Gov. George Deukmejian was reelected convincingly Tuesday night in what supporters called a triumph of his "charisma of competence," while durable Alan Cranston held a narrow lead in his quest for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, with the vote count only partly complete.
The rematch of their 1982 campaign saw Republican Deukmejian easily overcome Democratic rival Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles. Deukmejian earned a second four-year term and dashed Bradley's dream of being the first black to govern California.
In the Senate race, Democrat Cranston started behind in early tabulations but then closed in and edged ever-so-slightly ahead of two-term Republican Rep. Ed Zschau, the flashy newcomer to statewide politics. Not since 1934 have Californians reelected a U.S. senator to four six-year terms.
For California's No. 2 office, the battle of the lieutenant governors, the incumbent, Democrat Leo T. McCarthy, defeated the former lieutenant governor, Republican Mike Curb.
Davis Leading Campbell
The tabulations showed Assemblyman Gray Davis of Los Angeles ahead of state Sen. William Campbell of Hacienda Heights for the office of state controller, the one statewide race without an incumbent seeking reelection.
The vote count in the other statewide constitutional races showed a reelection sweep for Democratic incumbents. Seeking a fourth term, Secretary of State March Fong Eu beat Republican Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande. Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp handily won a second term, while Treasurer Jesse M. Unruh had no major party opposition and earned a fourth term virtually by acclamation.
All the talk Election Day was a potentially record low voter turnout. With the count well under way Tuesday night, the secretary of state's office estimated that only 54% to 60% of those registered actually voted. The record low for a gubernatorial election is 59.2% in 1942.
Another way to look at turnout is to count not just registered voters, but all adults who are eligible to register and vote. By this measure, about 10 million eligible Californians sat out the election.
Filled With Emotions
As the vote count came in, candidates and their handlers were filled with emotions that come welling up at the end of long and bruising campaigns, which began, in many cases, years ago.
"The people of this state have spoken, I respect that judgment. . . . I want you to know the indomitable spirit of this old warrior will never say die," a disappointed Bradley said. His campaign manager, Bob Thomson, was asked if he believed his candidate could win. "Absolutely. But the mind is a wonderful, marvelous thing that helps us play tricks on ourselves."
Deukmejian told supporters: "Our victory today in my view is a mandate for us to hold very steady on our course."
The governor said he received a telegram from Bradley: "He wants to be helpful. . . . We want California to be the best place it can be."
The governor's campaign manager, Larry Thomas, said Bradley failed to capitalize on his high standing with the public. Otherwise, Thomas said, "This could have been a close election." Bradley's choice to attack the governor "was not credible with the electorate. It was out of sync with the mood of the voters," Thomas added.
Zschau saw television projections that he might lose, threw up his arms and quoted baseball sage Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'till it's over." He then flew from Southern California to his home in the North.
Cranston campaign manager Darry Sragow said Zschau "was not a particularly tough opponent because of his credentials but largely because of his (financial) resources."
In contests for the four elected seats on the State Board of Equalization, incumbent Republican Earnest J. Dronenberg was ahead of Democrat Mark F. Buckley in the district covering the far southern part of the state. A smaller, but still substantial, margin favored Democratic state Sen. Paul Carpenter over Republican H. Stanley Jones in the open district covering most of Los Angeles.
In the district that hugs the coastline from Santa Monica north to Monterey, incumbent Democrat Conway Collis opened a slim lead over Republican Claude W. Parrish. And, in the northernmost district in the state, incumbent Democrat William M. Bennett pulled ahead of his closest opponent, Republican Gene Prat.
Throughout the election campaigns, substantial consternation and commentary was generated by the negative tone of the candidates.
There were charges that various candidates were captives of their selfish contributors, or soft on international terrorists, squishy on drug pushers or lackluster on law enforcement. There were spirited battles to see who could smear whom as California's king of pollution.
"Tar Wars!" declared Kenneth L. Khachigian, speech writer for the President and adviser to Deukmejian.