Short on campaign funds and facing a strong incumbent, Republican congressional candidate G.C. (Brodie) Broderson took the unusual step Thursday of publicly conceding the election to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Panorama City)--33 days before voters go to the polls.
“I am going to divest myself of all this political baloney,” Broderson said at a news conference in Burbank. He vowed instead to commit himself to opening a San Fernando Valley chapter of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer safety patrol organization.
Moments after taking his hat out of the political ring, he donned a trademark Guardian Angels red beret and replaced his suit coat with a Guardian Angels sweat shirt.
Broderson, 58, of Burbank is an actor and the Southern California coordinator of the Guardian Angels. He was considered to have no chance of election in the 26th District.
Broderson made his announcement at an unconventional bipartisan event sponsored by a new group, “Alliance for Better Incumbents.” The alliance was formed to pool the relatively meager resources of Democratic and Republican congressional challengers.
The organization was the brainchild of Nick Meagher of Topanga Canyon, who is a Democrat running as a write-in candidate against Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Tarzana) in the 23rd District. Also participating Thursday were Democratic nominee John G. Simmons of Burbank who is opposing Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-Glendale) in the 22nd District, and Republican candidate Dennis Galbraith of Redondo Beach who is challenging Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) in the 27th District.
The challengers said that incumbents generally represent a district drawn to give the incumbent’s political party a major advantage, that they send out millions of dollars worth of publicly funded brochures and letters touting their accomplishments, and that they generally receive large amounts of special-interest campaign money. In 1986, 98% of House incumbents nationwide were reelected.
“Something’s got to be done to get some money to challengers for their campaigns,” said Meagher, 29, who is spending about $10,000 of his money for signs and leaflets. “It’s healthy for democracy to have some well-financed campaign challengers.”
Well-financed is one thing Broderson was not. He had raised and spent $2,000--100 times less money than Berman has available. Broderson said Republicans, such as Moorhead, helped drive him from the race by refusing to share their well-stocked campaign coffers. Moorhead had $597,568 in campaign funds in late June, public records show.
“I’ve conceded to the system, not to Berman,” said Broderson, who maintained that his shoestring campaign could not get his message to voters.
Both Moorhead and Berman responded that they steer contributions to candidates in their respective parties who are qualified and viable.
“When the party considers who they’re going to support, they look at the people who have been able to attract support; they look at the people who have been able to raise some money and to set up a campaign that gives some promise of success,” Moorhead said in a telephone interview. “His campaign had not developed to that point.”
Berman, a politically powerful lawmaker seeking his fourth congressional term after 10 years in the state Assembly, said, “As someone who came into office challenging a Republican incumbent, I know it can be done.”
His solidly Democratic congressional district, however, was designed specifically for him when his brother, Michael, a political consultant, and the late Rep. Phil Burton drew the new districts after the 1980 elections. Republicans contended that those districts were gerrymandered to give Democrats maximum advantage.
Berman pointed to state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) as a congressional challenger who has mounted a vigorous campaign. Hart, whom Berman is strongly supporting, is opposing Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura) in one of the most hotly contested races in the country.
Still, Berman said of Broderson: “I sympathize with the dilemma of a challenger who has no campaign financing. . . . He hasn’t been able to establish his credibility to the people who might not want to see me continue in public office.”
Broderson, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, said he will now seek to raise several thousand dollars, recruit volunteers and find donated office space for a Valley chapter of the Guardian Angels.
“I am going to go on the streets where I belong, the streets where I know what’s happening,” Broderson said. “I can be of more benefit by starting a Guardian Angels group in the San Fernando Valley.”
He said the group will target high-crime areas of Sun Valley and Pacoima. “When people see us, they don’t mug anybody,” he said.
Meanwhile, the sole vestige of his erstwhile candidacy will be his name on the ballot.
“I can’t take my name off of the ballot,” Broderson said. “So anybody that wants to vote for me, it’s OK. I’m still that much of a politician.”