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Sam Yorty

June 14, 1998

The death of Sam Yorty (June 6) brings back memories of his first race for mayor in 1961. Most of your stories mentioned Yorty's two races against Tom Bradley in 1969 and 1973.

Mayor Norris Poulson was running for reelection in 1961 against a number of opponents, with the strong backing of The Times. The two strongest opponents were City Councilman Pat McGee and Yorty.

I was McGee's campaign manager and we knew the importance of getting in a runoff, since incumbent L.A. mayors who didn't get over 50% of the vote in the primary usually lost in the final election.

George Putnam, a popular newscaster on Channel 11, who was against Poulson, offered to put McGee and Yorty on his newscast every night until the primary for a one-minute interview.

McGee, a big, good-looking Irishman, didn't like hard campaigning and had had no trouble getting elected in runs for the state Assembly and City Council. He came on with Yorty the first two nights, but then refused to go on again, arguing with me that he had nothing to say. Yorty went on every night for two weeks--one minute of free TV time every night.

Soon Yorty was in the runoff with Poulson and, as predicted, won in the final election.

McGee and I split up after the primary, as he suddenly decided to endorse Poulson against Yorty, despite all the bad things we had said about the incumbent. I went to work for Yorty and his campaign manager, Eleanor Chambers, in the final election. Yorty remained my good friend all these years.

BOB VOIGT, Palm Springs

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