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Alarcon Consultant Admits He Wrote Mailer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The campaign consultant for City Councilman Richard Alarcon conceded Friday that he owes former Assemblyman Richard Katz an apology for drafting a campaign mailer that falsely linked Katz to intimidation of Latino voters.

Also Friday, Alarcon agreed the mailer, funded by a political ally, was “wrong.” But he again declined to take any responsibility for it.

The mailer ignited racial tension in the San Fernando Valley’s hard-fought Senate race, in which Alarcon edged Katz by 29 votes to win the Democratic primary.

It was drafted by Sacramento consultant Richard Ross, and mailed and paid for by state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), an Alarcon ally who also donated $181,000 to Alarcon’s campaign.

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The mailer links Katz to a 1988 incident in which Republican candidates were accused of posting guards around Orange County polling sites to discourage Latino immigrants from voting.

Ross said he did not intend to suggest Katz was somehow involved in the Orange County incident. In fact, Katz was one of the loudest critics of the Orange County Republicans involved in the incident.

“I can see how a reasonable person could see I tried to associate Katz with the poll guards,” Ross said.

Ross said he cited the Orange County incident in literature in two previous campaigns--for Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly candidate Gloria Romero--as a way to encourage Latinos to vote.

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Unlike those mail pieces, Ross said this mailer criticized Katz in the same breath that it mentions the Orange County incident.

“I tried to use a cookie-cutting approach and I didn’t pay attention to the mold,” Ross said.

Ross said he is prepared to apologize to Katz.

“I’m the last person that Richard Katz wants to hear from,” he said. “If at some point we talk or meet somewhere, he is certainly entitled [to an apology].”

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Ross said many elected officials, including state Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), have told him they believe the mailer was misleading.

A Katz spokesman declined to comment Friday, but in the past Katz has harshly criticized Alarcon and Polanco for the mailer, calling it a blatant example of “race baiting.”

Polanco was out of town and could not be reached.

Alarcon said he had no knowledge of the mailer until it was sent out and therefore, he said, doesn’t feel responsible for it. But he conceded for the first time Friday that the mailer did falsely link Katz to the Orange County incident.

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“If there was any implication that Katz had any connection to the poll guards, that is wrong,” he said.

Alarcon said he would not apologize for the mailer unless Katz apologizes for his own negative campaign pieces, in particular a mailer that publicly disclosed Alarcon’s Social Security number.

“For me to apologize for that piece, which I didn’t condone and I didn’t authorize, without an apology from him is fruitless,” Alarcon said.

The mailer was sent to about 18,000 newly registered Latino voters.

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The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Anti-Defamation League both attacked the mailer as racially inflammatory and divisive. On Friday, leaders of the two groups said they were happy to hear that Ross admitted his mistake.

“It’s certainly a positive step,” said David Lehrer, director of the Anti-Defamation League. “I’m sure that Mr. Ross understands that the short-term gain was not worth the long-term loss to our community.”

Lehrer and Michael Hirschfeld, executive director of the Jewish Federation, said they will continue to work to discourage campaigns from injecting racially divisive messages into political races.

“There needs to be a mechanism so that this kind of stuff is recognized and exposed in a timely manner,” Hirschfeld said.

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Katz is considering calling for a recount of the election, which can only be requested after the vote is certified by the county Board of Supervisors next week.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Text of Alarcon Mailer

The following is the text of the campaign mailer that has stirred up controversy in the campaign between City Councilman Richard Alarcon and former Assemblyman Richard Katz.

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The mailer was signed by state Sen. Richard Polanco, chairman of the California Latino Caucus.

Dear Friends,

Richard Katz attacked the first Latino to become Speaker of the Assembly. Now Katz is attacking Richard Alarcon.

Richard Alarcon is a good man. Richard Alarcon is supported by Mayor Riordan and Assemblyman Tony Cardenas.

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Together, Richard Katz and Pete Wilson . . .

*Pushed 167,000 young people out of college.

*Cut aid to disabled, blind and elderly.

One of Pete Wilson’s Republican leaders was guilty in federal court of hiring guards to scare immigrants away from voting.

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Attached is your Voting Rights Identification Card. Bring it with you to VOTE ON TUESDAY.

Don’t let Wilson and Katz win. Don’t be afraid to vote.


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