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Hayden Uses Cutout for Some Cutting Commentary

Politics: Challenger employs cardboard image to portray mayor as silent on key issues and reluctant to debate. Riordan says he's too busy running city.

March 21, 1997|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dramatizing his campaign mantra that Richard Riordan is a "silent" and "invisible" mayor of Los Angeles, state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) on Thursday unveiled a larger-than-life cardboard cutout of his political opponent.

In a lunchtime speech at USC's law school, the challenger also offered to double the incumbent's token $1-a-year salary if Riordan would quit, and took up a spontaneous collection of dollar bills--he got four--to serve as a kind of severance package.

At one point, Hayden dragged his opponent's effigy to the microphone and let "Riordan" answer a question from the audience.

"This is what Mayor Riordan thinks about race relations," Hayden said, stepping away and letting a pregnant pause fill the room. "This is what Mayor Riordan thinks on poverty. . . . This is what Mayor Riordan has to say on you."

Pointing out that Riordan has refused many invitations to debate, agreeing only to a half-hour confrontation on Century Cable last week, he added: "Anything is up from silence."

Asked Thursday why he has declined to appear with Hayden at candidate forums and debates, Riordan reiterated that serving as mayor of Los Angeles is a busy job, and that he would rather devote his energies to running the city than to taking part in a political face-off.

"I was elected to be a mayor for four years, not 3 1/2 years," he said. "It's a complicated city."

Riordan's scheduler, Julie Watt, said Thursday that she has gotten about 40 calls since the mayor suggested during the televised debate last week that those who wanted to see a rematch should contact Watt. "It was a lot less than I expected," she said.

Told of Hayden's $2 or $4 retirement offer, the multimillionaire mayor politely declined.

"He could have come up with a more clever remark, like 'You get what you're worth,' " Riordan quipped. "He's got a great sense of humor, doesn't he?"

Hayden said he found the cardboard cutout--which shows a smiling, though stiff, Riordan resplendent in a dark two-button suit and red and blue wide-striped political tie--at the back door of his Mandeville Canyon home one day last month. A note was attached saying, 'Here's Riordan, in the neighborhood canvassing for votes,' he said.

"This is the closest you're ever going to get to see the mayor," Hayden told the group of about 40 students, a sympathetic bunch gathered by the campus Democratic club and environmental groups. "Have you ever seen the mayor?"

One hand shot up.

"He was driving away," the young man said.

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