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GOP Redistrict Plan Gets a Reagan Boost

May 13, 1990|Joe Scott | Joe Scott is a Los Angeles political columnist

R onnie-Come-Lately : The failure of then-President Ronald Reagan to campaign hard for Proposition 39, a Republican-backed reapportionment initiative, was blamed in part for the measure's crushing defeat in November, 1984, when he won reelection by a landslide over Democrat Walter F. Mondale.

The "fairness-not-politics" redistricting plan, which would have allowed retired judges to draw political lines--and to which Gov. George Deukmejian contributed $800,000 from his war chest--lost badly in heavily conservative counties like Orange and San Diego, an indication that GOP voters never got the message.

Now, six years later, a suddenly energized Reagan, railing about the inequities of legislative redistricting in recent speeches, has jumped into the fray. He recently taped 30-second television and radio ads in support of Proposition 119, the reapportionment-by-commission proposal on the June 5 primary ballot.

GOP consultant Stuart K. Spencer, Reagan's longtime political mentor, said Proposition 119 is "much closer" to the former President's personal philosophy. Another GOP-backed redistricting measure, Proposition 118, which has an ethics provision, is also on the ballot.

In a "Dear Friend" note accompanying invitations to a $5-grand-per-napkin fund-raising luncheon on Friday in Beverly Hills, where he promoted Proposition 119, Reagan wrote that no issue is of greater importance to California voters than "fair redistricting."

His entire political career, Reagan emphasized, has been based on a sacred belief that "ours is a nation 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.' "

Despite heavy GOP financial backing for Proposition 119, Reagan said it enjoys "widespread support across the political spectrum," citing such diverse organizations as the League of Women Voters and the Paul Gann Citizens Committee.

The problem facing proponents of reapportionment reform, bracing for an expensive Democratic counterattack, is that a hotly contested gubernatorial primary is likely to lure more Democrats than Republicans to the polls.

But the GOP, stung badly by the Proposition 39 debacle, is betting that Reagan's decision to put his political clout on the line will serve as a wake-up call to the party faithful--and wow "Reagan Democrats" one more time.

All in the family: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein has come up with a fresh gimmick in her campaign, a spinoff of the famed "kitchen cabinet" that surrounded former Gov. Reagan from 1967 to 1975.

While the Reagan inner circle consisted in its heyday of fewer than a dozen wealthy male confidantes, Feinstein has put together a two-gender, auditorium-size group of more than 1,200 members to provide the financial and organizational underpinning of her candidacy.

Members of "Dianne's California Cabinet" must give $1,000 to her campaign. In exchange, they get a small gold rectangle pin with a diamond. Raising $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 more means a pin with two, three or four extra diamonds.

In exchange, DiFi cabineteers get to meet with the candidate and her advisers, discuss issues and campaign tactics and have access to position papers.

Oh yes--Dianne's cabinet offers the ultimate bonus to members: preferred seating at the inaugural. Assuming, of course, she beats both primary foe Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and Sen. Pete Wilson, the GOP-nominee-in-waiting.

There's a bit of self-serving hypocrisy in a recent, widely syndicated Op-Ed article by state Sen. John Garamendi. The Walnut Grove Democrat suggested that the initiative process doesn't work, has become too expensive and is poor public policy. What Garamendi neglected to say was that the initiative process has triggered his candidacy for statewide office. He's a leading candidate for insurance commissioner, a new post created by the passage of Proposition 103, the insurance-reform initiative approved by voters in 1988. . . . The Westside fund-raiser that influential liberal Los Angeles publisher and economist Stanley Sheinbaum is hosting for Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae) on June 7 is the clearest signal yet that 1992 auditioning for the seat of Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston is under way. Boxer, a cinch to be reelected this year, is the most aggressive of several House members quietly beginning to mount unofficial challenges to Cranston, badly hurt by the Lincoln Savings scandal. Sheinbaum, known to believe that fellow liberal Cranston is politically terminal, likes the feisty Boxer, but remains uncommitted.

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