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Jewish World Review March 5, 2002 / 21 Adar 5762

Deroy Murdock

Deroy Murdock
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Consumer Reports

"RINO" Riordan fades as Simon surges -- Richard Riordan is in trouble.

Los Angeles' mild-mannered ex-mayor and one-time shoo-in for California's GOP gubernatorial nomination may get the boot in today's primary. According to a February 27 Field Institute poll, Riordan's huge lead has evaporated. He lags with 31 percent to 37 percent for William Simon, Jr., the son of the late conservative philanthropist and former U.S. Treasury secretary. California's secretary of state, Bill Jones, trails with just 9 percent. (The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.)

How has Riordan fallen behind Simon, a political novice making his first run for elective office?

Riordan is a quintessential RINO -- Republican in Name Only. While Riordan is a successful businessman, he is not exactly a font of free-market ideas.

GOP primary voters also wonder why their prospective standard bearer would hire Susan Estrich as a political consultant. No New Democrat, Estrich is a liberal, feminist University of Southern California law professor who once managed former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis' 1988 bid to keep then-Vice President George H. W. Bush out of the White House.

Asked recently which Golden State governor he most admired, Riordan cited Earl Warren (the liberal Republican who, as Chief Justice in the 1960s, turned the U.S. Supreme Court into a sort of indoor Woodstock) and Pat Brown (the liberal Democrat who sired California's Brown political dynasty). Simon, for his part, offered a much better answer, perfectly suited to delight Republican primary voters: "Obviously, Ronald Reagan."

Then there is the matter of Riordan's political contributions. He has given plenty to GOP candidates and campaign committees, including a $100,000 donation last year to the Republican National Committee. So far, so good. But Republican primary voters should be aghast at the $1,000 that Riordan gave to Rep. Howard Berman, a liberal Democrat from West Los Angeles.

If that doesn't set GOP teeth grinding, they should consider these other donations that Riordan has made over the years, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics' highly-informative webpage:

*Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) - $1,000 (June 30, 2000)

*Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D- Calif.) - $500 (May 11, 1999)

*Sen. J. Bennett Johnson III (D -Louisiana) - $500 (March 18, 1992)

*Sen. Ernest Hollings (D - South Carolina) - $500 (Feb. 3, 1992)

*Rep. Mel Levine (D - Calif.) - $2,000 (Jan. 16, 1992, June 4, 1990)

*Sen. Chris Dodd (D - Connecticut) - $500 (April 9, 1991)

*Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte. - $10,000 (Feb. 25, 1991)

*Sen. Bob Graham (D - Florida) - $500 (January 22, 1991)

*Rep. Maxine Waters (D - Calif.) - $1,000 (June 5, 1990)

*Democratic Senatorial Campaign Cmte. - $5,000 (Dec. 31, 1989)

*Democratic Central Cmte. of California - $5,000 (Oct. 27, 1989)

Simon is climbing, in part thanks to his campaign appearances with and an endorsement TV ad featuring GOP god Rudy Giuliani, with whom he served in President Reagan's Justice Department. Simon enjoys the enthusiastic support of conservative grassroots activists such as those in the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Simon favors the group's proposal for a 2004 ballot initiative that would triple the tax exemption for homeowners.

Simon also has benefited from $10 million worth of TV ads sponsored by Democratic governor Gray Davis attacking Riordan as a flip-flopper unencumbered by principles or philosophy. If Davis recognizes this, so should Republican voters.

Richard Riordan seems like a nice guy. He should be allowed to thrive even further in the private sector. William Simon, Jr. deserves the opportunity to offer California voters this November a real, free market alternative to Gray Davis' lights-out liberalism.

JWR contributor Deroy Murdock is a New York-based commentator and columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2001, Deroy Murdock