In a surprise move, the Republican leadership in the state Assembly has been pouring money--about $142,000 at last count--into the 53rd Assembly District campaign in the hopes of unseating Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Lawndale), who concedes that he was caught off-guard and is scrambling to recover.
The money, which started pouring in Oct. 1, has transformed the campaign from a lackluster affair, with Floyd counting on an easy victory, into heated race with the three-term incumbent and Republican challenger Roger E. Fiola trading accusations with abandon.
"A bunch of sissy little wimps," is how Floyd described Fiola and his Republican Assembly supporters in an interview this week. "I've never met (him). . . . If I do, I'll probably punch his lights out."
Fiola accused the incumbent of "mudslinging" and "sleazy campaign tactics," saying in a press release that he that he would "not get into the gutter with Mr. Floyd."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 31, 1986 Valley Edition Metro Part 2 Page 7 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 63 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to an editing error, the source of $25,000 in late campaign contributions to Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) was incorrectly reported in The Times on Thursday as coming from Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. The contributors were four other Democratic assemblymen. The late contributions were part of--not in addition to--a total of $40,000 that Katz has reported receiving from Assembly colleagues and state Treasurer Jesse Unruh.
Fiola is using his windfall to finance a barrage of mailers attacking Floyd and boosting his own candidacy. And Floyd has begun a last-ditch mailing of his own.
Earlier in the race, the state Fair Political Practices Commission stepped in to investigate when Floyd claimed that Fiola had not properly reported campaign contributions. The commission this week cleared Fiola of any wrongdoing. Fiola in turn has threatened legal action against Floyd for "making false charges."
Fiola's campaign had carefully kept secret the sources and extent of funding it had received from the Republican Assembly leadership until Friday of last week, when reports covering the period between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18 were made public. Through Sept. 30, Fiola had reported raising less than $500.
"We would like to keep (Floyd) in the dark as long as possible about our campaign," Fiola spokesman John Lawrence had explained earlier when asked before the required filing date why he would not talk about campaign finances.
Fiola's latest statements show that he received a loan of $50,000 from the Assembly Republican Political Action Committee, and Assembly members Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), John Lewis (R-Orange) and Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill) each loaned Fiola $10,000. In addition, Brown contributed $4,234.76 in non-monetary aid.
In addition to what he reported on his statement, Fiola reported late contributions through Wednesday morning of another $50,000 contribution from the Assembly Republican Political Action Committee and $7,000 from California War Veterans for Peace and Justice.
Lawrence, in a brief interview Tuesday, said that Republican assemblymen were contributing to Fiola because they consider Floyd, who has a liberal voting record, "so unrepresentative of his district."
The 53rd District encompasses a largely working-class area that includes Hawthorne, Carson, Lawndale and north Redondo Beach. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by 2 to 1.
As Floyd began to scramble, one state legislative staff member, who asked not to be identified, described him as "a wounded bear."
Floyd with his own mailings is attempting to catch up with a deluge of Fiola mailers that attack Floyd as a supporter of embattled California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, declare that he opposes the death penalty and charge that he is soft on crime.
"I have always supported the death penalty," Floyd said. He said that Fiola's accusations that he voted against the death penalty are false. "We never had the death penalty on the floor," he said.
To counter the charge that he is soft on crime, Floyd staged a press conference this week attended by leaders of five law enforcement organizations--representing about 40,000 officers statewide--that have endorsed Floyd.
"We would not be here today if we did not have the solid record of Dick Floyd in law enforcement," said Len Delaney, president of the Peace Officers Research Assn. "We will do whatever we can to see that Dick Floyd gets reelected because we know he is tough on crime. We are not happy with misleading information."
Floyd, who is known in the Legislature for his pungent language, explained his use of the phrase "sissy little wimps" by saying that Fiola and his supporters lacked "courage" when they declined to identify the source of campaign contributions before the campaign finance statements were due.
"He is ashamed that his money is coming from (Assemblymen) Dennis Brown and John Lewis," Floyd maintained.
But Fiola's aide, Lawrence, said that Fiola's campaign finances "were a totally open book." Brown and Lewis could not be reached for comment.
Floyd said that the Republicans are forcing him to mount a campaign because they "just want to quiet me down. I'm paying the price of having an conscience and expressing it and voting it," Floyd said.