When Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando spotted a Lyndon LaRouche follower among 15 candidates for seats on his South Bay district's GOP Central Committee, he decided to issue an urgent warning to his fellow Republicans.
In an 11th-hour mailer before Tuesday's primary elections, Felando said, "I am writing to raise the alarm about the dangerous extremist, Lyndon LaRouche, who is making an attempt to gain a foothold right here in the 51st Assembly District!"
To "prevent an accidental vote" for any LaRouche follower, the flyer urged Republicans to cast their ballots for a Felando-endorsed slate of seven.
The message apparently got through--LaRouchite Alvin Froehlich lost--but the broadside also resulted in the defeat of four incumbents and outraged other candidates who said Felando had tarred them with the same brush by not specifically identifying Froehlich.
"The intimation that anyone who wasn't endorsed might be a LaRouche follower didn't sit well with a lot of people," said Walter B. Lull of Manhattan Beach, one of the Felando-endorsed winners.
Reached on Thursday, Felando said he was sorry if anyone was offended. He said he avoided naming the one LaRouchite on the ballot because "I didn't want to leave myself open to a lawsuit."
When it was pointed out that Froehlich had publicly acknowledged his affiliation with the LaRouche fringe party, Felando responded, "Well, I just wasn't going to take any chances."
Several of the candidates suggested that Felando had seized upon the LaRouche issue to purge the central committees of members who might not give the assemblyman the support he expects.
Felando's fellow Republican officeholder, 4th District Supervisor Deane Dana, said he wouldn't speculate on Felando's motive. But he said he was definitely unhappy about who was bumped from the committee--Leah Jeffries, his South Bay deputy, and other "good friends" who had "given faithful and loyal service" to the party.
"I can't in my wildest imagination understand why Gerry would put his name to something like that," Dana said. "Why would he stoop so low?"
Felando, insisting that there was nothing wrong with the mailer, brushed aside Dana's complaints.
"He's just trying to fan the fires," the assemblyman said. "I wanted to get people on there who I know will support my ideals and philosophy."
In addition to raising the LaRouche issue, Felando's flyer said his candidates were "strong supporters of President Reagan and Gov. Deukmejian and will work hard to defeat Rose Bird," the state's chief justice.
Felando, who was unopposed in the primary, will face Democrat Jon Mercant in the November general elections.