By any measure, the Republican U.S. Senate race is still up for grabs. But in one of the most talked-about developments in the campaign, Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos has won backing from an eye-catching list of California business leaders.
Several other candidates in the race are also drawing support from business people and professionals. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is backed by a long list of builders and developers, and Menlo Park Assemblyman Robert Naylor’s supporters include several major agribusinessmen in the San Joaquin Valley.
But it is Zschau who has the most impressive list of business backers, and spokesmen for many of them said they are helping Zschau raise money by making phone calls and organizing meetings and luncheons.
“Ed Zschau is an entrepreneur, and the big business people are going with one of their own,” said Barbara Rathbun, a longtime activist in the state Republican Party.
The business support for Zschau has set off a debate over whether the enthusiasm expressed for him by the corporate captains will be reflected on June 3, when the average Republican voter casts his ballot.
As one Zschau rival put it: “The corporate types loved John Connally in the 1980 presidential race. You remember President Connally, don’t you?”
A former business professor at Stanford University, Zschau, 46, founded System Industries, an electronics company, in 1969, and was instrumental in the lobbying effort that lowered the capital gains tax in the 1970s to generate more venture capital.
He was a millionaire by the time he left his company in 1982 to run for--and win--the Silicon Valley seat in Congress, where he has concentrated on business and trade issues.
“If I were running an executive search firm and someone came looking for the perfect U.S. Senate candidate for California, I’d look at Ed Zschau’s credentials and say, ‘I’ve got our man,’ ” said Walter F. Beran, vice chairman of Ernst & Whinney Accounting in Los Angeles and a former president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
“He’s been a teacher, a businessman and a member of Congress. He’s articulate on the issues and he’s straightforward in responding to questions. Southern Californians are just beginning to hear about him, but I think he’s the future.”
Investor Armand Deutsch, a friend of President Reagan and a major contributor to Republican causes, said: “I really felt for a number of years that I would never become involved in a state race again after Ronald Reagan left the governor’s job. But this fellow Zschau excites me. I think he is a real leader.”
In addition to Beran and Deutsch, business and professional leaders supporting Zschau in Southern California include Donald L. Bren, president of the Irvine Co.; Douglas M. Brown, executive vice president of Crocker National Bank; Lodwrick M. Cook, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlantic Richfield Inc.; Philip M. Hawley, chairman and chief executive officer of Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc., and Rocco Siciliano, chairman of the California Roundtable, a business group.
Those actively working for Zschau in Northern California include David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard of Palo Alto; Donald G. Fisher, chairman of the board of The Gap Inc. in San Bruno; Tom Ford of Ford Land Co., and Robert N. Noyce, vice chairman of Intel Corp.
Top aides to Bren and Packard have begun attending the Zschau campaign’s strategy sessions.
Business Leaders in Congress
Zschau’s strategists credit Los Angeles fund-raiser Joyce Valdez with helping them attract many of their corporate supporters. Valdez also raises money for Vice President George Bush and, along with Karolyn Dorsee of San Diego, helped Republican Sen. Pete Wilson pull in $4 million in contributions in 1982.
Some of those interviewed said a major reason they are backing Zschau is their desire to see more business leaders serving in Congress.
“It has been a long time since I have seen the California business community excited about a candidate the way they are about Zschau,” said Joyce Zimer, spokeswoman for Donald M. Koll, chairman of Koll Co., a major builder and manager of office buildings on the West Coast.
“I think the reason is that it is so rare for a businessman to make the sacrifice and go into politics,” Zimer said.
Expects to Raise $1 Million
Zschau said in a recent interview that because of the help he is getting from corporate backers, he expects to raise $1 million during April alone. That includes major dinners in Los Angeles and San Diego.
In contrast to Zschau’s broader outreach to top corporate contributors, Antonovich has mainly drawn support from builders, developers and attorneys who specialize in real estate matters. Antonovich’s finance chairman, Bill Houston, said the campaign hopes to raise $750,000 in April and May.
“Our strategy is to put together a series of about 60 small events in homes or clubs or restaurants and raise anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 at each one,” said Houston, president of Watson Land Co. in Los Angeles.
Among those supporting Antonovich are Albert A. Dorskind, president of MCA Corp.'s real estate division; Ray Edwards, chairman of Glendale Federal Savings & Loan; Al Martin of Albert C. Martin Architects; Jerome Prewoznik, senior partner in the Century City law firm of Memel, Jacobs, Pierno, Gersh & Ellsworth, and Beverly Hills contractor Herman Rappaport.
Businessmen helping raise money for former broadcast commentator Bruce Herschensohn include Hank Fredricks, president of Acacia Construction Co. in Fullerton; Buck Johns, president of Westerly Development Co. in Orange County; Gene Raper, president of United Packaging Corp. of the City of Industry, and Rich Snyder, president of In ‘n’ Out Burgers.
Working actively for Assemblyman Robert Naylor (R-Menlo Park) are Robert Eberhardt, president of the Bank of Stockton; John C. Harris of Harris Farms in Coalinga; Howard Peterson, president of Peterson Investments in San Leandro; William Warner, president of American Chemical Co. of Menlo Park, and Dean Watkins of Palo Alto, chairman of Watkins-Johnson Corp.
Economist Arthur Laffer said his major business backers in the Senate race include William Elliott, chairman and chief executive officer of Angeles Corp.; Sandy Hoagland, San Francisco realtor, and David Lloyd, president of Bay City Marine in National City, Calif.
Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Northridge) has picked up support from Richard DeVoss, president of Amway Corp. of Ada, Mich.; Pete Ellis, Southern California automobile dealer, and Arthur Pfefferman, president of Donut Inn Inc. in Woodland Hills.
State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) said he counts a number of businessmen among his backers in the U.S. Senate race, but he declined to release their names.