GOP’s Naylor Learns Politics Can Be Tough

Times Political Writer

If anyone has ever learned what a tough business politics can be, it is Robert Naylor.

For more than a year the Menlo Park assemblyman has campaigned relentlessly for the Republican U. S. Senate nomination. A Los Angeles Times Poll taken in February found Naylor the choice of only 4% of GOP voters. And two months later, a Times poll found that he had dropped to 2%.

Naylor had gotten into the Senate race after his Assembly career was dealt a major blow. Conservatives became increasingly unhappy with his capable but unexciting leadership of Assembly Republicans, and he quit that post rather than be ousted.

Now Naylor is in danger of becoming an also-ran in the June 3 GOP primary and he knows it. The reasons say a lot about what it takes to mount a statewide campaign in California.


“I’ve learned a lot in this campaign,” he said recently with an air of resignation. “It’s been a fantastic experience. You know, you can wish you had learned earlier, and in my case, I wish I’d been able to head off Zschau.”

He was referring to a rival candidate, Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos, whose entry into the Senate race last November destroyed Naylor’s strategy.

Naylor’s plan was to be the only Northern Californian in a race jammed with Southern California candidates. The latter would divide up the big Southland vote, he theorized, and he would win the nomination by taking most of the north and running credibly in the south.

But Zschau got in with a fund-raising ability that gave him a better chance of buying the name recognition that both he and Naylor lacked in the Southland. Zschau’s personal style also appealed to moderate grass-roots groups more than Naylor’s, even though some of those moderates have supported Naylor for years.


Money, style, name recognition--they are the major ingredients in a statewide campaign. It has been uphill for Bob Naylor.

“If I had made a stronger showing in the first half of 1985 maybe that would have stopped Ed from getting into the race,” Naylor said in an interview. “The fund raising I did was ahead of where Pete Wilson and Pete McCloskey were at the same point in the ’82 primary.”

Indeed, Naylor raised more money in the first nine months of his Senate campaign--$265,000--than many thought he could. He did it by tapping some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and by going to big farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, who appreciated Naylor’s efforts for them in the Assembly.

But many farmers are hurting in the economy, so that source is not the deep well in this campaign that it was for Pete Wilson in 1982. And the entry of Zschau, a former high-tech businessman, virtually shut down Naylor’s fund raising in Silicon Valley.


Naylor has been able to add only $250,000 more to his coffers since August, 1985, and a number of candidates, including Zschau, are far ahead of him in fund raising. Naylor had $35,000 on hand on March 31, not enough to buy the television ads that are often crucial in the final weeks of a campaign.

“Our fund raising definitely has to pick up,” Naylor said gloomily. “I think most of the (high-tech) entrepreneurs would have come into my corner. But Ed Zschau is a businessman and that is the end of the analysis for most of the CEOs. There’s no way I can compete with that no matter how much I point to my record.”

An Attack Strategy

Naylor’s strategy now is to attack Zschau everywhere he goes, calling him too liberal to represent the California Republican Party in the Senate. This despite the fact the two men are similar--both are fiscal conservatives and social moderates. They want a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, support the equal rights amendment and oppose an amendment banning abortion.


But Naylor says that he would be more supportive of President Reagan’s defense policies, including the MX missile, which Zschau voted against in Congress, and the Strategic Defense Initiative, which Zschau would fund at a lower level than Reagan and Naylor.

Somehow, the attack mode just doesn’t fit Naylor, a polite and conscientious man who would seem to have been born to help elderly ladies write their wills. In fact, until he went to the Assembly in 1978, Naylor was a tax and political reform lawyer with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in San Francisco.

Contract With Family

Naylor, 42, is so devoted to his wife Kay and their two daughters, Kristen and Karen, that he signed a special contract with his family when he ran for the Assembly in 1978. He must spend a certain amount of time at home each month, something that many politicians would find hard to fathom.


One person close to Naylor, who requested anonymity, said that his scheduler often has to check with Naylor’s wife to clear his attendance at weekend political events. Despite this arrangement, Naylor has traveled all over California for more than a year, meeting with small groups of activists and contributors.

About the only good news for Naylor in the Senate race came at a recent convention of the California Republican Assembly, the party’s largest group of conservative activists. Naylor’s grass-roots politicking paid off as a plurality of the delegates backed his candidacy. But in the television-dominated world of campaigns, such support is mostly a morale builder for the candidate and his staff.

Bob Naylor believes he has paid his dues in the California Republican Party, going back to 1964 when, as editor of the Stanford Daily, he endorsed Sen. Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy. He backed Reagan over President Ford in 1976 and has walked precincts for a lot of Republicans over the years.

But it is now down to the cruel time of the Senate campaign.


Hearing recently that two of his big agribusiness supporters had gotten interested in the Zschau campaign, Naylor pleaded with them to stick with him a little longer, according to sources familiar with the meetings.

It is a testament to the respect those supporters have for Naylor that they remain loyal despite his faltering campaign.