10 Candidates in Unique TV Effort : Live--It’s the GOP Primary Game Show

Times Political Writer

Mix daytime television and U.S. Senate electioneering five days before a primary and you have the kind of entertaining politics California is known for--in this case part game show, part silly soap opera and part campaign stop for a uniquely theatrical cast of candidates.

Ten of the bakers’ dozen Republican Senate contenders sat down Thursday for 90 minutes of KHJ television’s live “Mid-Morning Los Angeles” show to battle a merciless timing bell, and try to deliver their best lines one more time into the eye of a camera.

Maybe from fatigue, maybe out of relief that the long campaign is nearing an end, the 10 put on an unusually loose performance that brought forth props and jokes and politics that lived up to the grand stereotype of California.


Imagine, for instance, candidate Ed Davis, the former tough-guy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, shoulder to shoulder with candidate Eldridge Cleaver, the ex-Black Panther revolutionary, calmly discussing what law enforcement lessons they learned in the days when they used to be in a shooting war on the streets of California.

The issue was: How did they like rival candidate Bruce Herschensohn’s idea for establishing federal standards for police pay and training?

Not much, said Davis, nudging Cleaver with an elbow in the ribs. Davis recalled how federal agents in the 1960s urged calm when he and Cleaver wanted to fight.

“At one point they came in and wanted me, before I raided the Black Panthers again, to call up their lawyers and make a treaty. As you know, I never agreed to that,” Davis said to a smiling Cleaver. “And you never agreed to that. I think we should keep the federal government out of local police.”

For his part, Cleaver said, “I think the Los Angeles Police Department already has too much power over the affairs of the people.”


A bell punctuated the 60-second periods when candidates were allowed to answer questions, no matter how complicated. No exceptions. No bonus rounds.

There were other scenes, beginning with one that could be entitled seating arrangements. Davis and Cleaver may have reconciled their old differences, but there has been no warming trend between Davis and Northridge Rep. Bobbi Fiedler. She refused to be seated in alphabetical order on the stage because it would put her next to Davis, now a state senator from Valencia.

It was Davis who charged that Fiedler tried to buy him out of the race with a $100,000 campaign contribution last year. The accusation led to Fiedler’s indictment but the charges were dropped.

Cleaver was seated between the two as a buffer.


Missing candidate . Mike Antonovich attends nearly all of the joint candidate forums like this one and is among those candidates growing increasingly frustrated because one rival, Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos, seems to be doing just fine in the polls by skipping most of them, including Thursday’s.

Also passing up the debate were economist Arthur B. Laffer and college professor Bill Allen, who has stopped campaigning and thrown his support to Herschensohn.

But Zschau was the target Thursday. Antonovich produced for cameras the best prop of the day--a milk carton with Zschau’s picture on it as the “missing candidate.”

Second-best prop was a collection of hats--including cowboy, tam-o’shanter and deerstalker--which were modeled during a commercial break by obscure candidate William H. Pemberton, a Mill Valley psychologist.


How deep is your knowledge? Bruce Herschensohn, the former television commentator, has been criticized for several days by Antonovich, who doesn’t like Herschensohn’s plan for a flat income tax or his proposal for national police standards. Herschensohn’s patience finally wore out.

“Mike. Mike Antonovich. The depth of your understanding of my issues is commensurate with the depth of a single piece of Saran Wrap,” Herschensohn said.

Later, off camera, Herschensohn had second thoughts: “Mike, I apologize to the manufacturers of Saran Wrap. Your depth is not that far.”

Also participating in the 90-minute show were these candidates:

Assemblyman Bob Naylor of Menlo Park. On the subject of his recent tour of the Mexico-U.S. border: “I was touring the border with the Border Patrol and a group of illegals was trapped betw1701146144Border Patrol vehicle. We got out and blocked the escape of two illegals and they were apprehended.”

Ex-Publisher Speaks

Former Oakland Tribune publisher Joseph W. Knowland. On his editorials about the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaping of Patty Hearst and the kidnapers’ demands for media publicity: “I was the one who wrote the editorial, alone standing up against the SLA, which in 24 hours, all the other media followed suit, read my editorials, reprinted them, and thus broke the back of the SLA.”

Westwood attorney George Montgomery. On his style: “I don’t fall into the mold of the consummate politician.”

Santa Ana oceanographer John W. Spring. On his education: “I think I’m the only candidate who would be qualified to teach Soviet affairs at a major university in Washington, D.C. The major problems in the world are generated by planners within the Kremlin. Now, I have the same type of expertise, training and background they do.”

Other Developments

In other campaign developments outside the television studio, a handful of activist students from various areas of the south have come to California to help Herschensohn get out the vote on Tuesday. Among the group are four young people from a North Carolina political organization affiliated with conservative U.S. Sen. Jesse A. Helms (R-N.C.). Three others are from Washington, D.C., and two are from Kentucky and Georgia.

A spokeswoman said the out-of-state students are experienced in campaigns and will help about 75 California young people manning telephones for Herschensohn.

Zschau, meanwhile, was endorsed Thursday night by former President Gerald R. Ford, whose political action committee--the New Leadership Committee--gave him $1,000. The Zschau campaign quickly added Ford’s name to a list of endorsers in its latest television commercial, which touts the congressman as the Republican best able to defeat Democratic incumbent Alan Cranston in November.