California's gubernatorial candidates traded long-distance jabs Monday as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, trying to catch the wave of public support for the anti-toxics initiative, charged that Gov. George Deukmejian would ignore Proposition 65 if it passes on Nov. 4.
The accusation, leveled by Bradley during a visit to a San Pedro oil refinery contaminated by deadly asbestos dust, marked the mayor's strongest attempt so far to hitch the fate of his campaign to that of Proposition 65, which is immensely popular with voters.
"George Deukmejian is joining with the chemical industry, with the oil industry, and spending millions of dollars in fighting the passage of Proposition 65," Bradley said. "It is clear to me that if Proposition 65 passes, that same Deukmejian if he is reelected as governor is literally going to ignore or place impediments to the enforcement of the law."
Deukmejian, asked about the charge in Fresno, where he was speaking during a daylong San Joaquin Valley campaign swing, called it "another ridiculous statement from the mayor."
"If it were to pass, I would certainly, and our Administration would certainly, do what is required of us by law," he added.
The governor, in turn, accused Bradley of trying to "sabotage" the state's workfare program, launched this year after winning bipartisan support from Deukmejian and Democratic lawmakers in 1985.
Deukmejian suggested that Bradley sought to derail the program--which demands that welfare recipients with children above age 6 either work or undergo job training--by sending a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary William E. Brock questioning whether the program violated federal law.
In Los Angeles, Bradley spokeswoman Ali Webb said Deukmejian's charge "is completely false and the governor knows it."
'Misstating the Facts'
"Deukmejian is deliberately misstating the facts and is fabricating a story in an effort to trick the voters," she said. "He's doing the same thing he did four years ago."
Webb said Bradley merely sought to ascertain how the workfare program, to be run by county officials, would tie in to existing job training programs run by the city.
The finger-pointing by the two candidates, each making their second successive run for the governorship, came as they began the final three weeks of campaigning before the Nov. 4 election.
A California Poll released last Tuesday showed that Deukmejian had widened his lead over Bradley to 15 points from the previous month's 11-point margin. But a Teichner poll released a day earlier had Deukmejian maintaining his six-point lead for the second straight month.
Striving to overtake the incumbent governor, Bradley is stepping up his attacks on Deukmejian's environmental record, keying in particularly on the Administration's toxic waste cleanup record.
One week ago, Bradley's campaign began running advertisements by actors Burt Lancaster and Carroll O'Connor that blasted Deukmejian's acceptance of campaign contributions from the waste industry and his veto of bills meant to clean up toxic dumps. The ads use a script similar to the one used by actress Tyne Daly in Bradley commercials that ran in late spring and were credited with giving Bradley an early boost in the polls.
Bradley's press conference Monday was billed as an appearance on behalf of Proposition 65, but it quickly turned into a pro-Bradley pep talk. Proposition 65, co-authored by Bradley backers, would limit the discharge into drinking water of chemicals believed to cause cancer and birth defects.
It would also require businesses to warn employees and consumers of exposure to those chemicals and would increase criminal penalties for illegal dumping. In a Los Angeles Times Poll released last month, 68% of voters said they support the initiative while only 16% opposed it.
Seeking a 'Yes' Vote
Bradley charged that Deukmejian has been "sitting idly by" while toxic wastes foul the environment, and he said the governor would be "just as resistant" to invoking Proposition 65.
"I hope that the people will recognize that and will cast both their votes--yes for Proposition 65 and yes for the man who would enforce it, Tom Bradley," the mayor said.
An equally aggressive Deukmejian, campaigning in territory he won in 1982, kept up a barrage of criticism against Bradley centered on workfare, a favorite Deukmejian program. Deukmejian charged that Bradley tried to sabotage workfare because he wants cities--not counties--to control job training programs.
Monday's exchange seemed to strengthen Deukmejian's resolve not to meet Bradley in televised debates.
"I have no desire whatsoever to stand on the same platform with Mayor Bradley, especially in light of the kind of attacks he has made on me," the governor said.