Bill Simon criticizes Gov. Davis’ support of National Guard

By Louise Chu, The Associated Press
Wednesday July 10, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Opening another front against Gov. Gray Davis, Republican candidate for governor Bill Simon said Monday the California National Guard’s readiness to respond to a major terrorist attack has deteriorated under the Davis administration. 

Simon focused on the findings of a February report by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that found a number of inoperable helicopters in the guard’s air fleet and an internal review that found that six out of 52 soldiers guarding Bay Area bridges flunked basic weapons tests. Simon also pointed to a 2000 Pentagon survey that ranked the California National Guard 52nd out of 54 programs in recruitment and retention. 

“The sad state that these stories communicate should not be altogether surprising, given the leadership — or the lack thereof — that Gray Davis has provided our soldiers,” Simon said. 

Simon proposed a plan that would create an integrated emergency response plan in coordination with the Air and Army National Guard, allow fee waivers for soldiers at state colleges and universities, and offer “Freedom Pay” so soldiers called to active duty do not suffer financially. 

Gen. Paul Monroe, the guard’s commanding officer, said Simon could send the wrong message to terrorists that California has weak spots. 

“It is not appropriate,” Monroe said. “That puts people at risk. We are ready.” 

But Monroe acknowledged the audit showed the need for improvements. 

“As we get more intelligence on the threat we’re facing, we have to change our procedure. We’re always looking for ways to improve our operations,” Monroe said. 

While Simon criticized Davis, the Democratic governor’s campaign responded with a new campaign advertisement that compared Davis’ military and public service record to Simon’s. 

Titled “Bronze,” the commercial points out that Davis was awarded a Bronze Star for his service during the Vietnam War, while noting Simon’s failure to vote regularly, his refusal to release personal income tax returns and his lawsuit to recover his losses when the federal government took over the Simon family owned Western Federal Savings and Loan. 

The spot will air along with other Davis ads, which began airing in June. 

State election records show Simon failed to vote in 13 out of 20 elections since moving to California in 1992.