrators of domestic violence. He established the country’s first hate-crime unit. But it all falls short in light of Garcetti’s failings.
We could go on and on about his special treatment of campaign contributors; about his bullheaded refusal to apply three-strikes judiciously, instead insisting the law demands that pizza-thief and murderer alike should face the same 25-years-to-life; about his dismantling of the rollout unit that investigated police shootings (something he brought back only after significant public pressure).
Then there’s the Rampart scandal, surely the biggest threat in Los Angeles history to the integrity of the justice system. Garcetti has utterly failed to provide the kind of leadership needed in a crisis. He’s dragged his feet, he’s whined, he’s hoarded documents and refused to cooperate with the defense attorneys whose clients may have been affected by the misdeeds at Rampart. He’s made no systemic changes to deal with the problem of officers who lie. And he hasn’t once used that bully pulpit he was so eager to occupy to reassure the city’s poor and nonwhite citizens that he will expose and eliminate police corruption.
Steve Cooley is not a perfect candidate. A Republican who only tepidly supports gun control and talks a traditional tough line on crime, Cooley will never be the sort of outspoken advocate of crime prevention we’d like to see; nor will he give much thought to the underlying economic and social conditions that breed crime. But his reputation is as an honest and smart prosecutor. He’s vowed to prosecute only serious felonies as third strikes. And he says he will put additional resources into prosecuting corrupt public officials.
We need change. We hope Steve Cooley will bring the right kind.
SANTA MONICA CITY GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Proposition 32: Yes
This proposition authorizes the state to sell $500 million in bonds to provide home loans to 2,500 California veterans, who themselves would pay off the bonds over 25 years. In the abstract, preferential treatment for veterans is an idea we don’t always endorse, not with all the other unmet needs in the state. But, as anyone who looked at the pictures or read the obituaries of the sailors killed on the USS Cole should realize, the members of our all-volunteer armed forces are disproportionately working-class and nonwhite. Precisely the people for whom home ownership in this state is out of reach. California has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in the nation, and a mind-boggling lack of affordable housing. This measure is one of the precious few programs that could enable non-affluent Californians to buy homes. For that reason, we’re for it.
Proposition 33: Yes
In 1990, Californians passed an initiative which established term limits for state elected officials and, as a kind of malicious afterthought, abolished the state-run Legislators’ Retirement System. Unlike every other full-time state employee, the 120 members of the Legislature have no pensions. The only conceivable purpose this serves is to keep people of modest means from seeking public office. Proposition 33 allows legislators to join the state’s Public Employees Retirement System by directing a portion of their paychecks into the fund. It ends a discriminatory and spiteful policy, and we clearly support it.
Proposition 34: No
Now here’s an oxymoron: a campaign-finance-reform proposition written in part by Gray Davis. As initially drafted by state legislative leaders, this measure set a $10,000 limit on individual contributions to gubernatorial candidates, to take effect for the next election. The governor gently suggested raising the ceiling to $20,000 and having it take effect after the next election, an idea the drafters apparently thought was just peachy.
To understand this odd measure, you need to understand its genesis. In 1996, state voters enacted by initiative Proposition 208, which set very low contribution limits for state offices — $250 for legislative offices, $500 for statewide ones. Since its passage, though, Proposition 208 has been tied up in the courts — leaving the state with no limits on donations whatsoever. Then, this summer, it suddenly looked as if a U.S. district judge was going to reinstate 208. This plunged the legislative leaders into a flurry of closed-door activity. Ă¨ They emerged with Proposition 34, which establishes far higher contribution limits — $3,000 for individuals for legislative races, $5,000 for statewide races, and, as noted, 20 big ones for aspiring governors. It allows for undisclosed donations to political parties and does not limit the parties’ spending of “soft money.” And one more thing: It specifically nullifies every provision of Prop. 208.
We are concerned that wealthy candidates could benefit from 208’s low contribution limits. We are worried also by its limitations on some of labor’s campaign spending (though it doesn’t affect the unions’ foot power). Nonetheless, Proposition 34 does almost nothing to diminish the huge role that big money plays in California politics; it was conceived in stealth and relies on a strategy of deception — campaign-finance reform intended to thwart campaign-finance reform. For these reasons, we recommend a No vote on Proposition 34.
Proposition 35: No
This is one of those inside-ball measures on which a special interest spent a lot of money to place on the ballot. The Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors of California, a private association, objects to language in the California constitution that directs state and local governments to use their own engineers and surveyors on public works projects. However, as the Civil Engineers don’t tell us, it does allow those governments to go to the private sector in many instances: This year, Caltrans alone will spend $150 million on contracts with private-sector engineers. Nonetheless, the engineers want more, so they put this measure on the ballot to require that all such contracts be selected through competition. Curiously, there is no obligation that governments have to solicit bids, which sure sounds to us like a prescription for all kinds of shady practices. We’re not at all convinced that privatization of the work on these projects is such a hot idea (remember all those friendly private contractors who built the Red Line through Hollywood). We are convinced that dealing with so narrow a concern by submitting it to the voters is an abuse of the initiative process.
Proposition 36: Yes
Proposition 36 makes an important change in American social policy that’s long overdue. It acknowledges what has been obvious for years: The war on drugs is a flat failure. The policy of imprisonment for nonviolent offenders whose offense is the possession or use of drugs has filled our prisons, made us build more prisons, and filled them, too. It is the main reason why we have over 2 million people in prison, more than any nation except Russia. Because of this policy, California sends 24,000 nonviolent drug offenders to prison every year. Through the discriminatory enforcement of those laws, it has had a devastating effect on nonwhite young men; it is the main reason why fully one-third of young African-American men have gone through the criminal justice system.
And one more thing: It does not seem to have reduced the aggregate use of illegal drugs in the slightest.
Proposition 36 alters California law so that the penalty for first- or some second-time nonviolent drug offenders is probation and simultaneous mandatory, court-supervised treatment. Exceptions are made for users with records of a violent felony, or those who refuse treatment. The initiative allots an annual $120 million in state funds to counties to administer treatment programs. It allows judges to order drug tests for those under treatment, and to send those who fail such tests to prison for one to three years. In short, after decades of criminalizing nonviolent behavior or addiction, it proposes to treat that addiction. After decades of dealing with drug use simply as a problem of supply, failing at every turn, Proposition 36 proposes to deal with drug use as a problem of demand.
One of the biggest opponents of the measure, not surprisingly, is the prison guards’ union. Comparing the cost of treatment to the cost of imprisonment, the California Legislative Analyst estimates the state will save between $100 and $150 million every year on prison operating expenses, and about half-a-billion dollars on prison construction costs.
This measure does not decriminalize drug use, just changes the punishment. We think the manifest failure of our drug war, and the evils that it only compounds, makes a compelling case for treatment rather than imprisonment. Vote Yes on Proposition 36.
Proposition 37: No
This is a nasty piece of work. In 1991, the Legislature authorized the state Department of Health Services to impose a fee on manufacturers of lead-based paint, the funds to go to programs to detect contaminants that cause lead poisoning and to screening children and treating those who’ve been affected by lead poisoning. In 1997, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld this law. To stop a further levying of fees on tobacco companies to pay for cancer treatments, or alcohol manufacturers to pay for treatment programs, the Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau and kindred pillars of venality have placed Proposition 37 on the ballot. The measure amends the state constitution so that fees charged by state or local agencies to address industrial health or environmental problems are reclassified as taxes — thus requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature or, in the case of localities, of local voters to enact.
The strategy here is obvious. The industries that have damaged public health believe that 1) the Legislature will be vulnerable to the charge that it raised taxes, and thus will be reluctant to do so, and 2) that local voters can be snookered into thinking their own taxes will rise if these fees-mislabeled-as-taxes appear on the ballot. In fact, if these fees are not levied on these companies, it is precisely the taxpayers who will pay to clean up the industries’ messes, since such work will have to be paid for out of the state general fund. Proposition 37 allows these companies to get away — somewhere between fig
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