Defeated GOP Senate Candidates Face Future
Cold, hard reality confronted three of the Los Angeles area’s most successful Republican officials early Wednesday morning.
Six years ago Bobbi Fiedler, an upstart school board member from Northridge, knocked off longtime liberal Rep. James Corman to become a rising GOP star in Congress. Big things seemed in store after she was picked to speak on President Reagan’s behalf at the party’s 1984 convention. But her raucous, populist political life may have ended as the U.S. Senate primary ballots were counted.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike D. Antonovich has been chairman of the California Republican Party and a persistent voice for conservative causes here. But he faced the disappointing fact that voters have rejected him twice now as a statewide candidate, and he conceded that may be a sign of his political limits.
Ed Davis, the state senator from Valencia, once rode high as the chief of police of Los Angeles and made a serious run at the Republican nomination for governor in 1978. But the voters soun1684830496leader.
Only Fiedler, who gave up her safe congressional seat to seek the U.S. Senate nomination, lost her job in the election Tuesday, which was won by Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos. But all three suffered wounds to their political standing, and certainly to their pride.
They all had predicted strong voter support here at home in Los Angeles. But Antonovich was the only one of the trio to collect even 10% of the Republican vote in Los Angeles County, and together their share of the votes didn’t come close to television commentator Bruce Herschensohn, who won the county but lost to Zschau in the statewide race, where it counted.
Faced Rough Task
Fiedler, whose congressional term expires in January, always faced a tough task competing in the large field seeking the right to oppose Sen. Alan Cranston in November. Still, her proven ability to defeat liberal incumbents and uncanny touch with media attention gave her a formidable image.
But she could never shake the shadow affixed to her campaign when Davis accused Fiedler’s camp of offering him a $100,000 bribe to quit the race. The Los Angeles County Grand Jury indicted Fiedler and her top congressional aide, Paul Clarke, and by the time charges were dismissed 33 days later Fiedler’s momentum had slowed to a poke.
As the campaign neared an end, some Republicans speculated that Fiedler, the one-time motivator behind the Southern
California anti-school busing movement, might challenge Davis if he seeks reelection to the state Senate in 1988. But she has never relished life in Sacramento, and some friends consider it more likely that she will sit out future elections unless a congressional seat should open up in the San Fernando Valley.
“I have a number of options, and I’m assessing them,” Fiedler said in a terse meeting with reporters Wednesday. “I have six months to think about it.” Clarke said Wednesday that they plan to be married--as Fiedler announced during the height of the controversy over the alleged bribe--but that no date has been set.
Davis, meanwhile, had a cheery outlook Wednesday despite finishing behind Fiedler at the polls. Davis acknowledged that he was badly mistaken about his often-repeated campaign claim that he could win in California without big money essentially by talking to reporters in scattered towns throughout the state.
“You learn as you go along,” he said. “I didn’t have any idea I would raise as little money as I did, and I had no idea that the others would raise as much money as they did. If you can buy advertising you can sell almost anything in America.”
Davis said he had no second thoughts about the Fiedler episode, which became a public issue after he asked a prosecutor to investigate Fiedler. “When someone solicits you to engage in a felony offense to the extent of a major figure, like $100,000, there’s only one thing to do and that’s turn it over to authorities. That’s all I did.”
Antonovich appeared Wednesday at a Republican “unity lunch,” called by party leaders to give the impression that bitter campaign differences are over, but he could not mask his disappointment that Zschau, a moderate, beat out the large field of conservative contenders.
“What we have here is an election that was colored by heavy outside money,” Antonovich said. “I would say the philosophy of Deukmejian and Reagan is the prevalent philosophy of the Republican Party, as illustrated by the election results. Conservatives got basically two-thirds of the (Senate) vote.”
Antonovich, who lost a bid for the lieutenant governor nomination in 1978, said he won’t rule out another bid for statewide office. “I don’t foresee it, though. As a supervisor I represent an area larger than most of our state governors represent, an area larger than most of our senators represent. I consider it one of the best political positions in the United States, and I thank God that I have that.”
‘If you can buy advertising you can sell almost anything in America.'--Ed Davis