Kitty Dukakis Brings a Message to Orange County

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Times Political Writer

Showing once again that he views Orange County as pivotal in the Nov. 8 election, Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis sent his wife to campaign for him Tuesday in Santa Ana and Anaheim.

Wearing a bright red suit that coordinated with the red, white and blue balloons that greeted her on her stops, petite Kitty Dukakis met with two very different audiences: polite, and mostly older, Vietnamese refugees who are now American citizens, and exuberant high school students who cheered, sang and serenaded her.

Dukakis’ visit to Orange County was her second during the presidential campaign. Last May, as her husband concluded his successful march toward the Democratic nomination, she accompanied him on a tour of a laser research institute near UC Irvine and a rally afterwards on the university’s campus.


Michael Dukakis said at that time that, despite Republican domination of Orange County, “No one is going to tell me we can’t take Orange County. I believe we can in November.”

Even those in Dukakis’ campaign concede that this is virtually impossible in a county so heavily dominated by Republicans. But Dukakis and his family have been campaigning hard in Orange County in the hopes of keeping Republican nominee Vice President George Bush’s margin of victory at a level that can be overcome in other, more Democratic, areas of the state.

Dukakis himself has made four appearances in the county, and other members of the family, including his mother, Euterpe, have also campaigned for him here. Today, Dukakis’ daughter, Andrea, will speak at a rally for her father on the Cal State Fullerton campus’s Little Theater at 2:15 p.m.

At Loara High School in Anaheim on Tuesday, Dukakis’ wife was introduced by Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach, a 1967 Loara graduate and Democratic nominee for the 72nd Assembly District. After the students quieted down--and with First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” drug slogan on a banner on one wall--Kitty Dukakis warned students against drug use. She drew on her own experience of a 26-year dependency on amphetamines, initially used to control her weight. She said she entered a recovery program in 1982, when Michael Dukakis was running for reelection as Massachusetts governor.

At the time, she said, she told her husband, “I’m not sure this is the time to get help.” She said, “His answer was: ‘I care more about you than anything or any other person in this world, and I want you to get well.’ ” She said she has been drug-free ever since.

In 1987, when her husband was running for the Democratic nomination for President, Kitty Dukakis publicly revealed her prior dependency because “one of the tenets of recovery was helping others.”


In a speech she wrote herself, Dukakis told the hushed audience of students: “I would not be standing in front of you today had I not received help, had I not asked for help, had I not gone through recovery. Michael has said so often, and he’s right, I couldn’t have taken a national campaign.” She concluded, “I guess my message to you is, life is so sweet and so special (for me) today. Don’t start (using drugs).”

On a lighter note, Dukakis praised the high school’s band and a group of student singers and invited them to perform on inauguration day, if Dukakis is elected. The captain of the football team, Darren Van Zee, presented her with a red corduroy cap with “Loara Football” embroidered on it.

Dukakis began her campaign stop in Orange County by meeting with about 200 members of the Vietnamese community in Santa Ana, who observed her politely from rows of chairs set up in a parking lot.

The governor’s wife praised her husband as someone who has “a deep care and concern for the Asian community here in California and throughout the United States.”

She told them about her two visits to refugee camps along the Vietnam-Cambodia border in her effort to help reunify Vietnamese-Americans with family members who were left behind in their war-torn homeland.

While she was received with courtesy, the Republican Party claims to have an edge on voter registration in the Vietnamese community because the GOP is perceived as more strongly anti-communist than the Democratic Party.


Kitty Dukakis’ appearance before the Vietnamese-Americans was picketed by several anti-abortion activists carrying full-color pictures of fetuses. The activists at one point jockeyed with Dukakis’ supporters to display their signs at best television camera advantage. But the activists did not interrupt Kitty Dukakis’ talk.

Michael Dukakis has said that while he personally opposes abortion, the final decision should be left up to the individual woman.

Later, in an interview with The Times, Kitty Dukakis said of the protesters, “In a sense it was really interesting . . . that here were Southeast Asians who had come to this country looking for freedom and part of that freedom is the right to protest, the right to disagree with public leaders and candidates.”

She added: “As long as they were quiet and did not interrupt my speech, they have every right to be there.”