Gov. George Deukmejian, seeking to strengthen his support among ethnic groups in Los Angeles on Saturday, played up his parents' emigration from their Armenian homeland and stressed government's duty to protect minority groups from persecution.
Joined by his mother, Alice, and his wife, Gloria, the Republican governor spoke to about 500 supporters from a variety of ethnic groups who paid $10 apiece to attend a campaign festival at Lawry's California Center just north of downtown.
"As you no doubt know, my own parents, and Gloria's parents as well, came to this country because they realized that in America diversity is respected," Deukmejian said. "They realized that this is a place where they and their families could find freedom and could find opportunity.
"They wanted us to be able to live in a country where the government protected the people rather than living in a country where the government actually was a criminal and was persecuting and oppressing the people," he said.
Like many Armenians, Deukmejian's parents fled their homeland to escape persecution at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. They immigrated to the United States shortly before the Armenian genocide that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million people, including the governor's aunt.
Among the groups represented at the campaign rally were Armenians, Filipinos, Romanians, Latinos, Germans, Slovaks, Chinese, Koreans and Hungarians.
Deukmejian's opponent, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, has also attempted to direct his appeal toward ethnic groups, particularly black voters whose low turnout contributed to his loss to Deukmejian four years ago. In recent weeks, the mayor has campaigned at a number of predominantly black churches throughout the state.
Deukmejian used the occasion of his rally to tout his own "leadership" as governor and to deliver a standard attack on his Democratic challenger.
He again claimed that the mayor would raise taxes, a charge Bradley has denied. And he called his opponent "timid Tom" for refusing to take a stand on the election of state Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.
Deukmejian, who holds a substantial lead over Bradley in public opinion polls, called on his backers not to become complacent as the Nov. 4 election nears.
"I plead with you," he said. "Please don't take anything for granted." And after introducing his mother to the crowd, the 58-year-old governor said, "If you're not inspired to work very hard for me in the next few days, I hope you'll do it for my mother."