New Grass-Roots Bradley Connection: Phone Lines

Times City-County Bureau Chief

For Milton J. Tepper in Van Nuys and Ozie Gonzaque in Watts, preparations for Saturday started several days ago, when they began organizing telephone calls to pull people to the opening of Mayor Tom Bradley's campaign headquarters.

In this day of television advertisements and computer mailings, the humble telephone call seems an outmoded political weapon. But for Bradley, running for a fourth term against Councilman John Ferraro, the success of the calls in packing the headquarters was important.

The overcrowded storefront offices that greeted him Saturday afternoon showed that the telephone network set up by Tepper, Gonzaque and other campaigners had passed its first test.

That telephone network is a crucial part of Bradley's 1985 grass-roots game plan, calling for intensive use of the phone, of door-to-door visits and rallies--all designed to get out a huge vote for the mayor on April 9, primary election day.

"We are laying a foundation now," said campaign manager Mike Gage, explaining the significance of the effort to build crowds for Saturday's headquarters openings.

About 200 people greeted Bradley at his San Fernando Valley headquarters at 6261 Van Nuys Blvd. There were fewer at the Watts office in the new Martin Luther King Jr. shopping center, but the room, smaller than the Van Nuys office, was just as crowded.

"We have committed to the city that we are going to have a grass-roots campaign," Bradley told the Watts audience.

He did not say why, but aides have explained it in the past. When Bradley ran and lost for governor in 1982, his turnout in black areas--the original political base of the city's first black mayor--was lower than expected, although he still carried them overwhelmingly. This time, campaign strategists, believing the 1982 team relied too much on television advertising, are using block-by-block organization methods that they believe will pay off in South-Central Los Angeles.

Different Situation in Valley

The reason for the same kind of political campaign in the Valley is different. The predominantly white, middle-class Valley has always been a hard sell for the mayor--and for liberal Democrats in general. For example, in 1984, President Reagan defeated Democrat Walter Mondale in the Valley's 7th City Council district, which includes Van Nuys.

While Gonzaque and the other South-Central campaigners will assault the entire heavily Democratic, predominantly black pro-Mondale area, Tepper and other members of the Valley Bradley team will concentrate only on specific sections. Those will be the precincts that, according to their past voting behavior, are most likely to turn out for Bradley.

The mayor's speeches in the headquarters gave a clear picture of the message that will be delivered by him and by others at the rallies in the telephone calls--and in the more modern computer mailings and television commercials that also will be a major part of the campaign.

More Emotional Style

In Watts, his speech was a sermon on overcoming obstacles that he delivered in an emotional style unusual for the mayor. Perhaps inspired by the surrounding shopping center, built partially through Bradley's efforts, and new Watts housing--much of it city-aided--the mayor said, "They said Martin Luther King Jr. Shopping Center could not be built. We said, 'Yes it can.' They said Slauson-Vermont (another shopping center in a predominantly black area) couldn't be built. We said, 'Yes, we can.' They said 'You can't have all this housing in Watts.' We said 'Yes, we can.' They said you can't have the Olympic Games without taxes.' We said 'Yes, we can.' "

He spoke in the manner of a traditional black minister, and as he repeated the phrase "Yes, we can," men and women in the audience joined in as if they were in church. His presentation stirred memories of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign, a pioneering and highly emotional effort that last year made Bradley sound staid and old-fashioned.

But his main point in Watts was the same as it was 30 miles away in Van Nuys: His Administration has brought great economic growth and many jobs to the city.

In Van Nuys, he said his Administration had helped bring the new Warner Center to the Valley, as well as rehabilitate Van Nuys and North Hollywood.

Replying--without mentioning his name--to Ferraro's charge that Bradley had neglected the Valley, Bradley said, "We have not overlooked a single community in this great city."

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