Hours after Governor Gray Davis released an advertisement slamming Richard Riordan, the GOP front runner in the gubernatorial race, for his shifting views on abortion issues, Riordan launched a counterattack of his own.
“Enron’s Favorite Governor, Gray Davis,” Riordan said last Monday, calling for Davis to return the more than $15,000 accepted from Enron between 1996 and 2000.
But many are still talking about Davis’ television ad, which broadcast segments of a 1991 Riordan interview, in which the former Los Angeles mayor told a reporter that he agreed with the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion.
“Being fairly liberal-minded, I surprise myself at my emotions on the abortion issue,” Riordan said during the interview. “Because I feel very—I think it’s murder.”
Some say he has already lost support among women voters. Female leaders gathered in Sacramento on Monday to question him about his stance on abortion. Riordan and his campaign staff insist that he is pro-choice, regardless of his personal views. Carolina Guevera, deputy director of communications of Riordan For Governor, yesterday called Davis’ ads “a carefully orchestrated attack.”
She said Davis knows Riordan has won over people who usually support Democrats.
“That conversation was over 10 years ago,” Guevera said of Riordan’s statement on abortion. “It was taken out of context. The mayor (was) expressing his views as a Catholic.”
She said Davis’ early attack—a month before Riordan faces challengers Bill Jones and Bill Simon in the March 5 primary election—shows that the governor considers Riordan a strong threat.
Guevera also said Davis is trying to distract Californians from unemployment rates, the deficit, and campaign contributions from Enron.
But Roger Salazar, Davis’ press secretary, said the advertisement is merely a way to provide voters with the facts.
“People should know what he has said,” Salazar said. “And whether his rhetoric now matches that.”
Last month Davis released another advertisement attacking Riordan, which detailed thousands of dollars in contributions that Riordan made to anti-abortion groups. For example, he gave $10,000 to Americans United for Life, a group devoted to making abortion illegal.
“Abortion is a violent deception that results in two victims: the child whose life is destroyed, and the woman who suffers devastating physical and psychological harm,” the group’s Web site reads.
Davis supporters say Riordan has flip-flopped on death penalty and minimum wage laws as well.
“There are a whole range of issues in which he’s changed his mind, or he’s just saying what he’s saying to get elected,” Salazar said. “Or maybe he’s just lost his marbles.”
Riordan is one of many California Republicans who have struggled with the abortion issue.
In California, a predominantly pro-choice state with the highest abortion rate in the nation, many anti-abortion Republicans now avoid discussing their beliefs This worries pro-choice activists.
“We’re not in a position where we can comment on Riordan’s views,” Dunlap said. “We don’t have a record from him. He considers himself pro-choice, but there is documented proof of him donating to pro-life groups.”
The group endorsed Governor Davis. Riordan is not considered “100 percent” pro-choice.
Belle Taylor-McGhee, the executive director of CARRAL, said many candidates claim they oppose abortion, but promise to uphold the law if elected.
“Our position is to make sure they don’t get that opportunity,” she said.