David Allyn Dokich - Serial Child Rapist / High Risk Sex Offender

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Leno a lightning rod in crime debate

He's been blasted by talk radio hosts and TV pundits. These days Assemblyman Mark Leno is a prime target of the right. Critics say he's soft on criminals. Some supporters say he's singled out because he's gay.

By Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez angrily approached Assemblyman Todd Spitzer near the floor of the Assembly recently.

"This is bull----," Núñez said, waving a written commentary in which Spitzer characterized Assemblyman Mark Leno as an "ultraliberal" who leads a "pro-criminal" majority.

Spitzer blasted Democrats as "soft on crime" and accused Leno's Public Safety Committee of consistently putting "the rights of career criminals over those of law-abiding citizens."

"This is bull----," Núñez repeated, then stormed away from the Orange County Republican.

Leno, 54, has been grilled on the Internet, blasted on conservative talk radio and criticized on political TV shows ranging from "The O'Reilly Factor" to "Hannity & Colmes."

Supporters say the attacks against Leno are politics at their ugliest.

"The fact is, he's being picked on because he's a gay member of the Legislature," Núñez said last week. "That's just the bottom line. ... They won't come out and say it here, but on AM radio stations, they're being pretty clear about that."

The firestorm over the San Francisco Democrat, one of six openly gay California legislators, is setting the stage for a bitter election year in which Republicans will portray themselves as fighters for public safety and family values, analysts say.

"They want to use this as a symbol," Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University political science professor, said of the flap over Leno.

The partisan mudslinging began with a floor battle over dueling proposals - by Leno and the GOP - to get tougher on sex offenders.

The crackdown on child sexual abuse is being driven by a GOP signature-gathering drive to qualify a proposed ballot measure, known as "Jessica's Law," for the November ballot.

Leno is a Republican target, in part, because he helped kill GOP legislation identical to "Jessica's Law" and crafted the alternative that Republicans claim is much weaker.

But GOP dissatisfaction with Leno's leadership on the Public Safety Committee has been building for months, culminating last year with Republicans distributing to reporters a list of "tough on crime" bills that he helped kill.

"After years and years, and bill after bill, of Republican public safety bills being systematically relegated to the round file, Assembly Republicans are drawing a line in the sand," Spitzer said in his commentary.

Besides Leno, the six-member Public Safety Committee includes three other Democrats, including liberals Mervyn Dymally of Compton and Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles.

Spitzer said the panel was handpicked to do Núñez's bidding, adding, "The speaker is systematically using (it) to kill pro-public safety bills."

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