‘Champagne Campaign’ Pops as Riordan Launches

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Los Angeles Times

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He was the mayor of a big city, and he got his campaign for governor of a big state going in a big way. Richard Riordan’s inaugural day as a GOP gubernatorial candidate was nothing like his low-key opponents’:

Secretary of State Bill Jones announced his intentions at a meeting with reporters. Bill Simon Jr. rented a Sacramento hotel room to give the Big Go, backed up by family and friends who left after Simon’s 10-minute launch speech segued into a news conference. The former L.A. mayor’s starting-line gala offered multicultural music and the multimuscled Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This was campaigning with all the trimmings: three different styles of “Riordan for Governor” T-shirts, lunch on the chartered 727 from Nate ‘n Al’s deli, and personalized, embossed campaign luggage tags. The thousand-plus guests at last week’s gala launch dinner took home “Riordan for Governor” mugs filled with the kind of gourmet jellybeans favored by former President Ronald Reagan, with whom Riordan shares a monogram and some, but not much, conservative political philosophy.

The cost of all this extravagance was soon evident to reporters invited to join the campaign launch: The price tag for tagging along on the jet jaunt, they were told, would be $1,328.90. Two days after some news organizations complained about the first-class-plus fare, the campaign dropped the price to $562.65.

The underfunded Jones set the contrasting tone for his poor-but-scrappy campaign several days earlier, giving a luncheon of Orange County Republican women his twist on the old political standard: “Money is not everything–and President Perot, Sen. Huffington and Gov. Checchi will tell you that.”

(Political word watch: “Money” is what the other guy’s campaign has; when it’s in your checking account, it’s “resources.”)

Meanwhile, back at the Riordan launch at Olvera Street in L.A., the placards–the diversity-checklist signs that have become mandatory in any campaign, like “Women for Riordan,” “African Americans for Riordan,” “Asian Americans for Riordan”–included one puzzler: “Republicans for Riordan.”

The Missing Hombre Formation

Of the ranks of titled Latinos who surrounded L.A. Mayor Jaime Hahn on his first official foreign visit, a two-day trade mission to Mexico, one was missing: the face and pompadour of Rocky Delgadillo, the city attorney, L.A.’s first citywide elected Latino in modern times.

Among the 23-member delegation were the City Council’s members–its president, Alex Padilla; Eric Garcetti; Nick Pacheco; and Ed Reyes–Hahn’s top Latino aides, business and labor leaders, even Miguel Contreras, the union organizer who worked for the other fellow in the mayor’s race, Antonio Villaraigosa.

But, in a phrase a female governor of Texas made famous, “Where was Rocky?”

Delgadillo was not invited. An oversight? A slight? A finger in the wind blowing up some incipient rivalry between the former city attorney and the man who succeeded him . . . between the present mayor and someone who may be Mayor Material?

“It’s stupid to insinuate anything into it,” bristled Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook. “We have a very good relationship with the city attorney.”

Delgadillo aide Ben Austin was the soul of graciousness about the omission: “Rocky totally respects the mayor’s prerogative to choose whoever he wants to choose to go on a trade mission.”

Hugh Who For Lieutenant What?

To him, it’s a joke office, so why not wage a joke campaign? Republican radio vox pop and conservative lawyer-about-Orange County Hugh Hewitt says he’s running for lieutenant governor–seduced, so he says, by the allure of a job with “more perks for zero work.”

If elected, he promises to: refund 10% of his salary, not set foot in Sacramento to save travel costs, and to try to deep-six the office altogether.

Decades in the political mix leave him “convinced that no other job pays this much money with absolutely no responsibility,” says Hewitt. “This is the appendix of the body politic, and since somebody’s got to do it, why not me?”

The job has had its entertainment value, however. In 1979, when the lieutenant governor, Republican record executive Mike Curb, was acting governor while Democrat Jerry Brown was off running for president, California was treated to a slapstick spectacle: Curb zooming at 90 miles an hour to Sacramento to sign an order lifting smog standards before Brown’s homebound flight entered California airspace and Curb’s power ended. Brown’s DC-10 beat Curb’s chauffeured car by two minutes.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Hearing?

The armband brigade at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights does some cutting and folding to put the Legislature on notice. Recently, it tagged Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Rod Wright. The chair of the Assembly’s energy committee curtailed a committee hearing on the utility bailout plan and delayed a vote, saying lawmakers needed more time to study the intricate bills. Foundation watchdogs say that very night, they followed Wright–not to a study session, but to a $5,000-a-plate fund-raiser for his committee. Wright is among the beneficiaries of utility companies’ largess.


Margaret Strubel, center, and Carmen Balber, right, belong to a watchdog group that recently bird-dogged Assemblyman Roderick Wright. (Associated Press)

Quick Hits

* The worst performer of the dozen on last week’s ballot in the Ventura City Council election–even lower than a candidate who dropped out after the ballots were printed–was David Norrdin, who got all of 579 votes for his platform endorsing a casino and strip club on the city’s northern hillsides and encouraging offshore oil drilling.

* California’s Great Green North, its 20 counties above Sacramento, are campaigning for a new identity as “Upstate California,” not to be mistaken for “Northern California” or, even more unspeakable, “Southern California.”

* Arriving at a Venice residence, the IRS letter that is “pleased to inform you” about the Bush administration tax rebate, but “according to the information on your 2000 federal tax return . . . you will not be receiving a check at this time.”

* Some sheriff’s deputies in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood have been grumbling that while their boss, Sheriff Lee Baca, has bought a 10-seater, $2.4-million turboprop plane, they still don’t have air conditioning in some patrol cars.

* Not on this side of the Capitol: Hired consultant Kam Kuwata says that while he was indeed a legislative advisor on redistricting, he only did the Assembly’s redrawing deeds–not the Senate’s, whose very curious redesign of the 22nd state Senate district was referred to in this space last week.

Word Perfect

“I think Bill Simon would make an excellent governor.”

–Richard Riordan, running in the same Republican governor’s race that he encouraged opponent Bill Simon to enter, answering a reporter’s questions in San Mateo about New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement of Simon.

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