Since barely losing the 1982 governor's race, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley has had two big successes--presiding over the widely acclaimed 1984 Olympic Games and, on Tuesday, winning a landslide reelection to a fourth term. Will he go for three?
That is the favorite guessing game this week among California Democrats--trying to predict whether Bradley will run for governor again in 1986.
Actually, the game involves two questions: "Will he?" and "Should he?" The answers don't always match.
Here are some of the answers to the first question.
Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, the top elected Democrat in the state, said: "Anyone who comes as close as Tom did to being governor--what was it, 93,000 votes?--that has to create a hunger. You have to say, 'Damn, I came so close,' and you think you maybe ought to try again."
Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp: "Tom Bradley is a very tenacious person. Just as he lost the mayoral race in 1969 and then came back to win in '73, I have never thought he has given up the idea of running again for governor. . . . Tuesday's election victory has to be very convincing for a lot of people who have been down on him."
And from Rep. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles, who has been lukewarm to the idea of having Bradley at the top of the ticket next year: "Tom Bradley scored an impressive win in Los Angeles and would have to receive strong consideration from anyone making up a list of possible candidates for governor."
Michael Gordon, former executive director of the California Democratic Party and now a political consultant, said: "My feeling is that Tom Bradley showed he was a tough campaigner in the mayor's race, and that has to give him a positive image statewide."
Clint Reilly, a political consultant whose clients include San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, said: "Bradley got 68% of the vote (in the mayoral race) against an opponent who spent more than a million dollars to try to beat him. That has to say something. . . . I suppose Tom will run for governor again if he has a burning ambition to be governor."
And there was Phil Schaefer, a San Francisco stockbroker who raises a lot of money for Democrats: "I have to think Tom Bradley will run for governor again. It's very difficult when other people are trying to decide your future for you, and obviously the decision will be Tom's. But why not? He's 67 years old--this is his last chance."
But then there was the "Should he?" question:
McCarthy wouldn't touch that one.
Van de Kamp said, "I am not as pessimistic as some of the other people you talk to. It is still too early to tell how strong (Republican Gov.) George Deukmejian will be in 1986. . . . Tom does not look his age and he doesn't act his age and he works very hard."
Not surprisingly, some of the players willing to answer the "Should he?" question asked that they not be quoted by name.
"I'm not sure the mayoral victory means anything," said one Democrat. "Bradley beat a weak opponent (Councilman John Ferraro). So what? I'm very pessimistic about another match-up between Tom and Deukmejian."
Another Democrat said: "The evidence is so overwhelming that Deukmejian is unbeatable. Why would Tom want to go out and get skunked by 10 or 12 points in '86?"
In one odd turn, sources close to Democratic state Sens. Gary K. Hart and John Garamendi, both of whom are exploring a run for governor, came up with identical responses to Bradley's mayoral victory:
'Strong Support' Shown
"Tom Bradley's victory shows he has strong support for another term as mayor of Los Angeles. There is no indication that would translate into strong support statewide."
Meanwhile, the mayor was having none of the guessing game, according to Tom Houston, one of his top strategists.
"The only input that matters is the mayor's and . . . he has made no decision and he is not even thinking about it," said Houston, who ridiculed the guessing game.
But Houston passed along one other item: He got a lot of phone calls Thursday from Bradley supporters whose advice could be summed up in three words: "Go for it."