SAN FRANCISCO — In a political season when so much money is needed to fuel so many campaigns, Gov. George Deukmejian makes fund raising seem easy.
On Tuesday, the Republican governor again proved his ability to attract large numbers of free-spending donors, as he added nearly $700,000 to his political war chest, bringing the total for his reelection effort to an estimated $7.2 million.
With that additional money, collected at a $1,000-a-plate San Francisco dinner, Deukmejian is within sight of the $8 million his strategists have figured he will need this year to beat Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, his Democratic opponent.
This is about the same amount he raised and spent to defeat Bradley in their first gubernatorial match-up four years ago.
This time, however, Deukmejian is almost certain to reach his goal even before the June 3 primary, affirming his ascent to the ranks of California's most potent fund-raisers. Since he is unopposed within the Republican Party, more money will be spent directly on the effort to beat Bradley rather than on the kind of bruising intraparty rivalry he faced in his 1982 primary race against then-Lt. Gov. Mike Curb.
"This happened without our going out and doing any arm-twisting, because that's not our style," said Karl Samuelian, Deukmejian's campaign finance chairman. Samuelian, however, said he is cautious about celebrating, since no more major fund-raisers have been scheduled and "you can't take this as an indication of what will happen from here on out."
Bradley, who also has the advantage of not having any major opposition in the primary, has raised about $1 million toward his $10-million goal.
Aides concede that leaves him well behind, but they argue that his fund-raising efforts began in earnest only recently, when Bradley officially announced he would run.
"We feel really confident we're going to close the gap," said Bradley campaign spokeswoman Ali Webb. Webb said the campaign has scheduled 16 fund-raisers through the end of May, including events in New York and Philadelphia as well as several aimed at specific groups such as California's Korean and Japanese communities, where Bradley expects to run strong.
Most of those are expected to be small compared to the kinds of big-money events Deukmejian has arranged.
Yet with all his millions in the bank, Deukmejian's strategists are keeping a tight hold on the money, scouting opportunities for the governor to take advantage of his powers as an incumbent before agreeing to spend campaign funds.