Republican Senate candidate Ed Zschau received an hour of free broadcast time Monday on Los Angeles radio. He also received an earful of complaints from talk show host Michael Jackson and callers about the negative tone of the paid broadcast commercials in the U.S. Senate campaign.
Zschau of Los Altos was the lone guest on KABC for an hour because Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, as he has repeatedly done, refused to meet him face-to-face. On Monday, Cranston was across town in his headquarters, where he held a press conference to attack some of Zschau's House votes against programs affecting children.
Jackson decided out of frustration over Cranston's disinterest to give the whole one-hour show over to Zschau.
The topic of millions of dollars in negative advertising by both Zschau and Cranston received more attention than any other subject.
'Sick to Death'
A caller identified only as JoAnn declared, "I'm sick to death of commercials by both sides. Both are degrading one another."
Asked to respond, Zschau insisted only his opponent was to blame.
"I agree with her when it comes to Cranston's commercials because they've been personal attacks," he said.
Zschau said his own negative commercials about Cranston have focused on the senator's record: "The votes that he's made or the votes that he's missed, his opposition to the balanced-budget amendment, his record on spending, his opposition to Proposition 13 (in 1978), his opposition to the death penalty. These are facts about his record that people should know.
" . . . If he won't debate, I'm left with no other approach than to say here's his record and here's mine."
JoAnn remained unconvinced and said she will not vote for either man.
Luther, another caller, described the Senate campaign emphasis on negative commercials as "incredibly frustrating."
"Both candidates are acting in such an immature way," he said.
The public uprising over commercials was encouraged by Jackson, the erudite, honey-voiced moderator. He suggested that losers in such elections as the Zschau-Cranston match-up "must be like you've been in a mud-wrestling match. And the mud won."
Jackson added, "Sir, don't you see something sort of awful in the way in which candidates on both sides are going--trying to win the election by trying to convince us, or maybe insult us, and degrading their opponents--rather than convincing us of your abilities?"
Reluctance to Debate
While Zschau said the negative tone of the election is a result of Cranston's reluctance to debate, Cranston said he has decided not to debate because of the harsh TV advertising attacks on him.
Some of these attacks have been challenged as inaccurate, including one that says Cranston missed or voted against every tough anti-drug bill ever to come before him. The senator offers lists of bills and votes to the contrary.
"How can you debate someone who distorts your record like that?" Cranston has said.
Besides KABC, Zschau campaigned in El Segundo at a luncheon forum of Hughes Aircraft Co. employees. Zschau spoke on the theme of strong national defense and quoted from past Cranston statements critical of Reagan Administration foreign policy.
"Does Cranston believe today that President Reagan's policies are 'miserable, mean, mindless and lacking in all morality?' " Zschau asked.
He said Cranston made such a remark in 1982. Also in that year, Cranston declared that the President "is presiding over the decline of the American Republic," Zschau said.
In his press conference Monday, Cranston handed out a list of Zschau votes against the funding of programs for needy and handicapped children. His message was similar to one he made last week when he listed Zschau's votes against educational programs: Zschau's fiscal conservatism was "threatening the future--the future is our children."
Times political writer Keith Love contributed to this story.