Pubdate: Sun, 03 Jun 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: John L. Mitchell


Congress: Ex-Sen. Watson, GOP Candidate Hentschel Trade Charges Over 
Watson's Support Of The Programs.

In her first public forum since winning the April primary in the 32nd 
Congressional District race, former state Sen. Diane Watson denounced a 
recent campaign mailer by an opponent, which described her as someone who 
"wants to give free needles to heroin addicts" and showed a graphic 
photograph of an addict shooting up.

"It was a very scurrilous attack piece," Watson said about the mailer sent 
by her Republican challenger, Noel Irwin Hentschel. "It came into people's 
homes. . . . It shows the picture of a young man with a needle in his arm. 
It was there for children to pick up."

Watson made the comments Tuesday during a radio show at Pasadena City 
College, where she squared off against her three rivals in the runoff next 
Tuesday: Hentschel, Reform Party candidate Ezola Foster and Green Party 
candidate Donna Warren.

Hentschel's mailer criticized Watson for writing three bills in the 1990s 
authorizing the creation of hypodermic needle exchange programs        to 
prevent the spread of HIV. Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the 
legislation, but a similar statewide needle exchange bill with strong local 
backing was signed by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis last year.

"That is promoting needle use," Hentschel said, explaining why she sent the 
mailer. "It is sending a message to our children that it's OK to use drugs, 
just go down and pick up the needle that you need. That is wrong."

That explanation, Watson snapped back, was "thoroughly ignorant" of the law.

"The provision says that you do not get a clean needle unless you give in 
one that has been used before," she said. "It is a public 
health        risk-reduction policy." Addicts who turn in their needles 
will also be given counseling to kick their habits, she said.

But Hentschel, founder of American Tours International and an unsuccessful 
candidate for lieutenant governor in 1998, wasn't the only        candidate 
who disagreed with the program.

Foster said it was "totally irresponsible."

"If a person is a drug addict and using contaminated needles, what makes 
you think he is concerned enough, responsible enough to take 
the        time to turn it in?" she asked. "This is totally ridiculous."

In voicing her support for needle exchange programs, Warren said the 
government needs to shoulder the blame for the drug epidemic.

"They infested the inner city" with crack, said Warren. "Now they face a 
horrendous drug problem where babies are being born as crack babies."

While the needle program resulted in some of the sharpest exchanges during 
the hourlong debate on KPCC-FM (89.3), the candidates also touched on other 

Hentschel, a resident of Bel-Air who grew up in South Los Angeles, argued 
that her experience as a successful business owner would enable        her 
to bring resources to a community in need of an economic boost.

"About four years ago, I started going on ride-alongs with the Sheriff's 
Department and the LAPD and it was a real eye-opener," she said. "The very 
community that I had grown up in, now there are bars on all the windows."

Foster, a former Los Angeles teacher who was Reform Party presidential 
nominee Patrick Buchanan's running mate last year, said that illegal 
immigration remains the nation's No. 1 problem.

"We can talk about improving education, we can talk about health care, we 
can talk about Social Security, but unless we address the issue of 
immigration, particularly illegal immigration, we are just spinning our 
wheels," she said.

Warren, an auditor for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, blames 
illegal immigration on the federal government.

"I believe the problem can be resolved if we stop exploiting people in 
their own countries," she said.

"Government is a safety net," said Watson, adding that small businesses 
need to be encouraged to spur economic growth and increase employment.

Watson was criticized by her opponents for supporting energy deregulation 
while in the state Senate. She said would oppose a proposal        to put a 
power plant in Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Park in Baldwin Hills.

"The park is for people, not for power plants," she said.
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