Curb-McCarthy Race Focuses on ‘Soft on Crime’ Label

Times Staff Writer

Republican election opponents of Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy called the incumbent “soft on crime” Tuesday, but sidestepped questions about admissions by their candidate, recording industry executive Mike Curb, that he made money writing music for films exploiting crime for its entertainment value.

“We aren’t talking about a movie, we are talking about an issue where a rape was occurring in California every few minutes,” said Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra), who along with two other GOP legislators attacked McCarthy for killing or delaying passage of tough anti-rape legislation and other anti-crime bills when he served as Speaker of the lower house.

Johnson and the two other GOP lawmakers--Assemblymen Robert W. Naylor of Menlo Park and Richard L. Mountjoy of Monrovia--brushed aside questions about the movies Curb worked on during the late 1960s, claiming they had not seen them.


“I haven’t seen them, have you?” said Mountjoy in response to a question at a news conference. He defended Curb as one of the “most honorable and moral people” he had ever known.

Some of the movies Curb worked on were motorcycle gang films titled “The Cycle Savages,” “Devil’s Angels,” and “The Wild Angels,” and featuring recurring themes of rape, violence, and drug use, according to plot outlines published by the American Film Institute.

Curb filed a $7-million libel and slander suit against McCarthy on Monday for the way the incumbent characterized Curb’s early career. The suit challenges assertions that Curb made “his fortune” or “a fortune” from the movies.

McCarthy, battling with Curb to present a tougher anti-crime stance to voters, said of the charges made Tuesday:

“I should think those three (legislators) would be embarrassed to be associated with a candidate for lieutenant governor who in his own words made ‘a lot of money’ co-producing in, or investing in, or writing music for a number of movies featuring themes of rape, teen-age drug use and extreme violence, according to the catalogue of the American Film Institute.”

McCarthy backed up his statement by releasing excerpts from a book, “Horatio Alger is Alive and Well,” published in 1971, in which Curb is quoted as saying, “What do I think of the films I scored? . . . Well, I hate to put them down; they make a lot of money. Let’s just say they’re of varying quality.”


Clearly attempting to turn the anti-crime issue around on McCarthy, Mountjoy claimed that the former legislator turned the old Assembly Criminal Justice Committee into “a graveyard” for tough criminal sentencing and victim protection laws during his tenure as Speaker from 1974 to 1980.

Naylor (R-Menlo Park), a former Republican leader in the Assembly who did not seek reelection this year to run unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate, said, “Leo McCarthy has the worst record on crime issues of any major statewide political figure other than Rose Bird.”

The lawmakers, in the first of what they said would be a series of news conferences in the state attacking McCarthy’s record as Speaker, said the Democrat had a hand in killing or delaying “101” anti-crime bills when he was in the Assembly.

Support on Committee

They said he did this by stacking the Criminal Justice Committee (since renamed the Public Safety Committee) with liberal Democrats who shared his philosophy.

The three legislators also sought to make a philosophical connection between the incumbent and Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.

In connection with the news conference, the Curb campaign released a 9-year-old letter written by McCarthy praising the nomination of Bird to the high court on the grounds that she “possesses that high degree of intelligence, knowledge, sense of justice, compassion, good judgment and administrative skill required of someone in the post of state Supreme Court chief justice.”

Curb, from the beginning of his campaign against McCarthy, has attacked the incumbent for his support of Bird. The chief justice is thought to be in serious political trouble as she runs for another 12-year term, and opinion polls show widespread voter anger over her numerous votes to overturn death penalty cases.

McCarthy Counterattack

At one point, McCarthy acknowledged that his support of Bird was hurting him, but for the last two weeks he has attempted to keep Curb off balance by attacking the Republican for making money on movies exploiting sex, drugs and crime.

Recent polls indicate that McCarthy holds a lead of 4 to 6 percentage points over Curb, a former lieutenant governor who served one term before stepping down to run unsuccessfully for governor in 1982. The two most recent surveys indicate there are still enough undecided voters to swing the election in either candidate’s favor.

“I think it’s safe to say we have a real horse race on our hands and people are still making up their minds,” said Curb aide David Ellis.