As Mayor Tom Bradley puts together his 1986 campaign for governor, a major effort is under way to distinguish the style of this campaign from the one Bradley ran--and barely lost--in 1982.
One of the mayor’s aides calls it “letting Bradley be Bradley"--that is, making sure that the average voter gets to see the Bradley who impresses downtown Los Angeles businessmen, political contributors and close friends. This is the man with presence, the one who, according to insiders, can dominate a closed-door meeting with toughness and humor.
It is not the man usually seen at ribbon cuttings or big political events. That is the stiff, wooden Tom Bradley. In a recent talk in San Francisco to a group of young Democrats, the mayor himself described that Bradley as the one who was “pushed and shoved all over the state by my staff (in 1982) to raise money.”
“The consequence was,” Bradley said, “that one of the most important elements of every campaign I have ever run--grass roots--was neglected. And when people felt that, ‘Hey, he doesn’t care about us because he is off fund raising somewhere else,’ they obviously didn’t have the kind of enthusiasm we had hoped for.”
‘Learns From Defeat’
That will change in 1986, according to Bradley and his chief strategist, Deputy Mayor Tom Houston, both of whom have all but abandoned the pretense that Bradley has not yet decided to run again.
“The mayor learns from defeat,” Houston said, pointing out that Bradley lost his first race for mayor in 1969 and came back to win in 1973.
“Last time (in the 1982 governor’s race), a lot of people were running things in the campaign,” Houston said. “This time the mayor will call the shots. He’ll decide what we do and when we do it.”
Bradley said in an interview: “I have always trusted my instincts. The election in 1982 is the one major shift in that regard. It won’t happen again.”
As for spending less time raising the millions of dollars needed to run a gubernatorial campaign, Bradley said: “We have not yet devised a fund-raising plan (for 1986). But there will have to be more of a balance between what I call the grass-roots campaign, the fund raising and the media campaign.”
Among the elements of a campaign that Bradley describes as grass roots are meetings with small groups of people that he hopes will go out and tout his virtues by word of mouth. Typical of such meetings was a recent one in San Francisco with more than 150 members of the California Democrats for New Leadership.
The group includes many of the young lawyers and political aides who supported U.S. Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) in the 1984 presidential campaign. It does not appear to be a natural constituency for the 67-year-old Bradley, who supported Walter F. Mondale for President.
By the time Bradley had finished speaking to the group, however, some of the doubters admitted that they were pleasantly surprised.
“I was very impressed,” San Francisco lawyer Jim Purvis said. “I came tonight thinking that John Garamendi (the young Democratic state senator who is also considering a run for governor) would probably win hands down at something like this, with these kinds of people. But I came away thinking that I could easily support Tom Bradley.”
Purvis recalled that Bradley was introduced at the event as “perhaps a candidate for governor.” Bradley smiled and said in a booming voice, “What do you mean perhaps?” It got a big laugh and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
‘Intelligence and Wit’
“To me that just broke it open,” Purvis said. “It showed intelligence and wit and an ability to cut through.”
Paul Albritton, a lawyer and a leader of the young Democratic group, said: “There are people within the group who are still determined to have a fresh face. But we have also heard concerns that Garamendi just isn’t specific enough, and those people were appeased last night by Bradley. He was quite specific and knowledgeable about the programs he has put in place as Los Angeles mayor.”
In his extemporaneous remarks, Bradley described how he had revitalized downtown Los Angeles and had talked tough to corporations that did not want to comply with various city laws. He also described how he forced the International Olympic Committee to absolve Los Angeles taxpayers of any financial responsibility for the 1984 Olympic Games by threatening to withdraw the city’s bid for the Games.
“I want you to measure that performance against whatever promises, whatever pledges you may hear from anybody else anywhere,” Bradley said.
Albritton said, however, that some of those in the audience were not completely sold. “I think some people would have liked to have heard more about how the success of Los Angeles can be transferred to the state level,” he said.
Flop in San Francisco
Bradley is clearly relishing his decision to trust his own instincts this time around. But another event on his recent San Francisco trip showed that he and his aides still have not figured out a way to keep the wooden Tom Bradley from making an occasional appearance.
In a speech to the Commonwealth Club, a public affairs group in San Francisco, Bradley plodded and stumbled through a prepared speech that left the crowd uninspired by his glowing description of the Olympics. He misread the general attitude about the Olympics in Northern California. That attitude is one of pride but does not approach the boosterism common in Southern California.
“I couldn’t believe he equated a sports event with the needs of transit systems and things like that,” said a physician who heard the Commonwealth Club speech.
Harry Wolf, a college professor, called it “a lot of platitudes but not the speech that will win the governorship.”
In an interview later Bradley acknowledged that the speech had been a bust. “The written text is an approach I don’t like,” he said. “But some groups ask for them, and you have to do them.”