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LOCAL ELECTIONS / L.A. MAYOR : Riordan Flyers at New Heights : Politics: Businessman has spent an estimated $1 million since the primary on lavish brochures. Councilman Woo's campaign concedes they cannot compete dollar for dollar.

May 15, 1993|RICHARD SIMON and JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

It is an outpouring of political mail the likes of which Los Angeles has never seen before in a local election.

Beginning with a 64-page booklet, continuing with a hit piece featuring a smiling derelict in Hollywood and carrying through to a provocative brochure labeled "The Secret Life of Richard Riordan," mayoral candidate Riordan has stuffed mailboxes with at least 18 mailers at last count.

With the crush of expensive, glossy publications, Riordan has gotten the jump on his runoff opponent, City Councilman Michael Woo, in the battle at the mailbox.

The lawyer-businessman has sent out at least five mailers just in the runoff campaign. As of Friday, Woo had sent out none.

"We have many pieces in production, but they haven't dropped yet," Woo spokesman Garry South said.

"We're not going to be able to compete dollar for dollar, piece for piece with Riordan," South said. He contended that Woo does not need to match Riordan's mail campaign.

"We have organizational assets that are coming into play that will outweigh his," South said. He was referring to plans by the state Democratic Party and organized labor to provide volunteers to get out the vote for Woo. Also, Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) plans to send a mailer to Latinos on Woo's behalf.

Still, Woo's late start has given Riordan a lead on defining himself to undecided voters. The 16-page "secret life" booklet advances an image of Riordan as a bighearted philanthropist who has been a friend to minorities and women.

Riordan, dipping into his personal fortune to contribute $6 million to his campaign, has appeared to spare no expense in sending out top-of-the-line mailers--creative, colorful and eye-catching pieces designed to grab the attention of voters. Riordan campaign aides refused to disclose the cost of the mailers, but an independent political consultant estimated their cost at more than $1 million.

Despite the heavy Riordan investment, a sampling of voters contacted by The Times on Friday said they were ignoring the mail for the most part. There were exceptions, however.

One woman cited a Riordan mailer during the primary that featured a homeless man on the cover along with the words: "Welcome to Mike Woo's Los Angeles." Inside were crime scenes in Woo's Hollywood district.

"That was a pretty powerful one," said Sue Kohl of Brentwood. "If people are going to be moved by a quick visual and didn't question it, that was one of the most powerful things I have seen. We all talked about it afterward."

Brad Rosenberg, another Brentwood resident, called Riordan's 64-page campaign booklet "brilliant" and "probably the best political piece I have ever read. It was very comprehensive, as opposed to just a few testimonials from supporters."

Woo also sent out his share of hit pieces during the primary campaign, including one mailer picturing Riordan with junk bond king Michael Milken.

Most candidates cannot afford the kind of mail deluge the Riordan campaign has undertaken, independent political consultant Allen Hoffenblum said.

"It becomes prohibitively expensive. What you are probably seeing is the Riordan campaign can afford it and the Woo campaign can't," said Hoffenblum, who specializes in Republican mailing campaigns. "Money is the power to communicate. You can speak louder and more often."

Although political consultants sometimes argue about whether they can overdo mailings, Hoffenblum said he does not see the harm.

"There is a point where you send to people who have already made up their minds," Hoffenblum said. "But I have never heard of someone who said: 'No, I'm not going to vote for someone because they sent so much mail.' "

But clearly there is a potential for turning off voters with all this mail.

Consider the opinion of Alan Kishbaugh, a Laurel Canyon homeowner activist: "I'm not too happy about all the trees they're chopping down for this."

Kishbaugh, who is has not decided which candidate to support, said he scans the campaign mailings. "But I don't sit down and read myself to sleep with them, although I could," he added.

In other campaign developments, it was announced that a debate that took place this week between Riordan and Woo will be aired at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on KCET Channel 28. It also has been tentatively scheduled for broadcast at 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. Sunday on C-SPAN.

Riordan announced the endorsement of two former Los Angeles police chiefs and a statewide law enforcement organization in an attempt to bolster his claim that he is best qualified to reduce crime.

Former Chief Tom Reddin, joining Riordan for a news conference, said that Woo would be an ineffective mayor who "does not understand crime or safety as a voter concern."

Former Chief Ed Davis issued a statement, saying Riordan's election "would increase the prospect for more police and less crime in L.A."

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