To no one's great surprise, 54th District Assembly candidate Edward K. Waters captured the Democratic nomination in June clutching his mother's purse strings.
The 30-year-old, first-time campaigner raised $422,663, of which $201,272 came from his politically powerful mom, 48th District Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). In turn, much of his mother's money came from lawyers and political action committees loyal to her as leader of the Democratic Assembly caucus, and Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), a close ally.
According to midyear campaign finance reports filed last week with county election officials, Waters used $375,766 from his war chest to beat eight other candidates vying to carry the party banner against Republican Paul E. Zeltner, a Lakewood councilman, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Both the amount Waters raised and the amount he spent are among the highest ever for an "open" Assembly district, where no incumbent is running, according to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
And the amount his influential mother transferred--where her campaign organization passed money to his campaign organization--is among the highest ever encountered by the FPPC, spokeswoman Lynn Montgomery said, noting that no formal survey has been conducted since 1982.
'High Tech' Advertising
"I'm one that, given the opportunity in the Legislature, will certainly support caps on campaign spending," Edward Waters said last week. But while some voters may "think that too much money is spent in campaigns, and that's probably true," he added, political contests today are expensive because they depend upon "a lot of high-tech" mailing and advertising methods.
"What's important to be said about my campaign is, yes, we had the ability to raise money, but there was no other candidate as visible as I was," Waters said.
Waters said he is proud of his mother's campaign role and thankful for her support because "families need to stick together. . . ."
"I'm simply going through the same dilemma that sons of famous actors and athletes go through," he said. "I don't think you can think of a candidate in the state of California that would not like to have Maxine Waters working for them."
While some of his mother's money may have come because of their family tie, Waters said that some also came because she is the party official responsible for channeling resources to able Democratic contenders. He said party leaders are committed to retaining the 54th District seat despite the retirement of six-term incumbent Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower). Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by 2 to 1.
'Mother Helping Her Son'
However, Assemblywoman Waters isn't reluctant to characterize much of her assistance as that of "a mother helping her son."
She said that, "Part of the American tradition is that families hand over their businesses to their children. . . . give them money to help buy the first house" or support them in other early ventures. "Mine just happens to be in politics."
The assemblywoman added, however, that she believes that her son will ultimately stand on his own merits. "He is a fine candidate and people like him. And so I think that Ed will be judged on how he handles himself."
The overall cost of the primary campaign reached the $1-million mark that experts had predicted. Waters attributed much of that to the fact that he was pitted against three other comparatively well-heeled contenders, one of whom enjoyed the considerable backing of Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton), who has occasionally been at political odds with Waters' mother.
As of late last week, county officials had received statements from six of the nine candidates, who reported raising a combined $816,352 and spending $791,021 to reach voters in a boomerang-shaped district that starts in Compton and swings south from Bellflower into Lakewood and eastern Long Beach. Although county officials were still waiting to receive a report from Kent A. Spieller, a campaign spokesman said the Bellflower resident spent $209,102, making him second only to Waters.
Spieller Spent $66 Per Ballot
But while Waters won--capturing 25% of the vote and spending the equivalent of $49 per ballot--Spieller managed to finish only fourth, obtaining 11% of the vote and spending $66 per ballot.
Waters' spending was more than his two closest competitors' combined. Willard H. Murray, a former Dymally aide who also carried the congressman's support, raised $150,098 and spent $148,336 to finish second. And former Compton Mayor Doris A. Davis raised $187,655, but spent $208,211 to finish third.