Hoping to cement his hold on the law-and-order vote, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Richard Riordan won the strong backing Monday of the city's police union as it took the unprecedented step of opening a campaign office for his election.
The endorsement, while long expected, came as Los Angeles County ended one of its bloodiest weekends in memory, with 30 people slain. And the carnage was not lost on Riordan or Bill Violante, Los Angeles Police Protective League president.
"We must wipe out the war zones of this city," Riordan said as the police union opened a Studio City office for his campaign. "This is simply not tolerable."
Violante said the union endorsed Riordan because of his pledge to implement the LAPD reforms recommended by the Christopher Commission, a panel that investigated the department's personnel practices and police tactics after the beating of Rodney G. King.
Unlike Councilman Michael Woo, Violante said, Riordan offers new hope that City Hall will be led by a mayor willing to tackle Los Angeles' violence by providing more officers, proper training and better equipment.
"His (Woo's) claim to fame is that he got rid of (former Police Chief) Daryl Gates and brought a new chief of police to Los Angeles. And that's being called reform," Violante said.
"The true reform that needs to take place . . . is still not happening. We still do not have ongoing training programs. We still don't have psychological retesting for police officers. We don't have video cameras in cars."
To show its support, Violante said, the police union will send out three political mailers, campaign door-to-door and make up to 2,000 calls a day to voters between now and the June 8 election.
"We are going to put in whatever it takes to get him elected mayor," Violante said.
In other campaign developments Monday:
* The state Republican Party said it plans to file a lawsuit today to block the state Democratic Party from conducting an independent campaign for Woo.
* Riordan's campaign notified the city Ethics Commission it had exceeded the $1.6-million runoff election spending cap envisioned by new campaign reform laws. As a result, spending limits also were lifted for Woo. After a record-shattering primary that saw more than $11 million in spending by mayoral hopefuls, records and interviews indicate that Riordan and Woo are on their way to spending a total of $7 million to $8 million more in their two-man runoff.
For his part, Woo said he was not surprised by the police union's endorsement, citing "some differences" he has had with the police league since his early call for Gates to resign.
Meanwhile, Woo bashed Riordan as a delinquent taxpayer.
"While Dick Riordan has enough money to dump $6 million into his campaign, he apparently can't come up with the money to pay some of his own taxes," Woo charged at a news conference outside the county Hall of Records.
Woo cited public records on eight tax liens or notices of delinquency filed against Riordan, companies he was associated with, or trusts for which he was trustee.
The delinquencies ranged from $19 to $14,000. They were:
* A notice of a state lien imposed on Main Street Dairies Inc., whose merger with Adohr Farms was financed by Riordan in 1990. The lien was for $14,300 in 1990 taxes.
* Personal property tax liens for $19 and $20 imposed by the county of Los Angeles in 1982 against a firm called Transaction Recording Systems Inc. Also listed was Riordan's law firm, then called Riordan, Caps & Carbone, with an address in Texas.
* A document indicating that Riordan redeemed property in 1983 owned by Acapulco/Los Arcos Restaurants, in which he held an interest. The redemption was for $3,750 in back taxes the county said it was owed. Riordan, acting as a trustee for the John F. Marshall Trust, was billed for More than $7,000 in back taxes on the property in 1989.
* A federal lien for $4,920 in 1981 taxes imposed on the Carole E. Riordan Trust, for which the mayoral candidate served as trustee.
* Personal property tax liens of $202 and $97 imposed on Riordan by the county in the early 1980s involving two downtown properties.
Accusing Woo of "nickel-and-diming" Riordan's business record, Riordan's campaign declined a Times request for an explanation of the liens, with one exception. The campaign said the lien involving Adohr was the result of the state sending the tax bill to the wrong corporate entity.
Earlier, Riordan seemed flustered when reporters quizzed him about a Los Angeles Business Journal article that discussed his support for ousting former state Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird. In the 1987 article, he is quoted as criticizing Bird's "anti-business attitude" but describes himself as opposed to the death penalty--a position shared by Bird.
But Riordan said Monday he did not recall making the statement and insisted he has always backed the death penalty. "I am telling you that I have always been supportive of the death penalty," he said.
Throughout the day, a subtext of Riordan's campaign was his effort to portray Woo as a candidate of inflammatory rhetoric and racial divisiveness.
In a noon speech to the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Riordan displayed two of his campaign signs defaced with swastikas and said Woo has "to take responsibility" for the defacing. "It is the logical result of the kind of campaign he has been waging," Riordan said.
Later, he said: "I wish I wasn't running for mayor. . . . It is sad that the kind of religious bigotry we have been trying to fight has been brought out in the campaign."
When asked what he meant, Riordan referred to a Woo television ad that links Riordan with television evangelist Pat Robertson. The new ad says, "Pat Robertson and his right-wing fundamentalist Christian Coalition: banning textbooks, against a woman's right to choose. They took over the Republican convention. Now, according to the L.A. Times, they're working for Dick Riordan."
A Los Angeles Times article on May 1 paraphrased Ralph Reed, national director of the Chesapeake, Va.-based Christian Coalition, as saying that the coalition is actively involved in election campaigns, including the mayoral contest in Los Angeles. Neither Riordan nor Woo's name was mentioned in the article.
Reed on May 3 told The Times that his organization is not involved in any campaign, but distributed nonpartisan, issue-oriented voter guides to churches during the primary.
After Riordan's remarks, Woo's campaign issued a statement decrying the defacement of his opponent's campaign signs. "Not only is the defacing or mutilation of campaign signs against the law, this kind of activity is also morally repugnant to me."
As for the ad, however, Woo's camp said it stood by the alleged Riordan-Robertson link.
"Look, the truth hurts," said Garry South, communications director for the Woo campaign. "It is incontrovertibly true that Dick Riordan has leaders of the Christian right in his campaign including the state director of the Christian Coalition . . . the group that came out of the Pat Robertson 1988 presidential campaign."
Times staff writers Richard Simon and Rich Connell contributed to this report.