4 GOP Senate Candidates on Attack--Target Is Rep. Zschau
Four Republican U.S. Senate candidates are on the attack--and the target isn’t Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston. It is Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos, whose ability to raise money and win the backing of business leaders and moderate activists has started to worry some of his rivals in the crowded GOP race.
The attacks, which could find their way into TV commercials late in the campaign, are reminiscent of the 1982 Republican Senate race, when some of Pete Wilson’s opponents began to charge that he was not a true conservative after his campaign picked up steam.
Although Zschau was near the bottom of the pack in a recent Los Angeles Times Poll, he is the fund-raising leader with $1.6 million and has picked up the endorsements of such corporate captains as David Packard and Philip M. Hawley, as well as the backing of California Young Republicans.
Called Most Liberal
“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Ed Zschau is the most liberal candidate in the Republican race,” said one Zschau rival, former commentator Bruce Herschensohn. “How could he campaign against Alan Cranston when they agree on so many issues? I mean, you can’t criticize Cranston (for supporting) a nuclear freeze when you voted for a freeze, as Zschau did. You can’t talk about a defense program when you voted against the President on the MX, as Zschau did.”
Another candidate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said he has another problem--he doesn’t think Zschau has paid his dues.
“Ed Zschau has never been active for Ronald Reagan or George Deukmejian and he just doesn’t have a grass-roots base,” said Antonovich, who has labored for many years in the Reagan-Deukmejian political vineyards.
Reagan pollster Richard Wirthlin, who is now polling for Zschau, said recently, “Ed is exactly the kind of Republican that fits the California electorate"--that is young (Zschau is 46), conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on social issues.
But Zschau’s rivals are openly suspicious of this man with a Ph.D. and a retinue of Northern California volunteers who favor crew-neck sweaters and boat shoes.
“Face it, he’s a Yuppie dream,” said a campaign worker for state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) derisively. So far Davis has not joined in the attacks on Zschau.
Leading the charge against Zschau is Assemblyman Robert Naylor (R-Menlo Park), whose hope to be the only Northern California candidate crumbled when Zschau got into the race last November.
“We all feel very strongly that Ed Zschau is not the direction we want the Republican Party to go,” Naylor said recently, referring to his conversations with Antonovich, Herschensohn and Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Northridge).
“Most of us have been working for years and years. You form a philosophy in college and you get out there and work as a volunteer and then you run for office. But Ed comes late to all this. It’s hard to say what he really stands for.”
That description does not exactly fit Herschensohn, who has bolstered his conservative credentials with television and radio commentaries rather than volunteer work.
Zschau replies, “Talking about what I can offer and what kind of person I am is the best way to inoculate myself against any attacks. President Reagan has been criticized by a lot of people but his approval rating is extremely high because of his positive leadership. What my opponents are really saying is that they would like to win the nomination and they can’t do that if I win.”
Herschensohn, Antonovich and Fiedler differ with Zschau on a number of issues. They back Reagan down the line on defense spending, including development of the MX missile and full funding for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Zschau opposes the MX and would fund SDI research at a lower level than Reagan wants.
Antonovich and Herschensohn would also ban abortion in most cases and favor easing restrictions on school prayer. Zschau believes abortion is a woman’s choice and would not ease the school prayer restrictions.
Fiedler, who happens to agree with Zschau on abortion and school prayer, says nonetheless, “Nobody knows who Zschau is or what he stands for.”
She said she was referring to Zschau’s “flip-flops” on several issues.
Served on Reagan Panel
A co-chairman of Reagan’s Business Advisory Panel in 1980, Zschau opposed the 1981 Reagan tax cuts because of the panel’s concern about the deficit. Now he says that was a mistake and that he would back any Reagan veto of a tax increase.
Once opposed to arming the Nicaraguan contras, Zschau decided to support the arms plan this year, giving as his reason the Sandinista government’s lack of interest in negotiations.
He also once supported the MX when someone convinced him it would be a good bargaining chip in arms talks with the Soviet Union. But he now says he believes that argument lacks credibility--"Why spend the money to build the MX if you have made it clear you’d give it up at the negotiating table?”
Advisers to both Antonovich and Fiedler said they might consider attacking Zschau in TV ads if he shows a lot of strength in the coming weeks. But they worry about inadvertently increasing his name recognition.
“I don’t think Zschau is going anywhere at this point,” said Fiedler campaign manager Paul Clarke, referring to Zschau’s lack of name identity in Southern California. “I certainly don’t want to give him any more publicity.”