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Police Union Adds Support to Garamendi : Politics: Officials also donate $50,000 to campaign. Backers of rival Kathleen Brown say they're not worried.

March 30, 1994|AMY WALLACE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, the state's largest and oldest police union, announced Tuesday that it has endorsed Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi in the June 7 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Union officials said they chose Garamendi over state Treasurer Kathleen Brown for substantive and stylistic reasons. Skip Murphy, the group's president, said Garamendi's support of the death penalty and his interest in community policing, boot camps and other crime prevention measures accounted for much of his appeal. But the union's board members were also impressed, he said, by Garamendi's straight-talking manner.

"John Garamendi is very relaxed. He immediately built a comfort zone with the members. He was talking to and with us, not talking down or making a platform," Murphy said. "Kathleen Brown just kind of made the blanket statements that potentially we wanted to hear. That was the way it was felt--that she was making the pitch to us, telling us what she thought we wanted to hear."

The announcement, which Murphy said will also mean a $50,000 contribution to Garamendi's campaign, is the latest of several endorsement successes for the underdog candidate. Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina endorsed Garamendi last week, just days after Garamendi succeeded in denying Brown her expected endorsement by the California Teachers Assn.

Michael Reese, a spokesman for the Brown campaign, downplayed the importance of the union's endorsement.

"It matters when you're 22 points back and don't have any money, I suppose," he said, referring to Garamendi's lagging numbers in polls and fund raising. "I sure would not be dancing in the streets when I only had 58,000 bucks and I was 22 points back. I mean, get real."

Moreover, Reese noted that Brown has won many more endorsements than Garamendi--most recently, from the United Auto Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the California State Employees Assn. So far, the campaign has received no endorsements from law enforcement groups, Reese said.

"But we will," he said. "Garamendi has gone after the IBEW and worked as hard as he could work--and we got it. He worked hard to get CSEA. And we got it--the first time in 63 years they'd endorsed in a primary. . . . He's got some, we've got a lot more. And we're going to get even more before it's over."

Brown's ability to court law enforcement groups is complicated by her stand on capital punishment. Brown has said that she personally opposes the death penalty, but would enforce it if she were elected governor.

Murphy, whose group represents more than 38,000 rank-and-file police officers statewide, said that although the death penalty issue was "not the tiebreaker" that made the union go for Garamendi, it was an important factor.

"Let's face it: With law enforcement officers who deal with the absolute bottom rung of society on many occasions, the death penalty to us is a really big issue," he said. "I don't think (Brown) has any choice but to enforce it. But what kind of judges would she potentially appoint to the Supreme Court? Would they be those who support her views or who support the views of the public?"

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