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Instead, both the incumbent and her predecessor have enthusiastically — or, as Kuehl put it, maniacally — thrown their support behind a candidate with few environmental credentials outside of banning pesticides from local schools and promoting natural gas in school buses: Santa Monica School Board President Julia Brownley.
Brownley also has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV). “We’ve known Kelly and Barry for a long time,” said CLCV’s Southern California director David Allgood, “and we chose to go with Julia.”
Brownley acknowledges that her environmental record is “relatively small.” She believes she won the CLCV’s endorsement because “people have gotten to know me, they know my overall record of service, they know I’m someone who’s going to delve deeply into these issues, and I’m going to take the time to learn the issues.”
And Kuehl, who recruited Brownley, notes that at the beginning of her legislative career, she had no environmental record, either. “I was a feminist attorney and a law professor,” she says. “But I recognized the connection between social justice and environmental protection.”
Pavley had served on the California Coastal Commission before she came to Sacramento, but she maintains that a history of environmental activism matters less in this race than working well with others.
“Integrity is the critical ingredient in public policymaking,” she says. “You can put all your time and effort into a critical bill, but you always have to remember that you have to work with the same people the next day, if not the next hour.” Pavley has not only passed her many bills, she has done so with the ongoing support of two very different governors. It’s a feat she doubts either Groveman or Hayes-Raitt could duplicate.
“Kelly burns bridges,” the typically plainspoken assemblywoman says frankly. “People who have known her for a long time have problems with her. I think her voting record would be fine, but that’s not all there is to being successful in Sacramento.”
As for Groveman, “In the 25 years I’ve been out in the trenches on land-use issues, I’ve never seen him out here on anything. His involvement [in public service] has been limited to his two years on city council.”
If the candidate with the most cash wins, however, Groveman may be hard to beat: With well over half a million in his campaign fund (including $193,000 of his own money), he has raised $150,000 more than the next richest contender, 35-year-old attorney Jonathan Levey, who may stand a chance only if Groveman goes down and the progressive Democratic vote gets split between Brownley and Hayes-Raitt.
Groveman might also have the advantage of hailing from the city closest to Pavley’s, although that advantage will be weaker in 2006 than it was in 2000, when the primary was open and Pavley beat S. David Freeman with “significant crossover votes from Republicans and Greens.” (Since then, however, Freeman has become Pavley’s ardent supporter. “Dave’s been wonderful,” she says.)
Ultimately, none of the current candidates is exactly Fran Pavley or Sheila Kuehl, whose combined legacies have made the 41st District’s Assembly seat a hard one to fill. But Pavley is quick to note that new legislators succeed only to the extent they can listen and learn. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned on so many issues,” she says. “The best you can do in a candidate is to pick someone whose heart is in the right place.”