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ELECTIONS / L.A. MAYOR : Campaign Hits Dizzying Pace, Variety of Locales


As the Los Angeles mayoralty campaign entered its stretch drive, events--and charges--reached a dizzying pace Tuesday, in developments extending from the heart of the city to the state and national capitals.

In downtown Los Angeles, there were demonstrators outside Richard Riordan's law offices exchanging shoves with Riordan supporters, each seeking the best position in front of TV cameras. Then there was Riordan, portrayed by his rival as a tool of right-wing Christian fundamentalists, heading off to be guest of honor at a gay fund-raiser.

In Washington, amid escalating campaign rhetoric, the White House's political office weighed in with criticism of Riordan's campaign after learning that a heckler who disrupted President Clinton's visit here last week was a Riordan volunteer.

And nearly 600 miles north of Los Angeles, in a Sacramento courthouse, Michael Woo's campaign suffered a setback in the afternoon when a Superior Court judge temporarily blocked the state Democratic Party from conducting an independent campaign on his behalf.

Judge Joe Gray granted the state Republican Party's request for a temporary restraining order and scheduled another hearing for Tuesday to determine whether the order should be extended through the June 8 election, which is officially nonpartisan.

The campaign day had become frenzied hours earlier when the shoving match broke out on the street outside Riordan's downtown Los Angeles law offices during a rally by African-American lawyers who were protesting the firm's minority hiring practices.

As the demonstrators held up signs reading "Riordan, You Gave Us Computers, but You Didn't Give Us Jobs" and "Are You Waving at the Poor Black Lawyers, Dick?," Riordan supporters waved "Riordan for Mayor" signs and elbowed their way in front of the cameras.

Riordan defended his firm's hiring record. But Reginald A. Holmes, president-elect of the Langston Bar Assn., a black lawyers group, complained that there still is only one black attorney out of 55.

"We're talking about achieving results," Holmes said. "I'm sure in the last couple of years, they'll be able to point to things that say, 'We've tried.' But at the end of his tenure for mayor, he's not saying, 'I will try to turn L. A. around.' He's saying, 'I will turn L. A. around.' . . . You turn your firm around first."

Riordan aides, hurrying down to the demonstration from the firm's 29th-floor offices, issued a statement saying: "Riordan & McKinzie does not and never has discriminated in its hiring or promotion policies. We actively recruit African-American and other minority candidates and women."

The candidate said that the firm had hired several other black lawyers but that "for one reason or another, they have gone on to other careers . . . (and) we've been turned down by a number because a lot of them tend to become clerks in court. They tend to go to government. They tend to go to large national firms."

The Riordan campaign also responded to the protest by seeking to turn the attention back on Woo, charging that Cathay Bank did not have a single African-American employee when Woo was a stockholder and his father was executive vice president.

"How can he say that Cathay Bank doesn't hire minorities?" Woo spokesman Garry South responded. "Does Dick Riordan not understand that Asian-Americans are a minority? . . . That is a stupid, asinine attack."

In other developments, both sides picked up more endorsements: Riordan got Sheriff Sherman Block, while Woo got the Rev. Cecil Murray of First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

During a news conference outside the Men's Central Jail, Block said that when speculation arose last year that he might run for mayor, Riordan came to him and offered his support.

The sheriff's endorsement came at a time when Riordan has sought to spotlight the issue of crime in a new mailer and TV ad that cites 1,200 rapes in Woo's Hollywood district during his eight years on the City Council.

"Mike Woo: A Record on Crime That Could Kill You," reads the mailer, while the TV ad features a woman walking nervously down the street and accuses Woo of voting against police measures 27 times.

South called the soft-on-crime allegations "the scummiest charge" Riordan has made so far.

"He has already accused Mike Woo of being responsible for all homelessness," South said. "Now he is accusing Mike Woo of being responsible for the rapes. He ought to be ashamed of himself."

South said crime in Hollywood is down from last year, and rapes are down 17%.

"It's clear that crime has increased through the city," South said. "To suggest somehow this has been purely (a) Hollywood phenomenon is bogus."

As for Riordan's charge that Woo has failed to support police, South cited the councilman's endorsement of recent ballot measures that would have increased the police force but were rejected by voters.

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