$2.8 Million at Two Events : Governor Filling Campaign Coffer

Times Staff Writer

Getting a head start on next year’s election campaign, Gov. George Deukmejian walked away $2.8 million richer from two fund-raising dinners last week in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Deukmejian, collecting contributions in the backyard of his chief Democratic rival, Mayor Tom Bradley, raked in $2 million alone at a $1,000-a-plate dinner Friday night at the Century Plaza.

He had already picked up more than $800,000 at a similar dinner Tuesday night at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. His aides said both events set local records for political fund-raising events.

‘Very Happy’


“Obviously we’re very happy about it,” said Steve Merksamer, the governor’s chief of staff. Merksamer contended that the amount of money raised shows that “the governor is very popular and the popularity is very broad-based.”

Although the Republican governor has not formally announced his intention to run for a second term, Merksamer said, “We haven’t been coy about the fact he intends to seek reelection.”

Deukmejian’s most likely opponent is Bradley, who narrowly lost to Deukmejian in the 1982 gubernatorial contest. Republicans and some Democratic politicians believe that Deukmejian is in a strong position to beat Bradley a second time, but Deukmejian is not taking any chances.

Spent $8 Million in ’82


In 1982, he spent about $4 million to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination and another $4 million to beat Bradley in the general election.

“We want to raise money early because we want to run a very strong campaign,” Merksamer said. “We don’t want to take anything for granted.”

Some of former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s closest associates attended Deukmejian’s dinners, including B. T. Collins, Brown’s former chief of staff, and Richard T. Silberman, once Brown’s chief political fund-raiser.

“I think he (Deukmejian) has done an excellent job,” said Collins, now a lobbyist for a New York bond firm. Collins went to both Deukmejian dinners. “The governor has a solid list of accomplishments.”


But he confessed it bothers him that Deukmejian frequently snipes at Brown in his speeches. “I don’t think he needs to attack my former boss,” said Collins, who was a registered Republican when he worked for Brown.

Deukmejian began 1985 with about $150,000 in his campaign coffers, Merksamer said, after spending more than $1.5 million last year on Proposition 39, his unsuccessful reapportionment initiative. But the take from the Los Angeles dinner alone more than makes up for that outlay.

Profit of $2.5 Million

Of the $2.8 million collected, about $250,000 will go to paying for the dinners, leaving a profit for the week of more than $2.5 million. The receipts far exceeded the organizers’ initial goal of $1.5 million.


The Deukmejian dinner at the Century Plaza doubled as a “surprise” birthday celebration, coming the day after the governor turned 57.

The festivities, organized by Walt Disney Productions, included a high school band that played “Happy Birthday,” balloons dropped from the ceiling, and marching waiters carrying birthday cakes. The affair was emceed by KNBC newscaster Kelly Lange, and former President Gerald R. Ford delivered a keynote address.

In his speech, Deukmejian laid out the political platform that he can be expected to run on next year. He took credit for restoring fiscal health to state government, increasing spending on education and highways, reducing crime, appointing tough judges and helping put more Californians to work.

And in the rhetoric that has become common in his speeches, Deukmejian told his backers: “With your support, we will continue to scale the peak of excellence. We welcome every Californian regardless of background, party or position to our team. Because it’s the California team. It’s the gold medal team that is putting our state back on top once again.”