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Former Assemblyman Richard Katz and L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon are dipping into a wide pool of financial backers in the increasingly expensive race for 20th District Senate seat in the San Fernando Valley. In some cases, they’re getting money from the same sources. Both Majestic Realty Co. (one of the partners in the Staples Center) and Universal Studios Inc. (which is seeking a major expansion) gave money to both candidates. Other major contributors include labor unions, movie studios, small businesses and real estate developers. Alarcon outpaced Katz during the fund-raising reporting period of Jan. 1 to March 17, according to the candidates’ campaign disclosure reports, raising $168,000 to Katz’s $115,000. But Katz has $58,000 more cash on hand than his competitor because he carried over $130,000 in unspent funds from an earlier Assembly race. Katz reported a total of $203,000 on hand, while Alarcon has $145,000. Alarcon’s largest donations came from a Santa Monica developer and a manager of a Virginia-based leasing company. Ray Watt, board chairman of Santa Monica-based Wilshire Builders Inc., and Dean Nichols, manager of Virginia-based Chesapeake Leasing Inc., each gave $10,000. Another big Alarcon backer is the California State Council of Laborers, which gave $5,000. Two major companies hedged their bets, donating money to both candidates. City of Industry-based Majestic Realty donated $5,000 to Alarcon and $5,000 to Katz. Majestic owner Ed Roski Jr. is spearheading development of the Staples Center arena now under construction downtown. Likewise, Universal Studios which wants to turn Universal City into a destination resort gave $1,000 to each candidate through its political action committee. Smaller Alarcon donations came from individuals, including $500 from Los Angeles Times reporter Victoria C. Torres and $250 from Tom Riley, an executive of Reseda’s Bingo Players Inc. “All of the money is coming from people who think I am doing a good job,” said Alarcon. Alarcon’s fund-raising prowess has impressed a lot of political insiders who expected Katz, a long-time veteran in the Assembly, to clean up with the backing of Sacramento lobbyists and political-action groups. “It is very surprising that Alarcon is ahead in fund-raising,” said L.A. political consultant Allan Hoffenblum. “Katz is perceived as a very powerful political figure. The fact that Alarcon is coming out ahead is very significant.” Katz, not surprisingly, disagreed. He said Alarcon has been successful in raising money because he takes contributions from people and companies that do business with the city. Katz has attempted to force Alarcon to sign a so-called “campaign code of conduct pledge.” It would, among other things, ban contributors who might later appear before the candidates seeking state contracts. “His money is tied to City Hall and city politics,” said Katz. “I don’t think one should take campaign contributions from people with whom you do business.” Katz added that he serves on the California Medical Assistance Commission, which sets hospital rates throughout the state, so he does not accept donations from hospitals. Alarcon said he follows the campaign laws of California and does not find it necessary to sign an oath. Katz’s most generous donation has been a $10,000 gift from the California Trucking Association; Katz is the former chairman of the Assembly Transportation committee. Katz also reported $5,000 from South Gate Fire Fighters Local 1014 and $2,500 from Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. Katz also received a wide range of smaller contributions, including $250 from Anita Zusman, an attorney for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The race for the 20th Senate District seat in the Van Nuys area is likely to be a contentious one, according to local political consultants. The district includes most of the East Valley. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, D-Van Nuys, because of term limits. Katz, who was just recently endorsed by the state Democratic Party, served 16 years in the Assembly until term limits forced him out in 1996. Alarcon was elected in 1993 as the Valley’s first Latino member of the L.A. City Council. Alarcon announced late last month that he will be forced to take a five-week break from the fast-moving campaign track to recover from surgery. The councilman suffers from what aides describe as a “very serious” stomach problem caused by a ruptured diaphragm.

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