Less than a month before the election, one of the city’s most prominent Latino elected officials in Los Angeles, a Democrat, hosted a breakfast Thursday for one of the candidates running for the U. S. Senate from California, a Republican.
With reporters and a television camera crew on hand, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre welcomed Sen. Pete Wilson to a downtown breakfast meeting that heard Alatorre warmly praise Wilson.
“He’s a real common-sense kind of guy. He’s a fighter for things he believes in, and I can relate to that,” Alatorre said. “He believes that immigrants ought to be treated with respect.”
For Wilson, who was generous in his praise of Alatorre, the well-publicized breakfast offered an opportunity to enhance the election-year image he wants to project. It is one of a conservative whose appeal crosses party and ethnic lines.
For Democrats, the occasion was a reminder that blood shed in old party feuds dries slowly. Alatorre and Wilson’s Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, were on the opposite sides of more than one party wrangle during the 1970s when both men were members of the state Legislature.
After McCarthy announced his decision to run against Wilson, Democrats insisted that all the old hatchets would be buried and that McCarthy would enjoy the wholehearted support of party notables around the state.
But that has not always been the case. Diane Feinstein, the former Democratic mayor of San Francisco, has withheld support from McCarthy. And Alatorre let it be known earlier this year that while he would endorse McCarthy, he would not do so with an abundance of enthusiasm.
After the breakfast Thursday, Alatorre said again that he is supporting McCarthy, but said he would not be unhappy if Wilson won.
“Pete Wilson and I have been friends for a long period of time. He has been helpful up to now on projects in my district, and I don’t see any reason why he won’t be in the future,” Alatorre said.
A spokesman for McCarthy said he thought the breakfast would have little effect on voters in Alatorre’s City Council district or on Latino voters in general.
“This was clearly a pay-back for something, and voters don’t vote on the basis of political pay-backs. They vote on the things they want. The priorities that Leo has set in terms of issues for working families are very much in line with what the voters in Alatorre’s district want,” said Kam Kuwata of McCarthy’s staff.
The 25 to 30 people who attended the breakfast at El Paseo restaurant on Olvera Street heard Wilson at one point offer harsh criticism of the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which he said had joined the Internal Revenue Service at the top of his list of misguided government agencies.
“In many cases they (INS officials) have been excessive,” Wilson said, adding that they are too eager to deport people.