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Bradley to Explore Governor’s Race : Agrees to Series of Meetings With Democratic Leaders

Times Political Writer

Even before he is sworn in for a fourth term as Los Angeles mayor, Tom Bradley has agreed to a series of meetings up and down the state with Democratic leaders to explore a possible campaign for governor next year.

Deputy Mayor Tom Houston said Friday that the meetings were sought by leaders who both support and oppose a second attempt by Bradley for the governorship. Houston quickly added that only a few people want to talk the mayor out of running in 1986 while “most expressed the opposite feeling.”

Houston, who joined the city staff after the mayor was defeated for governor in 1982 and who has attempted to energize Bradley’s political operation, said the meetings would begin later this month and “continue through the early fall.”

In political circles, many believe that Bradley’s gubernatorial candidacy in 1986 is almost inevitable. It was a big issue during his recent mayoral reelection, with opponents charging that Bradley soon would become preoccupied with the governor’s race at the expense of running the city.

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At the time, Bradley responded that he had no plans to run for statewide office. He was, in turn, elected April 9 by better than 2 to 1 to a record fourth four-year term. He will be sworn in July 1.

Houston said the exploratory meetings to discuss a run for governor are consistent with Bradley’s earlier statements. “He isn’t planning on running; he’s listening,” Houston said.

The time, place and participants for the forthcoming meetings with party activists, elected officials and contributors were not disclosed.

In 1982, Bradley, then the front-runner, was upset by Republican George Deukmejian by a scant 93,345 votes, only 1.2% of the total cast.

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Houston said the mayor feels little need to rush a decision on whether to try again.

“If he runs, I think the primary election would not be difficult,” Houston continued.

Besides Bradley, the best-known Democrat to show an interest in the race is state Sen. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, who lost the primary election to Bradley in 1982. But Garamendi has said he would not challenge Bradley a second time.

As for a general election rematch with Deukmejian, Bradley probably would start this time as an underdog. The conventional wisdom of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as mid-term opinion polls, holds that Deukmejian has dominated much of the dialogue in Sacramento and will head into the election as a formidable figure.

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Sharper Image

But the successful Olympics, plus new political talent and his landslide reelection victory, has drawn a sharper edge on the mayor’s image.

“I think he is the most popular and well-liked politician in California,” gushed Houston. ". . . People like his style.”

For all the effort to crank up the voltage in the mayor’s operation, some of his older political friends, such as real estate developer Nelson Rising, believe that Bradley’s enduring strength is that “people are comfortable with him.”

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