Delgadillo’s TV Ads to Target Brown on Abortion Position

Times Staff Writer

Trailing badly in the primary race for attorney general, Rocky Delgadillo unveiled plans Tuesday to hit the airwaves for the first time in the campaign with a bare-knuckle attack accusing Democratic foe Jerry Brown of waffling on abortion rights.

But the 30-second TV spot, which features the Los Angeles city attorney declaring that he and Brown are “miles apart” on abortion, might be hard to find.

Delgadillo bought just $30,000 of air time during the coming week, prompting Brown strategist Ace Smith to say that the commercial amounts to “a pebble in the ocean.”


The ad, Smith predicted, would fail to dent the Oakland mayor’s lead, which soared to more than 40 points in a statewide poll last week.

Smith called the attack on Brown, who has long boasted solid support from abortion rights advocates, “a desperate act of deception by a guy who’s down 41 points in the polls.”

Even as Delgadillo launches what his campaign vows is just the start of a $2-million television advertising effort leading up to the June 6 election, Brown’s team has not said when, or if, it might counterattack.

Insiders say the former California governor hopes to sit on his lead and save his campaign cash for a general election fight with the presumptive Republican nominee, state Sen. Charles Poochigian of Fresno.

The ad, showing a somber Delgadillo, includes a headline from a 1988 news article in which Brown says abortion “amounted to killing.” Another article cited in the ad details feminist outrage over Brown’s effort to help a Florida antiabortion activist win release from prison.

Andrew Acosta, a Delgadillo spokesman, said the advertisement would be aired in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. It is the first of several commercials that will extol Delgadillo’s credentials and assail Brown’s record over three decades in politics, he said.

“Voters are going to get to know a Jerry Brown they haven’t seen for some time,” Acosta said. “On an issue as important as a woman’s right to choose, you have to be 100% committed, like Rocky Delgadillo. With Jerry Brown, you’re not sure.”

In 1988, Brown wrote to Florida state officials seeking clemency for Joan Andrews, who was serving five years in prison for taking part in ransacking a Pensacola abortion clinic.

That year, Brown told the National Catholic News Service that abortion is “killing the unborn” and that it showed how “we’ve organized society to be anti-life.”

Brown’s views drew attention in early 1989, as feminists in California voiced concerns during his campaign to become chairman of the California Democratic Party.

His position on abortion later became a campaign issue when he ran against Bill Clinton in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary.

On the campaign trail this year, Brown has repeated his belief that Andrews’ prison sentence was too severe for the crime. He said the clemency plea was written at the request of Mother Teresa.

Brown’s campaign team released an April 24 campaign letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) vouching for his commitment to abortion rights.

The two lawmakers said Brown acted as governor to ensure abortion funding over opposition in the Legislature after federal funding was cut in the late 1970s. They called it “an act of political courage at a critical time in the fight for choice.”