Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Northridge) entered the Republican U.S. Senate race Monday with an attack on Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston that used the words Cranston's strategists fear the most:
"Times have changed," Fiedler said. "California has changed. Alan Cranston has not. He's out of touch."
Cranston, 71, was first elected to the Senate in 1968. The senator's advisers hope to convert his longevity into a campaign plus, but some of them acknowledge that it could be a major liability in a constantly changing state like California.
In campaign stops in four cities, Fiedler, 48, focused almost entirely on hammering Cranston. She cited the low ratings he gets from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Taxpayers Union, and she charged that when Cranston ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, he was an "ultra-liberal" who was "to the left of Walter Mondale."
Fiedler also assailed Cranston for voting against the Gramm-Rudman proposal to balance the federal budget by 1991, calling the senator's opposition to the measure "a major mistake."
And she contrasted her position with Cranston's on the issue of a tax increase. The senator said recently that he believes some form of tax increase will be necessary to reduce the federal deficit.
Fiedler said Monday, "I will not support a tax increase. . . . In the last 53 years there have been 193 (federal) tax increases. In that period of time, we have been in deficit 45 years and never once has the tax increase been used to reduce the deficit."
Fiedler also charged that Cranston's opposition to the death penalty is out of step with California voters, who have twice supported capital punishment initiatives.
In response to a question in San Francisco, Fiedler stated flatly that appointed judges are no different from elected politicians in their obligations to citizens.
She charged that Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, who will be on the November ballot, is "unrepresentative of the constituency she is there to serve. . . . I think that judges have to consider political reality as much as members of the Congress or the Senate."
Cranston has trounced ultra-conservative opponents in the past, and Fiedler is one of several candidates in this year's Republican U.S. Senate primary who are trying to show that they could seize the middle ground from Cranston in the November election.
Fiedler is pro-choice on abortion and describes herself as "very conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on social issues."
"I represent a political viewpoint that is mainstream California and that is going to be critical to a successful Republican in this election." Fiedler's 21st Congressional District mostly covers the western San Fernando Valley.
Other announced candidates in the Republican Senate primary are Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Rep. William Dannemeyer of Fullerton, State Sen. Ed Davis of Valencia, economist Arthur Laffer of Rolling Hills Estates, Assemblyman Robert Naylor of Menlo Park and Rep. Ed Zschau of Los Altos.
Fiedler says that being the only woman in the primary gives her "a distinct advantage insofar as it makes me stand out in a crowded field."
Nemesis to Liberals
The other thing that she believes will distinguish her in the primary is her track record for defeating longtime liberals in heavily Democratic areas.
A strong opponent of mandatory busing to achieve integration, Fiedler won a seat on the Los Angeles school board in 1977 by defeating incumbent Robert Docter, a supporter of busing.
Three years later she went to Congress by defeating 20-year Democratic incumbent James Corman. She has been reelected to the 21st District seat by landslides ever since. Fiedler is a member of the House Budget Committee.
Fiedler thinks she will need $2 million to win the primary. Aide Paul Clarke said the campaign has raised about $400,000 in new money and has transferred about $270,000 left over from Fiedler's 1984 House race.