Neighborhood in Anaheim Gets Plenty of ‘Hate Mail’ --All of It at Election Time
Randy P. Judickis, a 32-year-old warehouse manager, said so much negative political mail has hit his Anaheim neighborhood, near the corner of Orangewood Avenue and Haster Street, that he has decided to dump it all in the trash as soon as it arrives.
“It’s the worst year I’ve seen in a long time,” Judickis said as he spent a quiet afternoon at home over the weekend. “It’s sad for politics. Most of it is full of attacks, and you can’t believe one side or the other.”
The worst pieces of mail, he said, are those that urge him to vote for a particular slate of candidates.
“I did that kind of thing for years, when I was with the Teamsters Union,” he said. “I don’t like it. I don’t want anyone telling me how to vote.”
Last week, Judickis and his neighbors began receiving as many as eight pieces of campaign mail daily, almost all of it negative, telling them in no uncertain terms that some candidates are better than others.
Indeed, political consultants said the area in which Judickis lives--roughly between Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium--has been bombarded with more campaign mail than any other in Orange County. That’s because the area happens to be in overlapping city, county, state and federal legislative districts that have the hottest political contests in the county this year:
- First, there’s a lot of campaign mail hitting the area because 14 candidates are competing for three City Council seats in Anaheim.
- Second, the area is within the 4th Supervisorial District, in which Anaheim Mayor Don R. Roth is in a tight race with Orange Mayor Jim Beam to replace retiring Supervisor Ralph B. Clark.
- It’s also within the 72nd Assembly District, where Republican Richard E. Longshore is battling Democrat Dan Griset in a contest that’s getting extra money and help from both parties statewide.
- The area has the only state Senate race in Orange County--in the 32nd District, where Sen. Ed Royce (R-Anaheim) is being challenged by Democrat Francis Hoffman.
- Finally, the same voters are being courted by the candidates in the 38th Congressional District, where Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) faces Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) in a no-holds-barred tussle that has drawn national attention.
One of the Dornan mailers that arrived over the weekend featured a takeoff on an American Express credit card commercial. The piece depicted Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Merced), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, saying he never leaves home without a card that is labeled “tax and spend.” The Dornan piece also depicted Coelho saying he wants to give one of the cards to Robinson.
Robinson’s weekend mailers echoed a consistent campaign theme, saying Dornan has traveled too far and too wide, and has advocated giving $41 million in U.S. aid to Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, whom Robinson labeled a “Marxist-Leninist.”
By Monday, most voters in Orange County will be receiving campaign mail from several Republican candidates that includes letters from President Reagan and Gov. George Deukmejian.
And many will have received slate mail--lists of ballot recommendations--that have outraged some candidates by including their names next to those of other candidates or ballot measures they do not support.
But to hear voters in the neighborhood near Orangewood Avenue and Haster Street tell it, the last-minute mail barrage makes little difference.
“I really just throw it away and don’t pay much attention to it,” said Bill Rasey, 52, a salesman and part-time bartender.
“If the mail were more positive, I’d be more apt to read it,” he said. “As it is now, it’s hard to sift through the b.s.”
A neighbor, machinist Jerry Wheaton, 39, said he reads the campaign mail when it first starts coming but throws it away ever more quickly as the campaign season progresses.
“I just get so tired of it,” he said. “It’s hard to make any sense out of it.”
Political consultant Harvey Englander said there is more attack mail this year than in previous campaigns, partly because there is more money being raised and spent by the candidates. And he added that despite frequent complaints from people who say they are fed up with negative mail, it works.
“I can show you studies of focus groups . . . where people are asked to choose which campaign pieces they like the most. . . . And often they pick the hit piece,” Englander said.
Mark Howell, who has handled some of the mail and media contacts for Republican Mike Curb’s campaign for lieutenant governor, agreed that the negative attacks are effective.
“We know it works because the effects are measurable,” he said.
Howell said Curb’s polling showed that incumbent Leo McCarthy’s ads linking Curb to records and movies that depict teen sex, violence and drugs had cut into Curb’s support.
There are drawbacks, however.
Howell cited one ad that was pulled because nobody believed it: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Zschau’s attack on Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston for not being tough on terrorists.
“Nobody could believe that Cranston likes terrorism,” he said. “Not even hard-core Republicans. It just doesn’t sound right.”
Early in the Griset-Longshore Assembly race, Griset campaign officials decided that people actually were tired of negative hit mail and focused on positive messages about neighborhood pride. That is, until last week, when Griset attacked Longshore for selling out to radicals and liberals who oppose strict enforcement of housing codes.
Gail Kaufman, Griset’s campaign manager, said the attack came only because strict enforcement of housing codes is a key campaign theme for Griset and opponents of enforcement had been secretly helping Longshore.
The rest of the campaign, Kaufman said, will be positive.
Longshore’s mail has attacked Griset with unrelenting fervor.
“If it didn’t work, there wouldn’t be so much of it out there,” said Mike Williams, a Longshore campaign aide. Part of the strategy involves taking advantage of the fact that Griset, as mayor of Santa Ana, has a track record in public office to be picked apart.
Longshore, on the other hand, had never held public office until his recent appointment by Deukmejian to the California Veterans Board.
But perhaps the most cogent explanation for candidates’ use of negative advertising came from Robinson two years ago, when he survived a Longshore challenge in the 72nd Assembly District by fewer than 300 votes.
“You do it,” Robinson said, “out of fear that if you don’t the other guy will.”