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Posted: 2/24/2002 8:26:44 AM EDT
Los Angeles Times: Vying to Be the No. 1 Crime Fighter http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000014137feb24.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR Vying to Be the No. 1 Crime Fighter Election: No ordinary Democrat, Davis is endorsed by law enforcement. But GOP rivals are not impressed. By BETH SHUSTER TIMES STAFF WRITER February 24 2002 Contemporary California history offers at least one reason for Gov. Gray Davis to be worried about his chances for reelection: Of the four Democratic governors to hold the state's highest office in the 20th century, three lost bids for reelection when voters turned on them over issues of crime and punishment. But Davis is no ordinary Democrat--with his support of the death penalty and his long list of law enforcement endorsements, he has built a public safety resume hard to assail from the right--and these are not ordinary times. Because of those two facts, the quest to capture voters' sentiments on public safety issues remains an open one in the race for governor of California. "When you look back on the history of this state ... the Achilles' heel for Democrats was public safety," said Garry South, Davis' chief campaign strategist. But this year, he added: "On this issue of public safety--that is going to be one of the definitional issues of the campaign--ironically and paradoxically, the Democrat has the advantage." Secretary of State Bill Jones, financier Bill Simon Jr. and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan--the three Republican candidates hoping to unseat Davis--unequivocally disagree, and each has made public safety a mainstay of his campaign. Riordan, who built the Los Angeles Police Department to its largest force ever but fell short of his pledge to put 3,000 additional police officers on Los Angeles streets, says he will put his record against Davis' any time. Under Riordan, crime in Los Angeles fell precipitously, as it did across the nation during those years; it also turned up slightly near the end of Riordan's term, just as it was leveling off elsewhere. "I think what people are looking for is a strong leader who has a record like I have in the city of Los Angeles, cutting crime and making life more secure," Riordan said. "I believe in strong law enforcement, obviously." Jones, who wrote the "three-strikes" law in 1994 when he was a state assemblyman, said he is unfazed by Davis' law enforcement endorsements and that he too finds the governor's public safety record dismal. "Based on what I've seen, the governor has not done anything to improve public safety on his own," Jones said. "Among all the candidates, Republican or Democrat, I have the best record, period." -- continued --
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:27:57 AM EDT
Simon points to his experience as a federal prosecutor to show that he is tough on crime and criminals. A recent radio advertisement notes that he is the only candidate who has put criminals behind bars. Simon also has capitalized on the support of his onetime boss, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a firm law enforcement advocate. For the Republicans, history suggests reasons for hope, as state voters have often dumped Democratic governors over public safety issues. There was, for instance, Culbert Olsen, a Democrat elected in 1939 who was ousted after one term by Earl Warren. Olsen was soundly rejected by voters in his bid for a second term mainly because he pardoned a militant San Francisco labor organizer and released from prison several others alleged to have Communist sympathies, political consultants say. The next Democrat to serve as governor, Pat Brown, succeeded in winning a second term but lost his bid for a third to Ronald Reagan in 1966. Brown's defeat, political analysts say, was largely due to his avid opposition to the death penalty. His son, Jerry Brown, while governor, lost his race for the U.S. Senate in 1979 in large part because of his veto of the death penalty reinstatement and his appointments of liberal anti-death-penalty judges. Brown was succeeded by George Deukmejian, a Republican attorney general who ran on a tough anti-crime platform and presided over a state prison construction boom. Taking a Hard-Line Approach Those lessons have not been lost on Davis, who served as chief of staff under Jerry Brown and who has studiously worked to protect himself from any charge that he is soft on crime. Davis has long championed the death penalty. And when he was elected in 1997, Davis vowed that no murderers would be released while he was governor. His refusal to consider parole for killers has set off a number of legal challenges by inmate advocates who argue that he has undermined a fair hearing in those cases. Federal public defenders, for example, asked a judge earlier this year to prevent Davis from acting on a clemency request, saying the governor was biased. For three years, the Davis administration escaped any serious challenge to its record on crime and safety--no riots, no big union strikes, no huge flare-ups over capital punishment. Prison populations even declined during his tenure in Sacramento. But the events of Sept. 11 instantly thrust safety back to the top of the public agenda. Since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Davis has created an anti-terrorism task force, appointed a high-level anti-terrorism advisor, increased the budget for the California Highway Patrol to monitor major state infrastructures, and boosted the budget for the National Guard. -- continued --
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:28:37 AM EDT
The political nature of those moves was made clear as Davis invited the irritation of the Bush administration when he issued a warning of possible terrorist attacks against four major bridges, including the Golden Gate and the Vincent Thomas. Davis said he based his announcement on information from the FBI and two federal agencies, but other federal officials said the threat had not been verified and later said it wasn't credible. Though Davis' announcement was seen by some political analysts and others as an overreaction, others said the governor's actions did not tarnish his image with the public. On the contrary. "I don't know that the public reaches the same conclusions that close observers would reach," said Roy Behr, a Democratic consultant who is not involved in the gubernatorial race but works on state and national campaigns. "Even if they thought he was hyping it, that is a far less serious political mistake to make than to underestimate the risk and be caught with your pants down. He made sort of the safer mistake." Jones countered that Davis showed weak leadership in the bridge episode. "When the government in Washington did not respond to the same information with the same level of concern, then you have to call into question the [governor's] decision-making process," Jones said. Law Enforcement Lauds Davis' Actions CHP Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick, whose officers are charged with monitoring the state's infrastructure, applauded Davis for his caution. "I didn't interpret it as political grandstanding," said Helmick, a Davis supporter who was one of Davis' first appointments. "I believe his intent was good." In his State of the State address, Davis endorsed an expansion of the state's authority to tap phone lines, another move he said was motivated by his determination to respond to security threats. That measure sputtered in the Legislature after that body's lawyer concluded that the Davis proposal would overstep the state's authority under federal law. Some political consultants warn that candidates can go too far in responding to terrorism. "It will be death to any candidate who overplays this issue," said Ray McNally, a Republican media consultant who is working on Jones' campaign. "Voters are looking for someone to protect them, but boy, if they get a sense that any candidate is playing on their fears or trying to exploit a national tragedy, that will be death." South, Davis' chief strategist, said that because Davis is the incumbent governor responsible for protecting the state, voters give him "high marks" in preparing California for any potential attacks. -- continued --
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:30:07 AM EDT
"Whichever of the three Republicans wins the nomination, if they try to make the issue of security post-Sept. 11 a defining issue and put the governor in a negative light, it will be detrimental to their own standing," South said. "They have no standing to talk about it." That view is echoed by other analysts who say a public still jittery about terrorism may be inclined to stick with incumbents. "I think in some ways it gives Gov. Davis an advantage since he's in office," said Bill Carrick, a Democratic political consultant who is not involved in the governor's race. "This is one area where he can ... take decisive action. For governors and mayors, it gives them an opportunity to focus the public's attention on their executive abilities." Simon agreed that most incumbents would benefit, but added: "An exception is Gray Davis. I believe he may be one of the few [who is voted out of office], and I think that tells you something." For Davis, the image intended to convey his law enforcement bona fides is the recurring shot of him backed by men and women in uniform. He has tied up most of the large rank-and-file and management law enforcement endorsements, primarily by maintaining strong ties to state police, sheriffs and prison guard unions. Davis' ads criticizing Riordan pointedly note, for instance, that even Los Angeles police are not backing the former L.A. mayor. Throughout the state, those unions responded to Davis' attention with campaign contributions and are considered key to his reelection efforts. The prison guards union, one of the most prolific campaign contributors among state labor groups, donated more than $2 million to elect Davis in 1998. Yet, some political consultants say Davis' law enforcement endorsements offer only limited help. "He still has to prove that he's good for public safety," McNally said. "In a high-profile, top-of-the-ticket race like this, endorsements will only take you so far." Other political consultants say the Republican gubernatorial candidates, despite their determination to make public safety an issue, have yet to do so effectively, in part because they have not spelled out the differences among them. Rather, they are poised to take the fight to Davis. They are, in the words of Carrick, "in a classic minority mode where everything they do is positioned against Davis." The Republicans in the race and their consultants view it differently. They say President Bush's high approval rating will help their chances against Davis, in part because the governor is widely viewed as at odds with the president, on issues ranging from public safety to energy. That, they add, will amplify what they see as a natural Republican advantage on crime. "If you're a Democrat, you work very hard to get someone in uniform to say something nice about you," McNally said. "Education, environment are Democratic issues. Tax relief, public safety typically are Republican." -- continued --
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:31:24 AM EDT
Voters' Fears Have Subsided for Now One recent survey showed terrorism and security concerns declining on voters' list of most important issues, falling to fourth--behind education, the economy and the state's electricity supply. But public safety is an issue on which voters occasionally have turned quickly. Campaigns, political experts agree, can rise and fall on a single high-profile crime that horrifies the public and spurs the electorate to quick action. Take the murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, for instance. Her death in 1993 became the impetus for the three-strikes law. Or the Stockton schoolyard killings in 1989. That shooting led voters to approve a statewide ban on assault weapons. "These," Behr said, "are the types of things that drive electoral debates." If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:33:48 AM EDT
Voters' Fears Have Subsided for Now One recent survey showed terrorism and security concerns declining on voters' list of most important issues, falling to fourth--behind education, the economy and the state's electricity supply. But public safety is an issue on which voters occasionally have turned quickly. Campaigns, political experts agree, can rise and fall on a single high-profile crime that horrifies the public and spurs the electorate to quick action. Take the murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, for instance. Her death in 1993 became the impetus for the three-strikes law. Or the Stockton schoolyard killings in 1989. That shooting led voters to approve a statewide ban on assault weapons. "These," Behr said, "are the types of things that drive electoral debates." If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:35:29 AM EDT
Voters' Fears Have Subsided for Now One recent survey showed terrorism and security concerns declining on voters' list of most important issues, falling to fourth--behind education, the economy and the state's electricity supply. But public safety is an issue on which voters occasionally have turned quickly. Campaigns, political experts agree, can rise and fall on a single high-profile crime that horrifies the public and spurs the electorate to quick action. Take the murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, for instance. Her death in 1993 became the impetus for the three-strikes law. Or the Stockton schoolyard killings in 1989. That shooting led voters to approve a statewide ban on assault weapons. "These," Behr said, "are the types of things that drive electoral debates." If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 8:36:41 AM EDT
Why has crime fighting come to closely resemble repression? Everything Davis takes credit for is unconstitutional or highly controversial. Great record there.
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 9:09:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2002 9:10:42 AM EDT by Maynard]
Link Posted: 2/24/2002 10:14:54 AM EDT
Riordan WILL win the gop nomination and people will do some more rationalization and cast their ballot for Dick because "a vote for anyone else is a vote for Davis". Nevermind that Riordan while mayor of l.a. went to D.C. to push FOR the passage of the Brady Bill and also the "assault weapon" ban. During a debate one of the candidates related a statement also made by Riordan that he also wanted door to door confiscation of firearms.
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