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California Elections : Measures: AIDS, English-Only and Limits on Pay Put California in the Limelight

November 02, 1986|CATHLEEN DECKER | Times Staff Writer

Cantankerous campaigns that drew charges of voter manipulation, racism and promoting hysteria--and focused national attention on the California ballot box--will close Tuesday as voters confront a slate of controversial propositions.

Proposition 65, the anti-toxics initiative, spent the campaign season caught in the bitter cross fire between Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Gov. George Deukmejian and, in recent weeks, between Sen. Alan Cranston and his Republican challenger, Ed Zschau.

Deukmejian, under consistent fire from the mayor for accepting campaign donations from Bradley-defined toxic polluters, charged that the proposition was tailored to draw voters to Bradley's struggling campaign. Among the authors of the measure was Bradley's chief political aide in City Hall, Deputy Mayor Tom Houston.

Bradley tried to tie his fortunes to the initiative by charging that Deukmejian would not enforce Proposition 65 and that Bradley's election was needed to ensure protections against toxic waste.

In doing so, Bradley sought to capitalize on the initiative's overwhelming popularity with voters. A Los Angeles Times Poll taken in mid-October found 66% of likely voters supported Proposition 65 and only 20% opposed it.

Opponents, armed with $4.3 million, directed their efforts to carefully crafted television commercials hitting the initiative for exempting government agencies from restrictions on the dumping of cancer-causing chemicals.

The "Yes on 65" camp had far less money--$1.7 million. But along with its public support, it also gained free publicity when dozens of celebrities got on the anti-toxics bandwagon, literally. They chartered buses that crossed the state, spreading the pro-65 message.

More bitterness surrounded Proposition 64, the AIDS initiative that would force authorities to test for the fatal virus, collect the names of its victims and remove them from schools and some jobs.

The initiative, mounted by political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, drew anger from the homosexual community and alarm from the scientific arena. Medical leaders nationwide stepped out in opposition to the initiative, stating in television and radio ads that the measure would devastate AIDS research and blood supplies.

Its backers distributed more than a million pamphlets printed at the LaRouche national headquarters in Virginia that promote his unique vision that AIDS is spread by casual contact, insects and U.S. economic policies. They have also produced television spots aired free by some stations to provide balance on the issue.

A dozen loosely affiliated groups have reported spending more than $2 million to defeat the measure, while LaRouche's political forces have spent $283,000--almost all donated by various LaRouche organizations. Proposition 64 trails in the polls, but many voters say they are undecided.

The campaign for Proposition 63, which would declare English to be California's official language, likewise has spawned angry responses. Supporters said they want to establish English as a common bond between the state's varied ethnic groups, to abolish bilingual ballots and restructure bilingual education.

But the measure's opponents claim that it is a veiled racist ploy against immigrants that threatens bilingual police and fire services, foreign language advertising and other multilingual activities.

Opponents Michael Woo and Richard Alatorre, Los Angeles City Council members, staged a mock renaming of the city last week--offering visitors a welcome to "The Angels" as a way to demonstrate the impact of a non-English language measure on the city.

Overall, however, the opponents have been unable to achieve much visibility, raising less than $100,000 and purchasing only a limited amount of radio advertising. A Los Angeles Times Poll taken in mid-October showed that even with money they would have had a tough task: 71% of likely voters supported the initiative while only 24% opposed it.

Five other less-publicized propositions are linked by their connection to Proposition 13 gadflies Paul Gann and Howard Jarvis.

Best-known of the proposals is Gann's Proposition 61, which would set the governor's salary at $80,000 and limit all other government salaries to $64,000. It also would set financial limits on the size of contracts let by government and prohibit public employees from carrying over vacation and sick time from one year to the next.

Gann's main argument--that the measure would cut not only salaries but huge pensions received by former government officials--was ordered off the sample ballot by a Sacramento judge who found the statements misleading. But Gann continued to press his contentions in radio commercials.

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