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Riordan and Davis Widen Money Lead

Politics: The former mayor outpaced GOP rivals and the governor in early January, financial reports show. Both candidates have begun buying TV time.

January 25, 2002|JEFFREY L. RABIN and DOUG SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Gov. Gray Davis widened their fund-raising advantage in recent weeks, pulling away from their competitors in the race for governor of California.

Campaign contribution reports filed Thursday show that Riordan not only outpaced the other candidates in the Republican primary contest, but also raised more than the governor he hopes to defeat in November. Davis, a Democrat, faces no serious opposition in his party primary.

Riordan collected $605,804 between Jan. 1 and Jan. 19, far outdistancing businessman Bill Simon Jr. and Secretary of State Bill Jones as the GOP contest entered a crucial period.

Davis received $472,810 in the reporting period.

Early polls have suggested that Riordan enjoys a substantial lead in the Republican race. The prospect of a contest between the incumbent governor and former mayor has led both candidates to begin buying expensive television air time across the state--in Riordan's case, to introduce him to voters outside of Los Angeles who may know little about him; and for Davis, to tout his record at a time when the Republican candidates are united in their criticism of the governor.

Davis spent almost $2.7 million in the first 2 1/2 weeks of the new year. Riordan's TV advertising was his largest expense during a period in which he spent $2.1 million.

The two-term mayor of the state's largest city still had nearly $2.3 million on hand Saturday.

But Davis has more than $33 million in his campaign treasury and continues to raise money quickly. The governor plans a major fund-raiser next week featuring former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed warm relations with Riordan during the two men's terms but who, like Davis, is a Democrat.

Steven Erie, a political science professor at UC San Diego, said Riordan has several advantages in the Republican race, including his fund-raising ability, his powerful name recognition after eight years as mayor in the state's biggest media market and the desperation of Republicans to recapture the governor's office.

Simon and Jones are hampered by their relative obscurity, Erie said.

The professor added that Davis needed to get on the air with campaign commercials or risk letting Riordan gain momentum in a potential head-to-head fight next fall.

"He has much to fear with Riordan," Erie said.

The former mayor's campaign received a major boost last Friday when a longtime supporter, Los Angeles billionaire Jerrold Perenchio, gave him a $100,000 check, bringing Perenchio's total contributions to $250,000.

Perenchio, owner of Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, also is a major financial backer of Davis.

Riordan also received $50,000 from Redondo Beach jury consultant Gail Jaquish and $25,000 from the Shiloh Trust of Newport Beach.

A Davis spokesman downplayed the significance of Riordan's fund-raising surge. "He's only got $30 million to go to catch up," said campaign press secretary Roger Salazar. "A two-week period is not a good snapshot. Even if you extrapolate that out for the rest of the campaign, we're still going to be in a good position."

Salazar said Davis began his own TV commercials to counter "a daily diet" of negative comments made by his Republican opponents.

The governor's largest contributions in early 2001 came from the International Assn. of Firefighters, which gave him $75,000, and Maurice Marciano, chairman and chief executive of Guess Inc., who donated $50,000 to the Davis campaign.

Robert J. Abernethy, president of American Standard Development Co. of Los Angeles, also contributed $50,000.

While Riordan and Davis dominated the fund-raising and spending during the early part of the year, Simon and Jones continued to struggle in gathering contributions.

Jones raised $237,391 in the latest period, almost half in a single $100,000 contribution from Oakhurst, Calif.-based Sierra Tel Communications. He received $50,000 from Cubic Corp., a San Diego-based defense contractor, last Friday. He spent just under $154,000, not enough to get his ads on the air.

By holding on to campaign funds, Jones was able to keep his cash on hand at $1.1 million.

Simon reported only $196,685 in contributions during the latest period, despite an endorsement and appearances by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The wealthy businessman has made substantial loans to his campaign.

In early January, he spent 10 times as much as he raised--almost $1.95 million--mostly to buy time for TV and radio commercials. As of Saturday, he had just under $1.28 million left in his campaign treasury.

Simon spokesman Bob Taylor said the candidate's fund-raising has actually accelerated far more than is apparent in Thursday's report and that it will continue to grow through the primary.

A $1,000-per-person event with Giuliani on Jan. 17 raised about $500,000, Taylor said, but the money did not show up on the report because most of it was in pledges, and the money itself has not yet been received.

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