Davis and Lungren Wasting No Time
Barely pausing to catch their breath, rivals Gray Davis and Dan Lungren caromed Wednesday into the fall campaign for governor, trading charges and throwing down challenges in what promises to be a tough fight to November.
Just 12 hours after the polls closed and Democrats made him their nominee, Lt. Gov. Davis appeared alongside his two bested rivals and took up change as his campaign mantra--specifically an end to the 16 years of GOP rule in the governor’s office.
“The . . . lesson last night is that it clearly is time for a change,” Davis said at a Democratic Party breakfast, citing a Times survey showing that 64% of voters are ready to switch parties at the top.
Atty. Gen. Lungren, the Republican nominee, headlined a celebratory GOP breakfast in Newport Beach, where he challenged Davis to meet in a series of one-on-one debates across the state. He further urged Davis, in an open letter, to abide by a code of good campaign conduct, to overcome voter cynicism and apathy.
“Join with me in starting another trend, for the betterment of political discourse and intelligent campaigns,” Lungren wrote.
The two have instructed their staffs to meet starting Monday to discuss the possibility of a kickoff debate as early as the end of this month.
Unofficial returns showed Davis running away with the Democratic nomination. With 99.7% of precincts reporting, Davis garnered 57.6% of the Democratic vote to businessman Al Checchi’s 20.9% and Rep. Jane Harman’s 20.3%. On the Republican side, Lungren received 93.4% of the vote against token opposition.
Joining Davis at the Democratic unity-fest was U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who ran largely unopposed and won renomination with 92% of the vote.
Boxer was ebullient as she declared herself ready to spar with GOP nominee Matt Fong on abortion, the environment, gun control and taxes. She held aloft the American-flag boxing gloves that state party Chairman Art Torres gave her and Davis, and repeatedly called herself a “fighter.”
“Why did I get more [votes] than both of my main [Republican] opponents combined?” she asked rhetorically. “I think people are beginning to get that I’ve been fighting for them my whole life.”
Issa Pledges to Help Fong
State Treasurer Fong’s only public appearance of the day came at a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, where he signed a few autographs and thanked a crowd of several dozen supporters.
“We are still glowing in the amazement and wonderment that we won last night,” he told the crowd, before proceeding to attack Boxer’s record on taxes and Social Security.
“She’s weak, she’s vulnerable, she can be beaten,” he said.
Unofficial returns showed Fong winning the GOP nomination with 45.2% of the vote to 40.1% for Vista car-alarm magnate Darrell Issa.
At the Republican breakfast in Newport Beach, Issa wiped tears from his eyes as he shook hands with Fong, for whom he pledged to work. Privately he told friends that he may run for office again.
“I’m staying very active politically,” Issa told the breakfast crowd.
Elsewhere, backers of Proposition 227, the anti-bilingual education measure, were savoring their victory while opponents wasted no time launching a court challenge.
By 10 a.m., they had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block implementation, and they pledged to seek an order preventing school districts from enacting the measure’s provisions in the coming school year.
The losers in the battle over Proposition 226, the union dues initiative, continued to press their fight. In unofficial returns, the measure was defeated 53.5% to 46.5%.
Proponents, led by Gov. Pete Wilson, said their efforts to rein in labor’s political clout are far from over. “This was Round 1, and it cost them a great deal to win it,” Wilson told reporters, citing the more than $20 million that unions poured into the anti-Proposition 226 campaign.
Perhaps surprisingly, voters also handily rejected Proposition 223, which would have required that 95% of all state education money go directly to classrooms. Despite widespread concerns about public education and a series of high-profile endorsements--including those of Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan--the measure was rejected 54.5% to 45.5%.
“We made a strong argument that it was a local controversy that spilled over into a statewide initiative, and that it was flawed in many, many ways,” said consultant Wayne Johnson, a leader of the anti-Proposition 223 forces, which portrayed the measure as a Los Angeles money grab. “The message is: Local control responds best to local needs.”
In the so-called down-ballot contests, the race for attorney general will pit Democratic state Sen. Bill Lockyer of Hayward against Republican Dave Stirling, the former chief deputy attorney general.
The contest to be California’s top cop promises to be one of the hottest of the fall.
Besides the inevitable question of who is toughest on crime, Lockyer and Stirling are sure to attack one another over issues like abortion, assault weapons, the expansion of gambling on Indian reservations and tobacco control--all matters that come within the purview of the attorney general.
In other statewide races, former Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante (D-Fresno) will face state Sen. Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City) in the contest for lieutenant governor.
Voters Test Blanket Primary
Former state Democratic Chairman Phil Angelides will make his second try for state treasurer, this time against former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove).
Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones was renominated and will face Democrat Michela Alioto in November. Controller Kathleen Connell will seek a second term against Republican Ruben Barrales, and Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush will face state Sen. Diane Martinez (D-Monterey Park).
In the nonpartisan race for superintendent of public instruction, Democratic incumbent Delaine Eastin will face Republican Gloria Matta Tuchman, a Santa Ana schoolteacher.
Voters Tuesday tested a new way of making their choices, participating in a blanket primary that allowed anyone to vote for whomever they liked, regardless of party affiliation.
The state’s chief elections officer viewed the first trial as a success. “It actually went better than expected,” said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jones. When all the final ballots are tabulated, Charles said, turnout should reach the 42% that Jones had forecast--a 7% jump from the 1994 primary that Charles attributed mostly to the liberalized voting system.
The electorate that produced Tuesday’s results was more Democratic than usual, reflecting interest in the party’s hard-fought race for governor and the draw that Proposition 226 had among union members and their supporters.
Democrats made up 48% of the vote Tuesday and Republicans 40%, according to a Times exit poll. Those figures compare to 40% and 39%, respectively, in June 1994.
Thirty-five percent of Tuesday’s electorate consisted of members of union households--that is, someone who either belongs to a union or lives with a union member. The figure compares to 29% of the turnout four years ago.
Additionally, Latinos made up 12% of the voters Tuesday, compared to 6% four years ago.
In other ways, the face of the California electorate fit the classic profile: Those who turned out tended to be older, wealthier and better educated.
Traditional Goodwill Breakfasts Held
In the wake of Tuesday’s results, the fall campaign broke bright and early, with the two major parties’ traditional morning-after goodwill breakfasts.
At the Biltmore in Los Angeles, it was a day for reconciliation and swallowing some of the hard words that were spoken in the bitter Democratic fight for governor.
Though she spent most of the last week of her campaign decrying Davis for lacking the “bold” leadership needed to run California--or even to beat Lungren--Harman threw herself wholeheartedly behind the nominee. She even called him bold.
“The biggest message [of my campaign] was that we need to heal this state,” Harman said. “He will heal this state. If you listen to him this morning, he’s bold.”
As for her own future, Harman would say nothing of her plans past January, when she gives up her Torrance congressional seat after three terms. But she and her campaign aides talked of building on the statewide recognition she achieved in the governor’s race.
“I’ve had many chapters in my professional life, and this one will not be the last,” she said in her election night concession speech. “Good night, but not goodbye.”
Also attending the Biltmore breakfast was Checchi, who reiterated his “unqualified support and endorsement” for Davis, saying the nominee had proved the value of political experience and tenacity. The businessman said he would lend whatever help he could to Davis’ campaign--though not necessarily the big bucks he spent on his own $40-million effort.
Checchi repeatedly refused to answer questions about his possible financial support for Davis or his future plans and walked briskly away from reporters who pursued him after a news conference. “I’ve talked to you, a lot,” he snapped, rejecting entreaties to elaborate on his comments.
Also rallying to Davis’ side Wednesday was Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles), a key early supporter of Checchi.
“Anybody who had any doubts about Gray Davis, they have been erased,” said Villaraigosa, acknowledging the less than wholehearted support the lieutenant governor received from much of the party establishment early on.
Davis Surprised by His Showing
Even Davis confessed surprise at the results, which showed him narrowly besting Lungren in the overall vote count, with 34.8% of the vote to the Republican’s 33.7%.
“It exceeded my expectations,” said Davis, who once seemed to be the only person in California who thought that he could win the nomination over his free-spending multimillionaire rivals. “I never thought I could even run neck and neck with Dan Lungren, much less run ahead of him.”
From Los Angeles, Davis traveled to Fresno, where he joined Bustamante at a police association reception, then San Francisco, where he visited the Embarcadero station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to shake hands with commuters.
In Newport Beach, Lungren was up early glad-handing with others on the GOP ticket, exulting in a victory that has been preordained for roughly the past year.
In remarks to supporters and at a news conference afterward, Lungren said he relished the contrast with Davis. “Very simply put, the main issue is going to be the difference between one vision of California and another,” he said. “This will be a contest in which there will be clear contrasts, and I think that’s good.”
The GOP nominee professed no concern that Davis, with two Democratic opponents, managed to win more votes than Lungren did running largely unopposed.
“Gray Davis . . . spent probably, when all is said and done, twice as much as I did,” he said.
While predicting that the contest will be close in November, Lungren said he doesn’t mind if Davis is favored. “If they want to say I’m an underdog and they want to underestimate me, that’s fine. They’ve been doing that since I was a 26-year-old and practicing law in Los Angeles and Orange County.”
After breakfast, Lungren went to a series of private meetings through the day, then Dodger Stadium to watch the game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus and Times staff writers Dave Lesher, Jodi Wilgoren, Dan Morain, Amy Pyle, Paul Jacobs, Eric Lichtblau, Jim Newton and Tony Perry contributed to this story.