SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian, contending that Mayor Tom Bradley exhibited a character flaw in changing his long-held stands on gun control and other issues, vowed Monday to make Bradley's position reversals a major theme in his campaign for a second term.
Speaking to a Los Angeles radio audience from his Capitol office, the Republican governor declared that Bradley's recent changes in positions--including his decision to publicly oppose gun control laws after supporting previous gun control efforts--"really goes to the issue of his character."
"Apparently he's willing to do this because he thinks it may help him get elected governor rather than standing by his principles," Deukmejian said in a live interview with Stan Bohrman of radio station KGIL.
Deukmejian's statements on KGIL, and similar ones in a later interview on KABC, marked his return to the high-profile campaign style that he suspended during the holidays. The governor's jabs at Bradley, his expected Democratic rival for reelection, were the sharpest to date and underlie an increasingly hostile war of rhetoric between the two still-undeclared candidates.
Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Tom Houston, in a sharp rejoinder, defended Bradley's position reversals. He said they resulted from Bradley's "rolling up his sleeves and finding out what the facts really are."
Houston, echoing a major theme of Bradley's preliminary gubernatorial campaign, described Deukmejian as a caretaker who prefers to remain aloof from controversy, turning his decisions over to "mechanically activated drones" on his staff.
In a later call-in radio interview, Deukmejian was forced to go on the defensive after he told host Michael Jackson of KABC that he does not consider visible oil derricks, such as those off Santa Barbara, as a blight on the coastline.
At issue in the governor's attack on Bradley was the mayor's statement earlier this month to a television interviewer that he would fight any effort to impose a handgun control law in California. Four years ago, Bradley supported a ballot proposition that would have banned most new handgun sales in the state.
His decision to now oppose such efforts, Bradley said, was based on the fact that voters overwhelmingly rejected the gun control initiative.
Bradley also theorized--as have many political experts--that his support for the gun control measure cost him significant votes in his loss to Deukmejian in the 1982 gubernatorial race. Deukmejian strongly opposed the ballot measure.
Deukmejian also on Monday homed in on Bradley's support last year for Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s controversial plan to drill for oil in the Pacific Palisades after having opposed it for many years.
And the governor cited as another flip-flop Bradley's interest in a second race for the governorship "after telling the people of Los Angeles he wanted to serve as their mayor" when he ran for reelection to a fourth term last year.
"I just think that if (Bradley) continues to do this . . . it will probably become quite an issue in the campaign," Deukmejian told KGIL's Bohrman. "I think also he's probably going to lose a lot of support by doing it."
Houston, in seeking to explain Bradley's reversals, said his decisions were based on a respect for what the public wants and came after he "immersed himself in facts and figures" regarding the issues.
The Bradley aide also branded as "hypocritical" Deukmejian's criticism of Bradley's role in the Occidental Oil case because of the governor's well-publicized opposition to a moratorium on oil drilling off the California coast.
"He's opened the entire coast of California for (oil lease) sales," Houston said.
In reply to Deukmejian's statements about Bradley's interest in leaving Los Angeles for the governorship, Houston contended that Deukmejian is merely setting himself up as a possible vice presidential candidate in 1988.
Deukmejian has denied any interest in running for President, and a spokesman on Monday said: "January, 1988, is still two years away. . . . Bradley's April municipal election preceded by a matter of months his 1986 gubernatorial campaign, and that's an important distinction."
On the issue of offshore oil drilling, the governor's statements that oil derricks visible from the shoreline do not constitute blight came amid pointed criticism over Deukmejian's position from some callers.
Cites Long Beach
"No, it doesn't (constitute blight) and it doesn't harm the environment," Deukmejian declared. As an example, he pointed to his hometown of Long Beach, where offshore derricks surrounding the Queen Mary can easily be seen from large estate homes along the water's edge.
Deukmejian said, however, that he would not support oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay, because "oil drilling in certain areas of California would indeed interfere with tourism, the fishing industry or might lead to a problem that would damage beaches."