<i> analysis by Times political writer Bill Stall</i>

The race: Governor. Whose ad?: Dianne Feinstein.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein begins running a 30-second TV commercial today that responds to an ad that began airing in mid-July by Republican Sen. Pete Wilson. In his ad, Wilson charged that Feinstein would use a quota system for the appointment of women and racial minorities in state jobs and ignore whether the appointees are qualified. Feinstein has denied both allegations.

Elements of the ad, with analysis by Times political writer Bill Stall:

Ad: With the word “Why?” appearing on the screen, and then a San Francisco Chronicle article headlined “Mayor (Feinstein) Opposes Charter Quotas,” the spot opens with an announcer declaring that “Dianne Feinstein opposes hiring quotas. She’s always opposed quotas. And Pete Wilson knows it.”


Analysis: Feinstein is attempting to show that when she was mayor of San Francisco, she opposed job quotas and she is questioning why her stand has been presented otherwise by Wilson.

The question of quotas stems from a campaign appearance before a black audience in Los Angeles last May, when Feinstein promised to have “an open and accessible Administration” that would “appoint women in proportion to their parity of the population--50%. To appoint people of color in proportion to their parity of the population.” Her statement was widely interpreted as amounting to a quota system, although she never used that term. Since then, Feinstein has described the proposal as a goal to be achieved over time.

Ad: A Chronicle article headlined “Wilson Also Vulnerable on Job Quotas” shows on the screen as the announcer asks, “So why is Pete Wilson deliberately deceiving you? Because by Pete Wilson’s own definition, he has a record in favor of quotas. That’s right, as senator, Pete Wilson votes for government quotas and as mayor of San Diego, Pete Wilson signed a plan to enforce rigid hiring percentages based only on sex and race and not merit.”

Analysis: As San Diego’s mayor, Wilson set five-year goals for the hiring of women and minorities in city government, and for the promotion of those already in government. The Feinstein campaign produced San Diego city affirmative-action documents that did not refer to merit, but Wilson aides provided a statement from then-Mayor Wilson saying that the policy was intended to “reinforce the merit principle in public employment” and was not to be interpreted as granting preferential treatment to specific population.


The Feinstein ad also refers to Senate votes for programs that provide that certain percentages of federal contracts be set aside for minority-run businesses. These are not direct hirings by the government. Set-aside contracting has long been a common practice in the federal government.