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Davis Defends His Ads

January 30, 2002|DAN MORAIN and MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday defended his statewide television ads attacking his leading Republican challenger's position on abortion rights, saying he is simply correcting statements by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Riordan and his campaign staff have contended that the former mayor favors abortion rights, as Davis does, despite Riordan's past donations to antiabortion causes.

Davis, who faces no opposition in the March primary, expects to be challenged by Riordan in the November general election, and he is signaling early that he intends to call attention to the former mayor's position.

"We've corrected the record on Mr. Riordan's issues on abortion," Davis said. "He says he's pro-choice, but he's spent an awful lot of money funding the opposition. If I was pro-choice, I wouldn't spend a nickel funding the opposition."

Davis was at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to announce the start of a $2.6-billion reconstruction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Davis said the new 10-lane span, which will take five years to complete, will be "the strongest bridge in America," able to withstand an 8.5 earthquake.

After the event, the governor said his decision to begin airing attack ads more than nine months before the general election "is not risky at all."

"[Riordan] concedes [that] everything in the ad is accurate," Davis said. "You do a favor to the public, who then can decide who to believe and who not to believe."

Later, the governor introduced former President Clinton, who spoke at UC Berkeley. Clinton was planning to appear at a Davis fund-raiser this week at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle.

Riordan said Davis' ads were a sign of "desperation," adding: "It's in some ways flattering to me that he's running scared."

When asked about Davis' charge that Los Angeles gouged the rest of the state on electricity sales last year when he was mayor, Riordan invoked Enron. He said he had returned a $500 donation from an Enron subsidiary to his 1997 mayoral campaign, but that Davis had received more than $100,000 from the energy giant. "To my knowledge, he still has that money," Riordan said.

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