Delay on Bird a Bradley Error, Brown Asserts

Times Staff Writer

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday that Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley should have made up his mind last September on where he stands on California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird's bid to win another term.

Never an enthusiastic Bradley supporter, Brown said that the mayor's failure to put the issue behind him has damaged the Democratic gubernatorial candidate's ability to attack Gov. George Deukmejian's record in office.

Noting that it is still "very, very early" in the campaign, Brown nevertheless declared: "I would have said something last September, were I Tom Bradley, and (the stand on Bird) wouldn't be relevant for anybody's newspaper story today if he had done so."

Last month, Bradley announced he would take up to 60 days to review Bird's record on the court before deciding whether to endorse her. That delay has given Deukmejian "60 days to direct the attention to Tom Bradley rather than (Deukmejian's) poor management of state government," Brown told reporters.

"I just think I'd get it behind me were I Tom Bradley and force Deukmejian into defending the Deukmejian Administration rather than having Bradley defend his failure to respond on Rose Bird and the Supreme Court."

Bradley has been getting similar advice from his own staff members, who are tired of seeing their candidate being pummeled with charges of indecisiveness from the Republican governor.

In a speech to a fund-raising dinner in San Francisco Tuesday night, Deukmejian once again flailed at Bradley for shifting positions on several issues, including the question of endorsing Rose Bird.

Specifically, Deukmejian scoffed that "the man who wants to be governor and appoint judges can't even decide whether he will support or oppose the chief justice."

Deukmejian asserted again that he has "no intention of voting to give Chief Justice Rose Bird another 12-year term." Deukmejian has long been critical of Bird and the California Supreme Court majority's record in failing to implement the death penalty.

But Bird, appointed by Deukmejian's Democratic predecessor, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., represents a politically sensitive problem for Democratic candidates such as Bradley. Many politicians believe that candidates who support her may risk the wrath of voters who are against her.

However, some Democrats who spurn Bird fear that they may appear disloyal or be accused of political inconsistency.

Earlier this year, when Deukmejian was asked whether he would "hang Bird around Bradley's neck either way," the governor smiled and responded, "It might be discussed."

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