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Ueberroth Vows to Run a Positive Race

August 17, 2003|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Orange County entrepreneur and onetime sports czar Peter V. Ueberroth hopes to ride the electoral high road to the governor's office in the October recall election by swearing off negative campaigning and trying to forge a bipartisan consensus on how to resolve the state's deep financial crisis, aides said Saturday.

In an 80-minute conference call with political reporters, Ueberroth's top campaign handlers said he had directed them to not publicly discuss other candidates and their platforms during the campaign, and instead focus on what they said would be detailed proposals on how to resolve the state's fiscal woes.

The pledge to forgo negative ads in what is expected to be an election scramble grew out of Ueberroth's personal preference to focus on specific issues, and as an appeal to voters turned off by attacks ads, they said.

"After seven weeks of a very partisan and nasty campaign, we believe that a candidate who does not engage in the back-and-forth becomes more appealing to voters," said campaign manager Dan Schnur.

Also, he said, less vitriol in the campaign would mean less fence-mending after the election, should Gov. Gray Davis be recalled and Ueberroth elected to succeed him.

Schnur and strategist Bill Lord-Butcher, a key architect of 1978's Proposition 13 campaign, said they plan to focus on Ueberroth's record as a businessman and problem-solver, and lay out in installments a broad vision for addressing the financial crisis.

Ueberroth will launch the public aspect of the campaign on Tuesday with meetings with Los Angeles-based journalists, and will expand over the week to Northern California.

The following week the first of about a dozen "Carry the Torch for Pete Citizen Town Hall Meetings" will be held, likely in San Diego, the name echoing Ueberroth's role as czar of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ueberroth will address issues other than the economy but will make clear that he sees himself as a crisis manager who will deal with issues such as education and the environment within the framework of an economic plan, Lord-Butcher said.

"Education and the environment are a very important part of the whole turnaround of the state of California," Lord-Butcher said.

The aides said that Ueberroth initially was ambivalent about the recall election, neither supporting nor opposing it. But once the petitions were certified he decided to run, the aides said.

On Friday, Ueberroth donated $1 million to his own campaign. That was done to get the effort underway, Schnur said.

"He pledged at the beginning that while he would help get it started he will not finance the campaign," Schnur said, adding that Ueberroth has hired a fund-raiser.

Also, as a federal judge contemplated delaying the Oct. 7 election and some Republican activists sought to unify the party behind one candidate, Ueberroth's aides said the former commissioner of major league baseball would stay in the race until the end -- whenever that might be.

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