Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is hoping to turn the slow-growth issue against Baxter Ward in their November election contest by portraying his challenger as having been pro-development in his 1972-80 term on the Board of Supervisors.
A coalition of slow-growth neighborhood groups, capitalizing on resentment against Antonovich in the rapidly developing West San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica Mountains, helped force Antonovich into a runoff with Ward, whom he had defeated in 1980.
In the June primary, Antonovich received 45% of the vote, compared to 22% for Ward and 20% for Don Wallace, a Santa Monica Mountains community activist and Los Angeles fire captain who was supported by the West Los Angeles-San Fernando Valley political organization of Democratic Reps. Howard Berman of Studio City and Henry Waxman of Los Angeles.
In a huge district running from the Santa Monica Mountains through the San Fernando Valley and into the San Gabriel Valley, major defections came in several Republican-oriented suburbs. These were areas where Antonovich's strong GOP background failed to help him in a campaign where development became a major issue.
For example, in Santa Clarita, a newly incorporated city in the Santa Clarita Valley, Antonovich received just 27% of the vote in a community that is 44% Republican. More important than party registration, apparently, was the fact that Santa Clarita residents have been fighting growth for years and many community leaders have strongly criticized the supervisor for failing to rein in development.
In the primary campaign, television commercials pitched the message that Antonovich was a crime fighter. In interviews and speeches, he talked about his actions against welfare fraud and his efforts to increase drug law enforcement.
A new approach is evident, both in Antonovich's debates with Ward and in the advertising campaign being planned by Antonovich's consultants.
Kathleen Crow, a top Antonovich aide, said that for the general election, the Antonovich team has researched Ward's record as a county supervisor and found that he approved 89% of the land development projects before him, compared to 90% for Antonovich.
"Mike is getting blamed for these developments" approved by Ward, she said.
Ward replied that the figure is misleading. Developments he supported, he said, met the county general plan that was changed to permit more development after he left office. Ward said the total development he approved was substantially less in units than that supported by Antonovich.
The development message will be a major part of a fall Antonovich campaign and will feature a comparison of the eight-year records of each man. A key theme, said Alan Hoffenblum, another Antonovich campaign consultant, will be: "What did the board do when Baxter was on, what did the board do when Mike was on?"
That strategy is designed to rob Ward of one of his major weapons--the image of being an anti-government, populist outsider. Ward, who was a television news anchor in Los Angeles in the 1960s, played the outsider's role to perfection while running for supervisor in 1972 and sought to maintain it while on the board.
To get the message out, Antonovich shook up his campaign team.
To handle direct mail advertising, Antonovich brought in Hoffenblum, a veteran Republican consultant who has been successful in managing legislative and local races around the state.
"Alan had a number of successful races in the primary, which made Mike comfortable with him," said campaign press spokesman Roger Scott.
Scott said there will be less television advertising than in the primary campaign, and more use of radio. Campaign consultants say that money on television is often wasted in local races because most of the viewers live outside the district.
Antonovich intends to raise more than $1 million, Scott said.
The supervisor spent $1.1 million in the primary, and entered the fall campaign with little money in the campaign bank.
Crow said Antonovich hopes to bring in $500,000 at a fund-raiser Oct. 25 starring Bob Hope. Money for tickets should be coming in soon, she said, and the campaign is "not terribly" worried about cash-flow problems until then. Between 25 and 30 small fund-raisers have been held since the primary, she said.
In addition, Antonovich's name is going to be on Republican material distributed in the campaigns for Vice President George Bush and Sen. Pete Wilson. Crow is a co-chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Bush campaign.
All that is a sharp contrast to the Ward campaign, which is run from a rented storefront in a trendy shopping section of Ventura Boulevard by the candidate's wife and campaign manager, Karen Ward, and a few volunteers.
Last week, the Wards said, the campaign had between $20,000 and $25,000 in donations. Ward, himself, had just deposited $2,229 in the bank that day.
The challenger has refused to accept any contribution of more than $250, rejecting the plea of his wife that he raise the limit to $500. But Karen Ward said her husband turned out to be correct, because most contributions he has received are less than $250.
With that money, the campaign pays the rent and provides materials for volunteers who are organizing door-to-door campaigning.