After his overwhelming loss in the race for governor, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley returned to City Hall on Wednesday in a dramatically weakened political position, facing divisions among ethnic groups, conflicts on the City Council and strong evidence of a grass-roots revolt against the kind of growth policies favored by his Administration.
Despite the enormity of the defeat, the mayor was at his desk early and faced a press conference at mid-morning, the picture of a man who, as he said, was happy he still had "one of the best jobs in the world." Bradley, who once pledged to limit himself to two terms, all but announced he will run for a fifth term in 1989.
'Love What I'm Doing'
"I don't want to anticipate what is going to happen two or four or six years from now, but I can tell you I love what I am doing," said the defeated Democratic gubernatorial nominee. "I was here at 8 o'clock this morning, raring to go, working on city business already. I intend to continue in that regard.
"Now you can say that is not a declaration, or that it is a declaration, I am not declaring my candidacy for mayor in 1989--I may have come damn close."
But his huge loss to Republican Gov. George Deukmejian has changed the mayor's political situation.
Statewide he carried only two counties, heavily Democratic San Francisco and Alameda. That poor showing, plus victories by other statewide Democratic candidates, probably would dry up the money and support Bradley would need for another try at the governorship.
Victories by a new generation of California Democrats--Controller-elect Gray Davis, Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy and Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp--mean that Bradley has been replaced on the political stage by younger men impatient to move up.
The passing of the old and emergence of the new were vividly illustrated at the mayor's election night party at the Los Angeles Hilton when an upbeat Van de Kamp, preceding Bradley on the platform, gave a speech worthy of a gubernatorial candidate, pledging to try to make California "a safe place where families can work and play in safe neighborhoods without having drugs being waved in their faces."
Showing in Los Angeles
What was more threatening to Bradley's future was his showing in Los Angeles.
Bradley carried the liberal city 396,780 to 307,893. But he was badly beaten in the San Fernando Valley, which is predominantly white and middle-class and is more conservative than the rest of the city.
That was a big drop from 1985, when he carried the Valley while winning a fourth term, and from his 1982 loss to Deukmejian, where he salvaged victory in one Valley area, the blue-collar neighborhoods around Van Nuys.
Key areas in the Bradley local coalition remained loyal Tuesday. Bradley, seeking to become the nation's first elected black governor, was a big winner in predominantly black areas. He carried Latino East Los Angeles by a lesser margin. He was solid victor in big stretches of the Westside, where Jewish voters have always tended to favor him. But Bradley lost in the affluent Westside section represented by Councilman Marvin Braude that includes parts of the San Fernando Valley, Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades, whose residents were angry over his approval of oil drilling in the Palisades.
Those figures will be studied by potential opponents hoping to break up the coalition of blacks, Jews, Latinos, organized labor, downtown business and developers who have made him unbeatable for mayor since he was elected in 1973.
Possible Mayor Candidates
Backers of Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, riding high with the big victory of Proposition U, the city slow-growth initiative he co-sponsored, are optimistic that he will run for mayor, although Yaroslavsky has said he will not oppose Bradley. Others, on and off the council, may be interested. One possibility, Councilman Richard Alatorre, said of Bradley's situation, "Anytime you're seen as weak politically, there are individuals that will want to move in."
Yaroslavsky backers are counting on Proposition U to give their man a boost. "I think that is an issue he will ride in the city," said Nikolas Patsaouras, businessman and Southern California Rapid Transit District board member who is backing Yaroslavsky.
Bradley did not support Proposition U, much to the disgust of neighborhood groups who backed it in attempt to limit commercial construction in residential areas. He angered them even more by backing attempts in the City Council to weaken the plan.
"I believe Proposition U represents a grass-roots concern for a lack of a cohesive, human-oriented plan for the city," said Marshall Grossman, an attorney and Bradley supporter. "And what the City Council and the mayor tried to do in undermining the proposition was an insult to those who tried to get it on the ballot."