Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D--Lawndale) staved off a stiff challenge from Republican Roger E. Fiola in a campaign marked by barrages of sharply worded mailers, including a last-minute letter from President Reagan saying Floyd should be defeated because he "chose to give in to the powerful underworld drug industry."
Floyd, who took 53% of the vote compared to Fiola's 43.2%--Peace and Freedom candidate Antoinette Kramer got the rest--crowed in an interview at a victory celebration, "I beat the President of the United States!"
Then with characteristic vehemence, Floyd, 55, went on to label Reagan "a slimebag." "Anybody who would dip his arm into the slime of the Fiola campaign up to his shoulder only proves that he doesn't give a damn about kids on drugs except for political purposes, that he doesn't know anything about Fiola, or anything about the district or about Dick Floyd."
The Fiola camp caught Floyd off guard in early October with a saturation mail campaign bankrolled by the Republican Assembly leadership that left the three-term incumbent scrambling to catch up.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown sent his aide Phil Dowd to the district to put together a counter-attack for Floyd. The incumbent's long-term constituency in the labor movement and other Democrats in Congress and the Legislature also came to his assistance.
The first step was a war for the mailbox that observers said was unprecedented in the district in scope and ferocity. That choice of medium was dictated by the size of the 53rd, a largely working-class district that includes Carson, Hawthorne, Lawndale and north Redondo Beach and is considered too small for television and radio appeals yet too big for a campaign built primarily on personal contacts and appearances.
The Fiola campaign said it sent out 15 or 16 mailers in the last three weeks of the campaign; Floyd claimed eight or nine.
Both sides attacked each other in slick brochures.
"How can we stop drug pushers from tempting our children with an assemblyman like Dick Floyd?" demanded one Fiola flyer. "As far as I am concerned, Dick Floyd voted for drug pushers . . . " said another. "Floyd has earned the reputation as 'The Drunk Driver's Best Friend' " said a third.
Law Enforcement Backing
Fiola received the support of the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California, a group formed in early October; it was promptly labeled a sham by established law enforcement lobbying groups that had endorsed Floyd.
After Floyd's accusation criticism that Fiola was a "carpetbagger," the Republican came back with a flyer asserting that the assemblyman, who lists a residence in Lawndale, actually lives in Sacramento. "Come on, Dick Floyd . . . tell the truth!!!" the mailer demanded.
In one flyer, Fiola presented what he termed the case of "The People of the 53rd Assembly District vs. Assemblyman Dick Floyd.
Referring to the political corruption scandals connected to convicted fireworks magnate W. Patrick Moriarty, the flyer noted, "One of the legislators . . . has already been indicted. IS ASSEMBLYMAN DICK FLOYD SOON TO FOLLOW?" Floyd, whose name has cropped up in the investigation, has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
The assemblyman, a former aide to Sen. Ralph Dills (D--Gardena), sent out endorsements from his mentor and the law enforcement organizations and even reproduced a copy of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian's appointment of Democrat Floyd to the state Job Training Coordinating Council.
Charges in Mailer
Warming to the fray, he bluntly asserted in one mailer that "Roger Fiola has lied in his campaign against Assemblyman Dick Floyd" and he listed as falsehoods Fiola comments that he opposes the death penalty, that he voted against tax exemptions for senior citizens and that he opposes tough drunk-driving legislation.
"Lies . . . all lies. Flagrant, gross lies," the mailer said. "Vote against Roger Fiola . . . and his lies . . . lies . . . lies."
In another brochure, Floyd posed the question, "Does Roger Fiola have ants in his pants?"
The leaflet said that Fiola, 33, a real estate appraiser who lists his address as Hawthorne, had lived in six towns in six years. It referred to his race in 1984 against Rep. Glenn Anderson (D--San Pedro) when Fiola lived in Downey, and added, "Roger Fiola's obsession with elective office--any office apparently--has kept him constantly on the move, jumping from one community to another, searching desperately for a political opportunity."
In addition to the mass mailings, Fiola walked the district in October, begining each day at 9 a.m. and walking until dark.
Once he was aroused by the scope of the Fiola campaign, Floyd put together a phone bank that claimed to have called every Democrat in the district and then followed up with calls to all who had indicated they would vote for Floyd.