Democrat Calls Hurtt an Agent of Religious Right : Politics: Senate rival Lockyer says his message ‘resonates’ with campaign contributors. He expects to collect $1.6 million by end of the year.


The image of Republican campaign financier Sen. Rob Hurtt as a proselyte of the “religious right” has become a moneymaker for his No. 1 adversary, Democratic state Senate leader Bill Lockyer.

In his pitch for campaign funds to protect his narrow majority of Senate Democrats, Lockyer routinely portrays new Senate GOP leader Hurtt as an extremist, a characterization Hurtt hotly disputes.

At a recent $150,000 fund-raising dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Lockyer pointed to Hurtt’s ouster last summer of moderate Senate Republican leader Ken Maddy as proof of the rise of the ideological right in the Legislature.

“I am worried,” Lockyer told the gathering, “that we could spend the next decade arguing about abortion, homosexuality and prayer in the public schools . . . at a time when we need to pull together, fill the potholes, improve mass transit, make the school system better, get jobs for people.”


A combative partisan and skilled fund-raiser, Lockyer insists that this is the “real choice” voters face at the ballot box next year.

Lockyer says his pitch “resonates” with contributors, and expects to collect $1.6 million by Jan. 1. In the 1993-94 election cycle, he raised and spent a record $3.6 million and indirectly guided the collection and expenditure of hundreds of thousands more.

Virtually from Hurtt’s arrival in the Senate in 1993, Lockyer has targeted him and his wealthy political allies as leading a war against labor unions, racial and ethnic minorities, gays, environmental protection, public schools and abortion.

But, with Hurtt’s narrow election as Senate minority leader last summer, Lockyer has intensified using Hurtt as a fund-raising foil, taking his appeals beyond private luncheons and boardrooms to semi-public fund-raising events.

“His message is that the right wing is taking over,” said a capital trade association official who attended several Lockyer fund-raising functions. “He demonizes the far right: ‘This is how much money they raise, this is how they spend it and this is where they are winning. Therefore, give me money and we’ll win those seats or try to hold seats.’ ”

The trade association executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hurtt and Lockyer have at least one trait in common: “Philosophy and policy aside, they understand that you get what you want by winning seats.”

Lockyer’s contributors include organized labor, public employee unions, entertainment industry executives, personal injury lawyers, workers’ compensation attorneys, doctors, insurance companies and optometrists. Aides said he also is seeking to broaden his fund-raising base by taking his appeal to the business community.

Hurtt and his supporters have fired back, accusing Lockyer of using false and bigoted arguments to demonize Hurtt for his conservative political philosophy and fundamentalist Christian faith.

“Anybody with any brains in their head can figure out that’s just rhetoric, just propaganda,” Hurtt says of Lockyer’s attacks. “They can’t apply those labels to my actions or legislation, which is [pro]-business, anti-crime, anti-regulation.”

Hurtt also downplays his identification with the religious right as a “misnomer” and claims never to have had any involvement in organizations operated by such evangelicals as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell--although he contributed $2,000 to televangelist Robertson’s 1988 presidential campaign.

Hurtt says he doubts Lockyer’s portrait of him as a radical of the religious right will influence many voters at election time, but conceded the time-tested technique of demonizing your opponent is an effective way to raise money.

“If you can get them scared enough,” Hurtt said, “they might give more.”