Into the dog days of August, when politicians usually give voters a break from seasonal vitriol, came the angry voice Monday of Roger Ailes.
The nation's best-known Republican political consultant, media guru for President Bush's 1988 election campaign and the lightning rod for the GOP nominee for state treasurer, Thomas W. Hayes, was launching a campaign of his own.
Not surprisingly, it was against Democratic nominee for treasurer Kathleen Brown, who had earned Ailes' enmity by daring to use his name in negative fashion in a fund-raising letter sent out to potential donors.
"This is nothing more than Kathleen Brown's debutante coming-out party in politics so that she can one day be queen of California," Ailes said at a breakfast meeting with political reporters in Los Angeles.
That was when he got warmed up. Other barbs had previously peppered his conversation:
"Sister Moonbeam," he called her, proving there is no statute of limitations on insults to Brown's brother Jerry, known to his detractors as "Gov. Moonbeam."
"She really doesn't want this job. . . . She's running for governor. She's using the state of California's most important financial position to do it."
The session, not totally out of character for the scrappy Ailes, marked the unveiling of the strategy California voters can expect to see during Hayes' long march toward the election. Although Hayes is the incumbent--he was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian in September, 1988--he is making his first run for statewide office with little voter recognition and far less money than Brown has stockpiled.
At Brown's campaign, the comments were greeted with derision.
"This is a silly tactic," said Beverly Thomas, Brown's campaign manager, who predicted that the remarks would "fall on deaf ears."
Ailes left little doubt that Republican Hayes will portray himself as a hard-working financial wizard whose life is far removed from the whirl of attention in which Brown grew up. An attorney, former Los Angeles Board of Public Works commissioner and Los Angeles Board of Education member, Brown is also the daughter of former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown.
Hayes' campaign, Ailes said in response to a reporter's question, will revolve around his lack of elective ambition, a trait usually not present--or at least not boasted about--in most officeholders.
"Tom Hayes does not want to be governor," Ailes said. "He is the un-politician, you know, just a guy who spends 15 hours a day trying to make money for the state of California."
The letter which drew Ailes' anger cited Hayes' hiring of "Roger Ailes, the mudslinging media guru who made Willie Horton a household name." It referred to a 1988 commercial criticizing Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. The ad told the story of Horton, who raped a woman and tortured her husband while on a state-sponsored furlough from a Massachusetts prison.
Ailes, as the coordinator of Bush's media strategy in 1988, did not personally produce the Horton ad, which was made by an independent campaign committee.