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Bradley: His Supporters Face Cold, Hard Facts

June 16, 1986|CATHLEEN DECKER | Times Staff Writer

CONCORD — Candidate Tom Bradley had just concluded a blistering attack on his gubernatorial rival George Deukmejian. One hundred people, on hand to witness the opening of Bradley's first Northern California campaign headquarters, had whooped and hollered, as Bradley's speech dictated, and booed lustily at the mention of any Republican.

Zachary Taylor, president of the Concord Democratic Club, one of the organizers of the Bradley fete, should have been pleased, even buoyant. Instead he sat under an overhang at the little office complex, out of reach of the scorching Saturday afternoon sun, and exuded gloom.

"Deukmejian is strong," he said, shaking his head. "There are a lot of Democrats who spin back and forth, liberal to conservative, especially the young Yuppie generation. They see in him an image."

It is that mood of resignation that Bradley confronted all weekend, traveling across five Northern California counties, battling for votes with a sometimes stirring, sometimes lackluster rendition of the politics of hope.

Audiences of the Faithful

Hammering at Deukmejian's record, he played to audiences of the faithful. His schedule consisted of appearances before largely Democratic, mostly black audiences who would be inclined to favor him over Deukmejian. He concentrated on imploring them to show up at the polls in November.

In Richmond, where about 5,000 people gathered in Nicholl Park for a celebration of "Juneteenth," which marks the day in 1865 when black slaves in Texas received notice that they had been freed, Bradley exhorted the crowd to turn out for the general election.

"Do it for your children and your grandchildren," he demanded.

In terms of potential votes, the Richmond appearance provided Bradley with a huge audience. But the payoff could have been better.

Bradley officials counted on the day being a boon to a voter registration drive that is seen as enhancing Bradley's chances in Northern California. But by late afternoon, only 50 people had registered, drive organizers said--most of the celebrants were too young to vote.

Campaign advance workers had provided Bradley posters for those manning food booths at the celebration. But at the voter registration table, there were no Bradley brochures among the piles of material from local candidates.

"We haven't been able to find the (Bradley) person who has that," a volunteer said when asked for a brochure.

The Bradley team's strategy for Northern California rests on hitting hard in the 10 most-populated counties, including the five counties visited this weekend--Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Solano and Sacramento.

By planning more campaign stops this year than in the unsuccessful race against Deukmejian in 1982, Bradley hopes to hike the voter turnout by Northern Californians in general and Northern California blacks in particular.

Courting the Black Vote

Stung by criticism that he had shied away from black voters in his 1982 gubernatorial campaign to avoid associations with the sensitive race issue, the Los Angeles mayor was clearly courting the black vote this weekend.

In San Francisco, he talked about education and its impact on his life at a scholarship banquet in the Third Baptist Church gymnasium, whose 300-strong audience greeted him with sustained applause. After the appearance before the mostly black Juneteenth crowd in Richmond, he traveled to Vallejo to speak before 800 people at the local NAACP awards dinner.

"The problem in 1982 was that the turnout in the black community was lower than expected," said Kerman Maddox, Bradley's deputy campaign manager. "We obviously want to put emphasis on the black community in 1986."

Maddox said he was pleased with Bradley's reception in Northern California, calling the mayor's appearances "the essence of grass-roots politics--a church, a picnic, crowds, an office opening. . . . The substance has been good."

Struck Back at Governor

Bradley spent little time talking about his plans, but he plugged away at Deukmejian.

After months of being characterized by Deukmejian as a political flip-flopper, Bradley struck back at the governor, painting him as a man who says one thing as a chief executive and another thing as a candidate. Bradley charged Deukmejian with turnabouts in education, the handling of toxic waste, taxes, insurance and sanctions against South Africa.

On Thursday, the day before Bradley's swing began, Deukmejian suggested that the University of California Board of Regents consider toughening its position on divesting from companies doing business in South Africa. Bradley seized on the statement, repeatedly reminding voters that last June Deukmejian had refused suggestions that the regents divest the university's holdings, opting instead for less stringent measures.

'George-Come-Lately'

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