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State Journal: Politics of violence; Political speech

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Efforts by Kathleen Brown, a Democratic candidate for governor in California, to champion the issue of combating school violence have sparked a different kind of fight.

In a recent television commercial, Ms. Brown, the state treasurer, talks about her concern for her own children's safety, then describes her proposals for alternative schools and boot camps for young offenders and expanded drug-education efforts.

But Republicans supporting the re-election of Gov. Pete Wilson accused Ms. Brown of hiding her record as a member of the Los Angeles school board, on which she served from 1975 to 1980. They claim that she did not do all she could have during that time to fight violence and drugs.

Her school board record, however, indicates that Ms. Brown did advocate a strict policy for dealing with violence and called improving campus safety her chief concern.

Officials in Ms. Brown's campaign said that her record is not being hidden, and that future ads will discuss it in as much detail as 30 seconds allow.

A Montana judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan and other state education officials improperly used "public resources'' in an effort to beat back a proposal to rescind an income-tax hike.

The suit was filed by a group called Montanans for Better Government, which has obtained enough signatures to get a proposal on the 1995 election ballot rolling back a $72.7 million tax increase enacted last year.

The plaintiffs contended that Ms. Keenan, who argued that the rollback would hurt education, violated their constitutional rights by voicing her opposition during office hours and by allowing an employee to issue a memorandum urging "pupil-transportation persons'' not to sign the petition. They asked the state district court to bar such advocacy by officials.

The judge dismissed the case as moot, because the proposal made it onto the ballot. He did not address the merits of the plaintiffs' argument or Ms. Keenan's contention that an injunction would violate her right to freedom of speech.

An aide to Ms. Keenan said no public funds were spent in opposing the petition. However, Ms. Keenan told the Associated Press that she did spend several thousand dollars in defending herself against the suit.

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