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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / GOVERNOR : Brown Denies Planning Rape Disclosure : In her first public statement about Friday night's dramatic debate statement, candidate says her daughter knew she might bring up the sexual assault.

October 19, 1994|BILL STALL | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Democrat Kathleen Brown on Tuesday rejected any suggestion that she and her aides planned the emotional revelation on statewide television last week that her daughter had been the victim of date rape or that Brown used the story without telling her daughter first.

Appearing solemn and subdued, Brown told reporters outside the Ronald Reagan State Office Building that her daughter Sascha, 25, was the only person who knew before her debate with Republican Gov. Pete Wilson that the candidate might bring up the incident.

"My daughter is totally supportive," Brown said as she responded for the first time since Friday's debate to questions about the rape discussion.

Brown, the state treasurer, said she had intended to talk only generally about the rape experience to counter Wilson's allegations that she lacked the experience to be a governor who could be tough on crime.

"I spoke from my heart Friday night," Brown told reporters, "and I drew upon my own personal experiences--my experience as a woman, as a mother, as a parent. . . ."

At this point, Brown broke off in mid-sentence and paused, seemingly in deep thought, for a full 10 seconds. Then she continued: ". . . And I don't think Pete Wilson should question my commitment to fighting crime."

Brown had declined until Tuesday to further explain her debate remarks, although staff members have discussed the incident. Tuesday's news conference was scheduled to discuss waste and "bureaucratic bloat" in state government under Wilson. After several questions on that subject, a television reporter asked Brown if she had any comment on "all the hoopla" about the rape revelation.

Brown hesitated and said: "Well, I think the only comment I would make is that the only person who knew I might say anything about this is my daughter. My daughter is totally supportive.

"All of the analysis misses the point," she continued.

"The point is that the incumbent governor is either so out of touch that he doesn't understand what a parent feels, is so out of touch that he does not appreciate what a woman feels about crime, or is cynical in using the issue of crime, and particularly the issue of rape, as a campaign political issue."

The manner in which the date rape was disclosed had prompted speculation that it was a calculated strategic decision planned by Brown and her campaign staff. But aides, including campaign manager Clint Reilly, said they were unaware of it until Brown disclosed it about midway through the hourlong debate.

There also were questions about whether Brown had cleared the idea with Sascha Rice before using it in the debate and whether she was cynically exploiting a painful experience by a family member for political gain.

Brown responded Tuesday that Wilson and his media consultants "are the ones who are cynical" for using in television commercials the same video footage of a supposed crime scene that is being used against three Democratic female candidates for governor this year.

The Wilson campaign also has made extensive use of crime victims' groups to appear at his campaign events to promote Wilson's toughness on crime.

Brown also was asked Tuesday if there was irony in the fact that she had opposed Wilson's "one-strike" bill, which contained up to life terms for first-time rapists, including date rape. She said that many rapists would have gone free or been prosecuted on lesser charges under such legislation because of the difficulty of winning convictions with a possible life term.

Wilson's "one-strike" bill "represented either the cynicism and the manipulation of that issue by this career politician, or reflected his being out of touch with what this crime was all about," Brown said.

Brown supported successful legislation that increased rape sentences but did not impose life terms for first offenses.

Wilson said later that "if she doesn't understand that in fact there are a lot of people who feel that people who are repeat violent offenders should be permanently removed from society, then she is the one who is out of touch, and, indeed, I am convinced that she is."

However, Brown was referring to life terms for a first rape conviction. She did support the "three strikes" bill that provided up to a life term for violent offenders convicted of a third felony.

Times staff writer Cathleen Decker contributed to this report.

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