Will the race affect the mayor of Los Angeles in 1993?
In the 1993 Los Angeles mayoral race, I served as communications director for then-city councilor Michael Wu’s campaign, competing against wealthy white Republican businessman Richard Reardon. The upcoming autumn meeting between the representative Karen Bass and the billionaire tycoon from the shopping center Rick Caruso gives me an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu.
Wu was the first Asian American to serve on the Los Angeles City Council and the first to ever run for mayor. I witnessed this campaign firsthand and had to fight the racial stereotypes and insults that were used by Reardon’s campaign to harm the candidacy and unfairly challenge the integrity of a minority candidate.
In the months leading up to the primary, Wu led the polls, just as Bass led last Tuesday’s primary. An astonishing amount of Woo’s opposition took on an indisputable anti-Asian tone, some of which screaming.
At a rally against Wu, held on the corner of Hollywood and Wine, in the heart of Wu’s neighborhood, yahoos moved back and forth along the boulevard with handwritten signs saying, “Run if you want to send Mike Wu back to China.” a slow boat ”- an almost unbelievably racist remark that startled many people passing by or driving past them. (The irony? Woo was actually born in the United States and didn’t even speak Chinese.)
In the run-off, Reardon’s campaign began pumping out advertisements and emails falsely hinting that Hong Kong banks were financing the Woo campaign. In case anyone missed the idea, they included a four-color photo of the silhouette of Hong Kong.
Background: Cathay Bank, a Chinatown-based financial institution founded by immigrant father Wu, to serve the Chinese community, has opened a branch in Hong Kong. The hit songs were a cheap shot and a classic example of a game of racial fears.
A TV commercial released by Riordan’s campaign included a still photo of Woo’s face at the end, and it was pressed to focus on one eye, so the last thing viewers saw was a giant photo of one of his eyes. . staring at them. We thought it was weird, and when we ran the focus group ad, participants confirmed our suspicions – many of them said something like, “Oh, I guess that’s to remind voters that he’s an Asian with slanted eyes.”
Could it get worse? In fact, it happened. In early June, just five days before the runoff, I discussed former LA police chief Daryl Gates on his KFI-AM radio show. Wu was the first elected official to call for Gates to resign after the infamous beating of Rodney King, and Gates, a great friend and supporter of Riordon, was on a jihad against W.
In this on-air conversation, Gates actually accused the Woo campaign of being secretly funded by Chinese gangs in Chinatown, “prana in his father’s bank,” he said outrageously.
“You can say you don’t know,” Gates continued, “but, hey, I’ve been doing Chinatown for years, do you know there are clips?” Didn’t Wu travel all over the nation, going to the Chinese and asking for money?
In the end, Woo lost to Riord relatively easily, with 67 percent of the British voting against him. Wonder why?
We now have another historic minority candidate in the mayoral race, the first black woman to run for mayor of LA, and another wealthy, white, Republican businessman fighting against the minority candidate.
(Oh, I know Caruso re-registered as a Democrat 15 minutes before he ran for mayor, but make no mistake, otherwise he’s a Republican for life, just like Riordon). Do you see the parallels?
Some may say there will be no subtle racial calls or insinuations because Caruso has hired senior Democratic advisers to run his campaign, which is true. But ironically, Reardon did.
The latter’s campaign was led by an equally prominent San Francisco Democrat consultant from all over who was not ashamed to use racial symbols or appeals.
And even in the primary for multiple candidates, Caruso spent some of her unprecedented $ 40 million on commercials against Bass, using grainy, wavy, black-and-white photos of her — artificially and deliberately darkened, by the way; what was that for – This made her look to the whole world like a lady with a black bag. The ads hinted that she was personally responsible for homelessness and crime and accused her of being a guilty politician.
I hope, without hope, that this mayoral run-off will not degenerate into the same racial quagmire as the ’93 race, but only time will tell. As someone who has been campaigning for more than 40 years, my advice to Caruso is that there are worse things than losing an election. One is to tarnish your own name by using subtle or overt racial appeals against a minority opponent, dividing the city you claim to love so much.
There is an old saying in campaigns: Sometimes you fall into the grave you dig for someone else. This is a warning that will be heeded by Caruso and his operatives for the Democratic Party’s campaign.
Gary South is a veteran of the California Democratic Party who has been a senior campaign adviser to president, governor and vice governor. He has no role in Bassa’s campaign for mayor.
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