Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan announced Monday that he will not seek to be a write-in candidate for governor.
Although he was flattered by calls from Republicans and Democrats urging him to jump into the race, Riordan told The Times, he concluded that such a move would not be a good idea for him or the state.
“To do something this disruptive, your ego has to become more important than the end result, and my ego hasn’t become that large,” Riordan, who lost to Bill Simon Jr. in the March GOP primary, said in an interview.
By ruling out a last-minute campaign, Riordan removed one of the distractions facing Simon as he heads into the final three weeks of the race.
Simon’s campaign stumbled badly last week when the candidate had to retract an unfounded allegation that Gov. Gray Davis had illegally accepted a political donation in a state office. Republican consultants openly bemoaned the state of Simon’s candidacy, giving rise to a new round of rumors that Riordan might be enticed into the race as an alternative to Simon and Davis.
Riordan said he has been lobbied by “thousands” of people, including a group of Democrats he met with last week in San Francisco, to get back in the race. “You think, ‘This is not the right thing to do,’ and then all of a sudden your ego gets flattered,” he said. “But then you come back to Earth.”
The former mayor said his biggest concern with waging a write-in candidacy was with the concept of running as an independent outside the party system.
“If I could pull a New Jersey and be on the ballot, that’d be a big difference,” he said, referring to the recent departure of Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli from the New Jersey senatorial race. Torricelli dropped out and will be replaced on the ballot by former Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Riordan has until Oct. 22 to declare his intention to run as a write-in candidate. Write-in candidates must file papers with the secretary of state’s office attesting to their desire to run, or else ballots containing their name will not be counted.
Even if he wanted to, Simon could not take his name off the ballot this close to the election. On Monday, before he knew of Riordan’s decision, Simon said he had no intention of walking away from his gubernatorial bid.
The Republican nominee made a brief stop Monday at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach, where he and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani marked Columbus Day with a gathering of about 100 Simon supporters.
Asked about the possibility of quitting the race in favor of Riordan, the GOP nominee smiled as a chorus of boos and catcalls crescendoed through the tightly packed room. Then he exclaimed, “We are going to win this election on November the fifth.”
Riordan said that despite Simon’s missteps, the Republican nominee still has a chance to win because voters are dissatisfied with Davis. He suggested that Simon spend the next three weeks emphasizing his role as a family man and charity leader. “He’s got to somehow let the people know that there’s a special side of Bill Simon, and somehow he’s failed to do that,” Riordan said.
For his part, Riordan said he plans to spend the next few years focusing on reforming the education system and spurring the development of affordable housing. He is working on creating a think tank to advise local governments about how to combat terrorism. And, he said, he still intends to launch a newspaper in Los Angeles.
Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.