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LOCAL ELECTIONS / L.A. MAYOR : Campaign's Focus Turns Back to Crime, Safety : Politics: Police groups and victims of lawlessness endorse Riordan. Woo renews his call for handgun control.


Opening the final weekend of the campaign, the Los Angeles mayor's race returned Friday to the familiar theme of public safety--with police, prosecutors and crime victims touting Richard Riordan while Michael Woo reiterated his call for a ban on cheap handguns.

Woo also produced a prominent crime victim--one of the doctors shot in the February attack at County-USC Medical Center--to bolster his call for local gun control, a position that has been called legally suspect because of state laws governing the issue.

With Riordan in New York to attend his mother's funeral, both campaigns took a break from the nasty exchanges that had become the norm.

Riordan was scheduled to return to Los Angeles this morning to resume campaigning and to prepare for a Sunday night debate--the first live television encounter between the two men.

New reports released Friday showed the candidates had hit the $6-million spending mark in the runoff campaign, continuing a record-setting pace begun in the April primary.

Riordan, who has heavily subsidized his campaign from his personal fortune, had spent $4 million through Wednesday--maintaining a 2-1 lead over Woo, who reported spending $1.9 million.

Woo has been trying to make up the difference in part by relying on support from the Democratic Party. But Republican Party officials continued Friday to attack that approach--going to a Sacramento Superior Court judge to request an order to further restrict Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts.

Judge Joe S. Gray, however, declined to expand an earlier order that stopped the state Democratic Party from sending mailers, operating phone banks or supplying workers for the Woo campaign. Gray said his earlier order already made it clear that the state Constitution prohibits party involvement in an officially nonpartisan election.

Democratic officials vowed that party members will continue to staff phone banks for Woo, but will abide by the judge's order by merely reminding people to vote without mentioning Woo or the mayor's race. In addition, the Democratic National Committee, maintaining that it is not bound by the state ruling, plans to spend more than $100,000 on Woo mailers.

Republican officials accused their opponents of a duplicitous attempt to evade the spirit of the judge's order.

"The Democratic Party is trying to go on, regardless of what the law of this state says," said Tirso del Junco, state GOP chairman.

Bob Mulholland, chairman of the state Democratic Party, called the Republican accusations "baloney." He noted that GOP leaders, ranging from Del Junco to Ronald Reagan, have appeared in Riordan mailers. "These Republicans backed Riordan fully in the primary," Mulholland said. "They are damn hypocrites and we are going to beat them at their own game."

Despite a series of questions from reporters, Woo declined to discuss the propriety of partisan involvement in the mayor's race. "That is a totally independent expenditure," he said of the Democratic National Committee's contribution. "Neither I nor my campaign have any direct connection with it, so I can't really comment about it. I know nothing about it."

It was not surprising that on Friday, with the election only days away, the two campaigns were focusing on crime. Polls have shown that issue to be of top concern to voters.

On Friday, two men who have previously endorsed Riordan--former Los Angeles Police Chief Tom Reddin and Bill Violante, president of the police union--were backed by about 25 others as they repeated their praise of the lawyer-businessman. Among the supporters were three women who had been the victims of crime or whose family members had been victimized.

Collene Campbell--whose son, brother and sister-in-law were all murdered--said that Riordan has been a supporter of crime victims' rights for 10 years and that Woo "has not taken up the battle to fight crime and make our streets safe."

Also backing Riordan were Rick Barrera of the Latin-American Law Enforcement Assn., half a dozen deputy district attorneys and Lee Baca, the highest-ranking Latino in the county Sheriff's Department.

Woo's law enforcement pitch took a different tack--reissuing his call for the city to ban the sale of cheap handguns and backing a state Assembly bill that would enact a similar ban statewide.

Mocking Riordan's "Tough Enough to Turn L.A. Around" theme, Woo said his competitor had not been gutsy enough to challenge the National Rifle Assn. by calling for a ban on handguns.

"Let the NRA sue us. Let them try to challenge us in court," Woo said, acknowledging that questions have been raised about the legality of cities' efforts to control guns. "But I think we need to show that we have the leadership at the local level to protect people against the rising tide of gun-related violence."

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