Democratic Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp showed some face cards Tuesday night as he unofficially kicked off his campaign for governor at a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills.
Attempting to create an air of inevitability for his 1990 candidacy, Van de Kamp showcased top representatives of the Democratic Party’s most powerful components--organized labor, gay activists, the entertainment industry and staunch supporters of Israel--and collected more than $400,000 in campaign contributions.
Van de Kamp, who will officially announce his gubernatorial candidacy at a later date, also fired some shots at the Republicans, deriding Gov. George Deukmejian’s stewardship as a time of “reaction and retreat” and warning U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, who is now running for governor, that the Democrats will not let the GOP portray them as weak on crime in the 1990 race.
“I do not believe this state can afford four more years of complacency and neglect,” Van de Kamp said. “If the governor had not decided to retire, the voters would have made the decision for him in 1990.”
As for the crime issue, Van de Kamp said: “And to our Republican opponents let me say something else: Instead of talking about crime, why don’t you have the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Assn. . . . and join us in keeping the AK-47 out of the hands of the drug warriors and the mass murderers.”
Knowing that the crime issue was devastating last year for Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis, Van de Kamp attempted to head it off in his own case Tuesday night by saying: “I have a message for the Republican Party . . . and Pete Wilson. Read my lips: Never again will we permit you to call into question our commitment to fighting crime.”
Van de Kamp knows that despite his law enforcement background the Republicans are likely to hit him hard on the crime issue in the governor’s race for several reasons, including the fact that he personally opposes capital punishment even though he enforces it as a law.
In the audience were the kinds of well-known Democrats whose presence Van de Kamp hopes will send a signal to former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and state Controller Gray Davis as they consider taking him on in next year’s Democratic primary.
Sitting at Van de Kamp’s table were three of the state’s major labor leaders: William Robertson, executive director of the Los Angeles County AFL-CIO; Jerry Cremins, president of the state building trades council, and Bruce Lee, western regional director of the United Auto Workers.
Also at the Van de Kamp table was San Francisco businessman Walter Shorenstein, a longtime fund-raiser for the national Democratic Party, and Los Angeles businessman Nikolas Patsaouras, who raised several million dollars in California for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Dukakis.
Los Angeles gay leader and fund-raiser David Mixner sat nearby, as did such Hollywood representatives as producer and former 20th Century Fox head Sherry Lansing and actor Michael Gross of the hit television series “Family Ties.”
At another table was Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos of Los Angeles, whose work in passing a bill to limit the sale of AK-47 assault rifles was cited by one dinner speaker as evidence that the Democrats are behind Van de Kamp’s determination to take on the National Rifle Assn.
In his remarks, which were interrupted by applause several times, Van de Kamp said he wanted to lead California “into a new decade of action and common purpose” and he closed by taking a swipe at Feinstein, who left San Francisco with a projected budget deficit when her tenure as mayor ended in early 1988.
“I’m not interested in (being governor) because I think it is going to be easy,” said Van de Kamp. “And I’m definitely not interested in managing decline. . . . I mean, if I wanted to fail with a big job I’d get out of state government entirely and try to balance the budget of San Francisco.”
This was greeted by mixture of cheers and applause by those in the audience, some of whom have said privately that their major concern about Van de Kamp is whether he is assertive enough for what is expected to be a rough gubernatorial campaign.