Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum on Friday blasted the record of Gov. George Deukmejian as unimpressive and proof of the need to limit terms of legislators and other state elected officials.
Schabarum's unexpected cannonade against his fellow Republican came after a press conference called to launch the campaign for Proposition 140--Schabarum's term-limit initiative.
The supervisor said that Deukmejian, whose career in public office spans almost 28 years, is unlikely to support the ballot measure.
"The last time I talked to Duke, he was not supportive of this (initiative)," Schabarum told a Times reporter.
"He is a career guy, as I am," said the supervisor, who put in five years in the state Assembly before his 18 years on the county board. "I don't agree with him on a lot of things, including his lack of effort in the last three or four years. I don't think he has a terribly impressive record, which again makes my point, I think."
Deukmejian would not respond to Schabarum's sweeping criticism Friday. The governor has not taken a public position on either of the term-limit initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Later in the day, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and supporters of another term-limit measure, Proposition 131, officially kicked off their campaign by predicting a national movement to limit legislative terms.
There is "a tremendous surge of public support all over the country for limits of terms," said Nader, citing somewhat similar measures on the ballot in Oklahoma and Colorado. "This is the beginning of the drive for citizen-legislators, not lifetime legislators."
Backers of Proposition 131 emphasize their measure's provision for public financing of state political campaigns, unlike Proposition 140.
Supporters of both initiatives complain of the influence of special-interest groups and campaign contributions on state decision-making.
A target for both camps is Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), whose powerful position has enabled him to tap special interests to raise money for Democratic incumbents and--more recently--for the campaign to defeat both term-limit initiatives.
Brown argues that the term limits are anti-democratic and would play into the hands of "sleaze-ball" special interests who would have an easy time swaying an inexperienced crop of lawmakers.
Supporters of both initiatives picketed Brown's lavish fund-raiser Thursday night at the Beverly Wilshire. Hundreds of lobbyists, businesses and trade and professional organizations paid $1,000 a plate for dinner and a show featuring the Temptations.
At the end of the evening, Brown expressed his annoyance with the picketers.
"As you leave here tonight, drive carefully," he admonished the crowd, adding, "but I don't give a damn if you hit the pickets."
Backers of both 131 and 140 charged that the Speaker had twisted arms to persuade lobbyists and others to attend the fund-raiser and to discourage financial support for the term-limit initiatives--charges emphatically denied by a Brown aide.
Supporters of the two initiatives say they expect to be heavily outspent by opponents, who hope to raise $5 million for the campaign.
Schabarum said that he will be actively involved in fund raising for the campaign. He conceded that he would try to tap into some of the same special-interest sources that he complains about. He is planning a $500-a-plate fund-raiser next month.
"You've got to fight fire with fire," he said.
Schabarum acknowledged that a term limit at the local level would have curtailed his tenure on the county board, but said he would nonetheless support one. Asked if he might introduce a county term-limit measure for his colleagues to consider, he said: "No. Those guys think they are the lifeblood of government."
Two competing term-limit initiatives are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Proposition 131, authored by Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and Common Cause, would limit most state-wide elected officials to eight consecutive years in office, senators and Assembly members to 12 years. Proposition 140, pushed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum, is more stringent, limiting lifetime service for the Legislature to eight years in the Senate and six in the Assembly. The Schabarum initiative would also cut legislative spending and retirement benefits. The Van de Kamp-backed measure would for the first time provide public matching funds for state political races.