By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
He sat with evident good humor throughout the often raucous program, even enduring this bon mot from former state Assemblyman Mike Roos: ”I was talking with John the other day and he said, ’I don‘t understand this talk about a feud between me and Gray. We’re like brothers!‘ And I thought, ’Yeah, the Mitchell Brothers!‘“ (referring to the famous San Francisco strip-club owners whose rivalry ended in murder).
The crowd laughed uproariously. Most of the crowd. ”Look,“ exclaimed Davis press secretary Roger Salazar. ”The governor doesn’t get it! Who?“
After Davis was distracted from the somewhat more charming Bening, he told the Weekly: ”This has been a very good day. There will be more, but every day is going to be a fight.“ Asked if he would actually spend time at his own party later that night (Davis is a sometimes distant, Gatsby-like host), Davis grinned and said: ”You bet. This is fun.“
With his mood moving from confident and relaxed to the brink of a distinctly un-Davis-like exuberance, the governor presided over a packed, high-energy crowd of partygoers, ending his evening, rather unbelievably, besieged by autograph-seekers.
This was in contrast to the distinctly underwhelming Riordan party exactly one week earlier at the state Republican convention in San Jose. The former mayor did not linger, slipping quietly out of town on his private plane. And even though I arrived late, I had no trouble getting the slice of party cake with the first ”R“ in his name. It was just another sign of Riordan‘s deflated prospects, the nature of which had been quite clear at the debate earlier that day.
”Oh, my God,“ groaned President Bush’s former California campaign chairman, L.A. mega-investor Gerald Parsky. Riordan, the informal choice of the White House to unseat Davis, had just insulted former Republican Governor George Deukmejian at the outset of the second Republican gubernatorial debate, to a chorus of groans and boos from the staunchly conservative Republican audience. Standing at the back of the hall, dapper in a navy suit, pale blue shirt and gold tie, Parsky grinned ruefully and shifted on his feet as he noted: ”That‘s Dick.“
Riordan has had a difficult time of it on the campaign since his problems during a bus tour of Northern and Central California. Indeed, after erupting in a screaming rage at a reporter who asked about his daughter’s death and after repeated problems trying to answer questions about his views on abortion, Riordan has sharply curtailed his public appearances. Meanwhile, the barrage of anti-Riordan TV ads launched by Davis continues, and seems to be having a serious effect on Riordan‘s standing. Riordan’s slide in the polls has given fresh hope to tyro candidate Simon, who is now reportedly putting millions of his own dollars into a late-starting TV barrage of his own to see if he can close the gap with the front-running former L.A. mayor.
So Parsky and state Senator Jim Brulte, the Legislature‘s most powerful Republican, already had plenty to worry about before the debate began. The two, installed by the White House as adult overseers for the fractiously right-wing state Republican Party, are nominally neutral in the gubernatorial primary, but the White House is known to prefer Riordan as more electable than the more conservative Simon and more acceptable than Jones, who had the effrontery to drop his endorsement of Bush in the 2000 presidential primary and back John McCain. But many top Republicans aren’t playing along. Parsky was dismayed when told that former Governor Deukmejian had just declared at a pre-debate press conference that he has ”no respect“ for Riordan and would not support him against Davis. ”He said that?!,“ asked Parsky. A few moments later, Parsky passed on Deukmejian‘s comment to Brulte, who shook his head and walked off.