Los Angeles Times
Thursday, May 21, 1998
CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 227
Riordan Plans Ads in Spanish Backing Measure
Mayor spends $250,000 and appears with his daughter, who addresses
viewers in Spanish on behalf of bid to end bilingual education.
By JIM NEWTON, Times Staff Writer
Days after rejecting the endorsement of Gov. Pete Wilson, supporters
of the campaign to end bilingual education in California heartily welcomed
news Wednesday that Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is preparing to launch
a self-financed advertising blitz on the measure's behalf.
Riordan is spending
a little more than $250,000 of his own money to put an ad on Spanish-language
television nearly 300 times between now and election day. The ad will begin
appearing today, at a crucial time in the race--a juncture at which the
multimillionaire mayor's aggressive move could affect the outcome. Riordan
is mayor of the city that is home to more Latinos than any other in California.
He has a demonstrated ability to win Latino support, having won their strong
backing in his reelection campaign last year. What's more, Riordan successfully
campaigned last year for a local school bond measure overwhelmingly favored
by Latinos, and he has a long history of personal philanthropy toward schools;
he has donated millions of dollars to education programs, chiefly in California
and many of them in predominantly Latino communities.
elements of his political and personal background give Riordan unusual
credibility among Latinos when it comes to Proposition 227, which most
politicians have chosen to oppose or avoid. Just last week, in fact, state
Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren came out against the measure.
is all the more important in the final weeks of a campaign that has raised
some of the same hackles as Proposition 187, which sought to deny most
public benefits to illegal immigrants. That measure was blasted by opponents
as racist, and some of the same arguments have been raised in opposition
to the anti-bilingual initiative. With the campaign coming to a close and
some evidence of eroding Latino support for Proposition 227, Riordan's
decision to go on the air with a Spanish-language pitch directed at immigrant
voters is all the more important.
fact, said that the charges of racism are what drove him to go beyond his
endorsement of Proposition 227 and instead put a substantial sum of his
own money behind it.
that there was too much misinformation out there," he said Wednesday.
"I wanted to say to Latino parents that they can vote strictly on
what's best for children."
advertisement will air throughout California's largest Latino markets starting
today. It was produced by political consultant Arnold Steinberg and was
made independently of the formal Proposition 277 campaign.
Backers of the
drive said they have not seen the ad, but they were elated by Riordan's
decision to make it.
thrilled by his generous sharing of his commitment to educating the children
of the Latino community," said Sheri Annis, spokeswoman for English
for the Children, the initiative's campaign organization.
the measure retorted by dismissing Riordan's importance, especially in
areas outside Los Angeles.
like a desperate attempt by a desperate campaign," said Holli Thier,
statewide spokeswoman for Citizens for an Educated America, the main group
opposing the initiative. "I think what really affects people is that
Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and every candidate for governor--Republican and
Democrat alike--opposes Proposition 227."
In the advertisement,
Riordan is joined by his daughter, Mary Beth Farrell, who speaks fluent
Spanish and narrates the spot. After an opening shot of Riordan with a
group of children, Farrell introduces him.
supports Proposition 227 to give your children a chance," she says
in Spanish. "This man is my father, Richard Riordan, the mayor of
Ferrell says: "He believes your children deserve better. So do I.
Join us in voting yes on Proposition 227."
Riordan then adds: "Yes for the children."
The ad will
appear on Spanish-language stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San
Diego, Sacramento and Fresno, and is designed to capitalize on Riordan's
close identification with educational issues among his Latino supporters.
a long history of trying to help the students of inner-city schools,"
Annis said. "He's well-respected in immigrant communities."
Gov. Pete Wilson--who, like Riordan, is a Republican--has been shunned
by the campaign largely because of his past support for Proposition 187
and for Proposition 209, the effort to strike government affirmative action
programs. Both initially were favored by large numbers of Latinos in the
polls, but that support evaporated as election day approached.
in those campaigns was viewed by critics as ethnically divisive and inflammatory.
The governor has shrugged off his rejection by the leadership of the Proposition
227 campaign, saying that he likes the ballot measure regardless of how
his endorsement in treated.
As for Riordan,
the mayor opposed the anti-affirmative action campaign and never announced
a position on the illegal immigration effort, although he now says he believes
the measure should have been defeated.
it was a big mistake, and I thought that almost immediately after it passed,"
he said Wednesday. "It did, literally, divide people."
months weighed whether to speak out on Proposition 227. Although he has
long been critical of bilingual education as it is practiced in California
schools, the mayor at first was troubled by what some sources close to
him described as "the sledgehammer approach."
with advisors inside and outside his administration, however, Riordan became
convinced that the status quo in bilingual education was so harmful that
the initiative could only be a step in the right direction.
the initiative were shocked and infuriated by Riordan's decision, saying
it was evidence that he did not understand what the proposition's likely
effect on education would be. Since he endorsed Proposition 227, the issue
has dogged Riordan--after his recent State of the City address, he waged
a spirited, informal debate with two Latina reporters--but they seem only
to have redoubled his commitment to pushing for it.