SACRAMENTO — U.S. Senate candidate Ed Davis Wednesday accused fellow Republican candidate William E. Dannemeyer of Fullerton of running a campaign based on "hatred and bigotry" with Dannemeyer's statements about AIDS and about homosexuals.
"It's OK for Dannemeyer to disagree with me on my vote for AB1," Davis, now a state senator from Valencia, said. His reference to AB1 was his vote in 1984 for an Assembly bill that would have prohibited employment discrimination against homosexuals had it not been vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian.
"I respect his right to disagree . . . but when you go beyond that you take a look at a whole set of statements he has made in the campaign and you see a record of hatred and bigotry and exploiting hysteria over a very serious health crisis.
"People are dying. He (Dannemeyer) is advocating that children be denied access to schools if they have AIDS . . . He ridicules a segment of our population (homosexuals) with comments that are repugnant and repulsive. There is a spirit of meanness to what Congressman Dannemeyer has done so far in this campaign."
Rep. Dannemeyer has made the issue of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) a major one in his U.S. Senate campaign and he has been highly critical of homosexuals. In the United States most AIDS victims so far have been homosexuals. Dannemeyer contends that by their sexual practices homosexuals are a menace to society because of the danger of spreading AIDS to the general population.
Replying Wednesday to Davis' criticism of him, Dannemeyer said that in his vote for the anti-discrimination bill in 1984, Davis had ". . . disappointed many of your friends by aligning yourself with the homosexual community whose goal is to change the culture of this society to the point that we would equate homosexuality with heterosexuality. . . ."
The Republicans think they have a chance to unseat Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston in November and President Reagan has called upon the GOP candidates to refrain from cutting each other up in the primary.
But Davis and Dannemeyer have been heading for this clash for some time.
In 1985 Davis assailed Dannemeyer for calling on the Republican Senate candidates to refuse political support and campaign money from homosexuals. Davis called that request "un-American."
Davis acknowledges that his vote on AB1 has probably cost him some votes and he has tried to defuse the issue by bringing it up often and explaining his position.
Wednesday's attack on Dannemeyer could be seen in that context, although Davis insisted that he had decided to criticize Dannemeyer because he fears that the Republican Party will get caught up in the AIDS "hysteria."
"On the day he (Dannemeyer) announced," Davis said, "he said that AIDS victims emit spores from their lungs which will infect other people. . . . That was made up out of whole cloth and obviously was designed to panic people . . . so I am asking Bill Dannemeyer to cease and desist in this crusade of gay-bashing, this crusade of fear. And I am asking my fellow Republicans not to accept this type of rhetoric, not to allow this campaign to continue on this level."
Davis was asked at the press conference if his attack on Dannemeyer might not backfire and actually increase Dannemeyer's standing in the crowded Republican Senate primary.
"I hope that won't happen," Davis said. "I am hoping that thinking Republicans from around the state will see that this will be a fatal course for the party to follow."
In his "Dear Ed" letter to Davis, Dannemeyer said, "Usually when a perceived front-runner in a campaign stoops to make vicious personal attacks on an opponent, it indicates either panic, bad advice, a serious disarray in the campaign or faulty reasoning.
"One hopes that you will soon emerge from this confusion," the letter said.
Concluding, Dannemeyer said, "Now that the polls show you moving down and me coming up, I suspect you're looking around for reasons. The fact is you need not look very far. Sincerely, William E. Dannemeyer."