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'I Think We're Back on Track' : Upbeat Dukakis Attracts California Crowds, Funds

October 18, 1987|MAURA DOLAN and KEITH LOVE | Times Staff Writers

Despite recent damaging disclosures that his campaign helped spear a competitor's candidacy, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis exuded confidence and good spirits, attracted large crowds and raised about $300,000 during a California campaign swing this weekend.

In a string of appearances, Dukakis' upbeat mood was reflected in the faces of his campaign workers, who seemed buoyed by the fund-raisers and the numbers who showed up to see him.

The mood contrasted sharply with the depression that beset the campaign immediately following revelations nearly three weeks ago that Dukakis' campaign manager, John Sasso, had surreptitiously distributed a videotape that triggered the demise of Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Sasso subsequently resigned.

"I think we're back on track, and we're moving right ahead," Dukakis said after addressing an enthusiastic crowd of students and faculty at UCLA on Friday. "I had the best weekend I think I've had in six months in Iowa this past weekend."

Echoes of the Biden controversy continued, however. At his UCLA appearance, where Dukakis fielded questions with ease from an enthusiastic crowd of 1,100, a young man stood and demanded that Dukakis explain his "double standard" in maintaining ignorance of Sasso's role in the videotape's distribution while condemning President Reagan for failing to control his staff.

In calm, firm tones, Dukakis said he needs to delegate campaign work to staff because he is also responsible for governing the state of Massachusetts. He called the videotape distribution a "mistake," prompting a woman in the audience to call out, "Why was it a mistake?"

"In my judgment," he replied, "the only way to run for the presidency is to run for the presidency and not against others."

The audience applauded.

Dukakis was but one of three Democratic presidential candidates to visit Southern California over the weekend. Illinois Sen. Paul Simon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson both came for their own fund-raisers.

Simon, who is showing increasing strength in Iowa, spoke to California Democratic Party activists in Los Angeles and to more than 400 community leaders pulled together by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles). Jackson also is scheduled to speak this morning to the National Democratic Council of Asian and Pacific Americans.

Simon announced that Roos and Rep. Richard H. Lehman (D-Sanger) will be his California co-chairmen and that Roos will head up the Simon effort in Southern California as well. Simon, like Dukakis, tried to woo Biden supporters. In Iowa, where the first major presidential contest will be held Feb. 8, key Biden backers have moved into Simon's camp.

Simon arranged this weekend to meet with department store heir and film producer Ted Field, who had supported Biden's candidacy, said Robert Burkett, Field's political operative. Burkett said Field will meet with Dukakis at a later date.

"Experienced fund-raisers with a tradition of success are very important," said Dukakis fund-raiser Robert Farmer, "and Ted Field would be someone we want to talk to and get to know better. There is a courtship process that is involved."

Burkett described the session with Simon as "very nice, cordial," but added that Field is not yet ready to endorse another candidate.

Southern Californians had raised about $700,000 for Biden, Burkett said. In contrast, Dukakis had raised $600,000 in California by the last reporting period, which ended Sept. 30, Farmer said. Overall, Dukakis has far outdistanced his Democratic rivals in fund raising, reporting a total of $8.1 million on Sept. 30.

On Thursday evening, 20th Century Fox Inc. Chairman Barry Diller hosted a fund-raiser for Dukakis at his Beverly Hills home. About 100 guests, including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and producer Aaron Spelling, attended. The event was expected to raise more than $50,000.

Afterward, Dukakis joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman and 30 others for coffee, Champagne and chocolate tortes. On Friday morning, about 600 showed for a breakfast sponsored by Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. Yaroslavsky, who has not endorsed in the race, has held similar breakfasts for Democratic presidential candidates Bruce Babbitt, the former governor of Arizona, and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

In question-and-answer sessions, Dukakis said he favored recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying there was no reason the United States should not put its embassy there, and called for the revocation of favored-nation trade status for Chile because of its poor human rights record. He reiterated his opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan contras and called for direct negotiations with the Nicaraguan government.

At UCLA, he fielded questions about his record on gay rights. Two students asked why, as governor, he refused to permit gays to be foster parents. Dukakis shot back, "Sorry, you just don't have the facts."

Dukakis said his state gives priority in the placement of foster children to relatives and to two-parent households, a policy he defended and insisted does not exclude gays.

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