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Simon to Lend His Campaign Up to $2 Million

Latest infusion will pay for TV ads through election day. Candidate touts business acumen.

October 23, 2002|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

Republican Bill Simon Jr. plans to lend his gubernatorial campaign up to $2 million this week to compete with Gov. Gray Davis in a last round of television advertising, the Republican candidate and one of his senior strategists said Tuesday.

"Oh, I'll put a little more in," Simon told reporters after a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at a downtown hotel. "It will be enough to ensure that we're going to be up" on television through election day, he added.

Simon consultant Sal Russo said the latest cash loan from the candidate -- in the "ballpark" of $2 million -- will allow the challenger to compete with the governor's television buys.

So far, the GOP nominee has been significantly outgunned on the airwaves by Davis, who has already spent more than $30 million on television commercials in the general election -- substantially more than his opponent. During the remaining days of the race, Davis' campaign plans to run about $3-million worth of ads a week.

Simon, who has struggled to raise a fraction of the money Davis has collected, previously lent his campaign $9 million, including $4 million last month. Russo said the candidate is making another infusion because he believes the race is close.

"We've been ahead some days, behind some days, but we're right there," Russo said. "That's why we're going to max out here at the end."

Most public polls, however, show Davis with a solid lead over his opponent. A poll released Monday by the independent Public Policy Institute of California has Davis leading Simon by 10 points among likely voters, 41% to 31%.

Simon's newest campaign loan was not yet reflected in state contribution reports, which showed that the GOP candidate raised $94,200 on Monday, including $25,000 from an investment company owned by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and $5,000 from former opponent and onetime Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

In his Tuesday speech, Simon promoted his business credentials -- a topic that he has addressed gingerly amid the rash of corporate scandals this year -- and accused the governor of putting the state's economy in "serious jeopardy."

The Republican candidate told members of the World Affairs Council that under Davis, the state is losing its share of the export market. He also charged that California's regulatory climate is pushing businesses out of the state.

"I believe that I know what it takes to reverse our faltering economy ... and I don't think it's a career politician who has spent his entire life running for political office," Simon told several hundred people gathered in a hotel ballroom. "I believe you need somebody who has signed the front of the check, as opposed to Gray Davis, who has only signed the back of the check."

Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar countered Simon's bleak assessment of the state's economy, saying it has grown from seventh largest in the world to fifth largest during the Davis administration. (Some economic assessments, disputed by the governor, put it at sixth largest.) In addition, California houses many of the country's fastest-growing businesses, Salazar said.

"That is a record I think anybody should be proud of, especially given the difficult economic times the nation is facing as a whole," he said, adding: "Mr. Simon forgets that Mr. Davis was the [state] controller and actually did sign the front of the checks in California."

Salazar also sought to tie Simon's pitch to the host of business scandals this year.

"Ask Californians if they would rather have a businessman like the folks that ran ImClone or Arthur Andersen running the state government, rather than someone who has dedicated his life to public service," he said.

Simon predicted that the budget deficit will reach $20 billion next year, and said that if Davis is reelected, he will raise taxes by a staggering $10 billion. Salazar scoffed at that notion, although Davis has refused to limit his options next year.

The GOP candidate repeated his pledge not to raise taxes, and instead said he would balance the budget by shrinking government and stimulating economic growth.

"These are the kinds of things that businesspeople understand; these are not the kinds of things that bureaucrats understand," he said.

However, Simon deflected questions from reporters about whether he would also rule out raising state fees and fines to cover the state's budget gap.

Afterward, Russo said Simon would not ask Californians to spend any more money to cover the state's costs

"He has committed to not raising the financial burden on our citizens to balance the budget," Russo said. "We're not playing games."


Times staff writer Jeffrey L. Rabin contributed to this report.

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