Hayden Stuns Supporters by Not Seeking Reelection

By Jorge Casuso

State Senator Tom Hayden stunned his supporters Tuesday by announcing he would not seek to return to Sacramento when his term expires next November.

Disgruntled with Gov. Gray Davis and facing his eighteenth year in the state capitol next year, Hayden said it is "time to step back and think anew about how best to fight for what I believe in."

In a letter addressed to "friends," Hayden announced that he would not seek a seat on the State Assembly, but added that his options included "running for political office in Los Angeles where I can be closer to my family and grass-roots people" or "working outside the political system altogether."

"I will certainly take the time for reflection and writing," wrote Hayden, who gained national prominence as one of the "Chicago Seven" arrested during the 1968 Democratic Convention. "I have not had a real vacation in 18 years. I want to be at home, not in a Sacramento motel.

"As I now approach 60 years of age, including 40 years of activism, I began to wonder if there were other ways to combat racism, poverty, inequality and corruption than by commuting to Sacramento for another five years."

Hayden said he was encouraged to run for the 42nd Assembly District seat after Davis was sworn in as governor earlier this year.

"Indeed, things were better," Hayden wrote. "I was proud of getting funds for after-school programs, a trigger locks bill, a watchdog with subpoena power for LAUSD, helping Holocaust survivors and passing the biggest park bond in America."

"But," Hayden said, "my optimism faded into a jaded realism. The more things change the more they remain the same. The democrats bombing Serbia frustrated and horrified me. The corruptive force of money continues to plague government."

In addition, Hayden said he was "amazed" by the Governor's vetoes. According to staff, Davis vetoed eight of the approximately 15 bills introduced by Hayden.

They included bills giving ex-gang members a voice in violence prevention programs and requiring disclosure of drop-out rates and lack of certified teachers at inner city-schools. Other bills called for creating commissions on the Los Angeles River and on community service and funding for a hate crimes commission, and for monitoring children's health standards at toxic school sites.

Hayden, who was reelected in 1996 with 65 percent of the vote, said he expected to win reelection, this time to the 42nd Assembly Seat, where he had leased a condo. Polls showed he was the frontrunner and would likely have won the election, staff members said.

"I was confident of winning reelection," Hayden wrote. "But was I running for the sake of running? Was I on a treadmill? The only way to know was to get off, and let others in the bloom of their ambition have a try."

Hayden, who still maintains a home in Brentwood, was first elected to the Assembly in 1982. He was elected to the State Senate in 1992 and reelected in 1996. In his aborted bid for a return to the Assembly, Hayden raised $170,000, $100,000 in the form of loan to himself.

The announcement by Hayden took Santa Monica leaders by surprise.

"This is really amazing," said former Mayor Judy Abdo. "He will be sorely missed in Sacramento. He brought a voice to the environment that pushed the legislature to look more closely at their environmental policy."

"I'm shocked," said Jay Johnson, the former chairman of the Rent Control Board. "It's a personal decision I completely respect. I think it's a new level, a new time, and Tom can play a strong role in politics whether or not he is an elected official.

"There are very strong roles to play for people outside local office," Johnson said. "Sometimes being outside is more effective."

Lookout staff contributed to this report.