Bradley-Waxman Alliance No Longer a Sure Thing
Looking for support for his reelection campaign, Mayor Tom Bradley called Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a leader of the Westside’s powerful Democratic organization, seeking the Waxman endorsement that has always been his for the asking.
But this time, like a customer grown tired of the same old merchandise, Waxman replied with a variation of a phrase that has chilled many a salesman’s heart: “I’ll get back to you.”
Exactly what words were used in the Los Angeles-to-Washington call Tuesday night is unknown since neither man would provide a transcript. But in interviews Wednesday, Waxman and the other organization chief, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Studio City), gave the gist of the conversation and Bradley, who is running for a fourth term, confirmed it.
The congressmen said they told the mayor they would not back him until they had a meeting in Los Angeles. Waxman said he will want to learn at the meeting whether Bradley, the party’s 1982 unsuccessful gubernatorial nominee, plans to run again in 1986 and whether the mayor thinks he could beat Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, who defeated him three years ago.
Waxman said he wanted to know “what is the chance he will run . . . what are the chances he thinks he will have.”
“I’m concerned about the Democratic Party,” Waxman said. “Nineteen eighty-six is a crucial year.”
“I think it is likely we will be for him,” Waxman said. But he acknowledged this is the first time that he has not automatically backed Bradley and given him the political clout and sophisticated mailed advertising skills of the organization.
His reluctance appears to be based on a distaste for another Bradley gubernatorial run. Although Waxman said little that was critical of the mayor in the interview, some of his associates have told reporters privately that they do not want Bradley on the ticket in 1986, fearing that he would lose badly and bring down other Democrats.
The telephone conversation was the clearest sign yet of the coolness that Waxman, Berman and other members of the organization feel toward the mayor, and it reflects divisions in a party trying to rebuild after President Reagan’s 1984 landslide.
The Berman-Waxman organization is a coalition of elected officials, political donors and other Democratic activists that has the allegiance of Democratic officials from Fairfax Avenue to the beach, and over the Santa Monica Mountains to portions of the San Fernando Valley. Its power also spills into the 28th Congressional District of Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), a black lawmaker who represents black and white neighborhoods from USC to Westchester.
During the presidential campaign, Waxman, Berman and the others supported Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) for the party’s presidential nomination, embracing his “New Ideas” platform and sharing his scorn for those they considered old-fashioned Democrats. Bradley backed the man who, to the Hart supporters, epitomized “old ideas,” former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, the party’s eventual nominee.
After Mondale’s loss, all the party leaders have been discussing the Democratic future, especially in California, where Sen. Alan Cranston faces a possibly tough race and where a Deukmejian landslide could hurt him and cost the Democrats congressional and legislative seats.
Bradley has said he has “no plans” to run for governor in 1986, but has refused to rule a race out.
The meeting among Bradley, Berman and Waxman, scheduled for February, could affect the campaign Bradley is waging for a fourth term against Councilman John Ferraro, as well as 1986 politics.
Dixon said in an interview that Bradley and Berman-Waxman need each other in the city election.
“I think the endorsements of Berman and Waxman are very important,” he said. “It has represented the coalition of the liberal Jewish community and the black community that has been the nucleus of (Bradley’s) support, and it seems to me the mayor would want that support, and I hope Howard and Henry support him.”
And, he said, Berman and Waxman need Bradley, particularly at the top of slate mailings that the organization sends to black and Jewish neighborhoods where the mayor is popular. Such mailings contain a list of candidates backed by the organization, and including Bradley on the slate helps lesser-known people.
‘A Clear Identity’
“There is no doubt there is a hand-and-glove relationship in politics, and the mayor has a clear identity and popularity on his own that Henry and Howard may want to involve on their slates,” Dixon said.
One reason Berman and Waxman need Bradley on their slates is that they are backing for city attorney Lisa Specht, an attorney who hopes for strong Westside backing but also needs black support. One of her opponents is City Controller James K. Hahn, whose father, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, is a popular white politician who represents a predominantly black district.
Bradley, on the other hand, needs enthusiastic Berman-Waxman support to help in Westside districts angered by his approval of Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s proposal to drill for oil on the beach in Pacific Palisades.