Bradley Takes to the Streets With Toxics Initiative as Part of Campaign Strategy

Times Staff Writer

Mayor Tom Bradley took to the streets Friday to gather signatures to qualify for the November ballot a toxics initiative that is crucial to his uphill strategy to unseat Gov. George Deukmejian.

An aggressive Bradley not only continued his toxics offensive, but in two punchy speeches Thursday night in Sacramento, he criticized Deukmejian for not knowing that California National Guard troops had been flying supply missions to Honduras for the last eight years.

"Either he's too sloppy with his Administration," Bradley said of the governor at a dinner of the Harry S. Truman Democratic Club, "or he's too dumb. In either case, we cannot tolerate it."

'Partisan Politics'

Deukmejian, during an appearance Friday in San Bernardino, called Bradley's charges "just partisan politics. It's campaign-type rhetoric."

Bradley stepped up his promotion of the toxics initiative by personally circulating petitions Friday in Century City. The initiative, called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, would safeguard water and require labeling on products that contain cancer-causing chemicals, according to proponents.

Supporters of the measure say they need 620,000 signatures to hand to the secretary of state on May 27. The initiative actually needs 393,835 signatures, but the larger total is considered necessary to end up with the required number of valid signatures certified by the June 26 deadline, said Carl Pope, political director of the Sierra Club and one of the leading organizers for the ballot measure.

The placement of the initiative on the November ballot, when voters will decide the governor's race, is an important part of Bradley's strategy to make Deukmejian's toxic cleanup record a central campaign issue. Tom Houston, deputy mayor and Bradley's political operative in City Hall, was one of the drafters of the measure.

'It Doesn't Help'

Without the measure on the same ballot, "it doesn't help" Bradley, said Tom Quinn, campaign chairman.

Quinn said: "The greater danger is that we might not get something on the ballot that could protect people from dangerous chemicals in our water."

But, he conceded, "It would also be helpful to us if it were on the ballot in November to focus public attention on the issue. It would be difficult to focus attention on the toxics issue if it were not on the ballot. Obviously, there would be greater interest if people were going to vote on it."

Organizers behind the toxics initiative hired a firm to gather the bulk of the signatures and 400,000 have already been collected, Pope said. About two weeks ago, the volunteer effort to gather signatures was "falling 20,000 short of its goal," he said. "Maybe we were overconfident. But now there's a full push. If we keep going at the pace we are, I'm confident we will qualify for November."

Opposition to the measure is already lined up. Doug Watts, a Sacramento consultant who said he is representing several business groups that include the Chamber of Commerce, said many Republican Party activists see the measure as a thinly veiled attempt to attack Deukmejian, whose Administration's cleanup efforts have been the target of an FBI investigation and have been criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state auditor general.

'Pernicious Initiative'

Many business groups, Watts said, "believe this to be the most Draconian, pernicious initiative ever presented to the voters of California."

Pope said the shortfall discovered two weeks ago "lit a fire" under environmentalists and Democratic Party officials who want to see the initiative qualify. At his campaign stops, Bradley staff and volunteers are armed with petitions.

At speeches to two groups of supporters Thursday night in Sacramento, Bradley urged voters to "sign up and spread the word."

Bradley challenged Deukmejian to "step aside, man. You've had your chance. We're looking toward a new day and new leadership." He urged the crowd to tell their friends of the "difference of 180 degrees between Tom Bradley and George Deukmejian. Like night and day," he added, to the laughter of the audience.

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