Davis Defends Ads Questioning GOP Challenger Riordan’s Abortion-Rights Stance
Gov. Gray Davis (D) yesterday defended a campaign television ad in which he questions Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan's position on abortion rights, the Los Angeles Times reports. Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles, is campaigning as an abortion-rights supporter, "despite [his] past donations to antiabortion causes" (Morain/Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 1/30). Davis' ad "accuse[s] Riordan of trying to play both sides" of the abortion issue (Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29). The ad mentions Riordan's donations to antiabortion activists and the Republican's support for Robert Bork, a former U.S. Supreme Court nominee who supported overturning Roe v. Wade (Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 1/29). The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Riordan donated more than $10,000 to antiabortion groups in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, Riordan stated in a 1991 interview that he "strongly believed that abortion was murder," although the Chronicle reports that Riordan has declined to say whether he still maintains this position by saying he is "just not going to get into that" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29). Davis defended his ad yesterday, noting that Riordan "concedes (that) everything in the ad is accurate," including his donations to antiabortion groups and his support for Bork. "[Riordan] 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 said
Riordan "acknowledged" that the Davis ad was correct in stating that he had donated money to antiabortion groups (Los Angeles Times, 1/29). He defended those donations, stating, "I've given over $30 million to charities, and I'm sure you'll find something (there) that people don't like." He added that the "issue [of the donations] was in front of the voters when [he] was elected mayor" in 1993 (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29). Riordan said that his support for Bork stemmed from his support for former President Reagan, and he reasserted his support for abortion rights. "I strongly support the right of women to make their own decision with respect to their bodies ... Davis is acting desperate the last week. He's trying to keep people's eye off the ball," Riordan said (Los Angeles Times, 1/29). He called the ad a "vicious ... attack" and an "unwarranted, negative assault" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29). Riordan advisers said that Davis' ads are meant either to chip away at Riordan's support in the November election or bolster support for GOP gubernatorial candidates Bill Simon and Bill Jones -- both of whom oppose abortion rights -- in the primary. "[Davis'] favorite scenario [is] to run against one of two guys who are pro-life," Riordan campaign manager Ron Hartwig said (Los Angeles Times, 1/29).
By emphasizing his support for abortion rights and his "centrist" position on other social issues, Riordan aims to gather support from independent voters who are eligible to vote for Republican candidates in the primary election, which will be held on March 5, the Los Angeles Times says (Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 1/29). Davis said that Californians "don't have a clue" as to what Riordan will do about abortion while governor because his position as mayor did not require him to be very involved with abortion law. Davis reasserted that he supports abortion rights, citing nine abortion-related bills he signed last year as governor (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/30). Simon has also criticized Riordan for his "inconsistent" position on abortion, saying that his alternating stance "mak[es] people wonder where he may be in the future" (Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 1/29).
A new Los Angeles Times poll released yesterday gives Riordan a "double-digit lead" in the primary race against Simon and Jones. When the poll gauged a "moderate turnout of likely voters," Riordan led the Republican candidates with 34% of votes, followed by Simon with 20% and Jones with 13%. Under a "high turnout," Riordan culled 37% of votes, while Simon earned 18% and Jones gathered 14%. Among Republicans who support abortion rights, more than 40% said they back Riordan, while Riordan and Simon "were essentially tied" among GOP voters who oppose abortion. When registered voters of both parties were asked whom they would back in the November election, support was nearly evenly split between Davis and Riordan. Forty-four percent of voters said they would vote for Davis, while 43% said they would vote for Riordan, although Davis' lead was larger over Simon and Jones. Fewer than 50% of Democrats are "committed" to voting for Davis in his re-election bid, according to the poll (Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 1/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.