One inspired observer has dubbed them "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," but California's Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate have begun an adventure that in some ways is more dramatic and bizarre than even Walt Disney could have imagined.
They include a Reagan and a Goldwater, a state senator sympathetic to a military coup in this country, two former presidential candidates, and the man who spent more than anyone in history to save one little congressional seat. Together they may break all primary-campaign spending records, with $3 million already raised. And, true to California's image, their three front-runners are, or are about to be, divorced.
The faltering incumbent senator, S.I. Hayakawa ("Sleepy"), has just dropped out of the race. The leader in the polls, Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., hopes his good reputation in Congress and famous name will erase his backstage label ("Dopey").
But all the candidates are coming to realize that, despite the Disneyland tenor of some of their debates, one of them will have to be ready after the June primary for, in the words of San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, a "referendum on Ronald Reagan."
For, waiting to make an entrance, cast as the wicked witch with greasy hair and a bubbling pot of anti-Reagan intellectual nostrums, is the expected Democratic nominee, Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.
"It will be like New York and Massachusetts put together, what with fundraising and everything else," said candidate Rep. Robert K. Dornan, who like some of the others is raising funds nationwide. And Ben D. Key, campaign coordinator for Goldwater, rubs his hands as he notes Republican feelings about Brown: "Whoever wins the primary is going to get a lot of support" from Washington and elsewhere.
Like Medflies on a ripe peach, they all attack Brown's record, while insisting that no rival has the guts and brains to defeat the Satanic Genius of Sacramento.
"Brown is much, much more together than he was 10 years ago," says Dornan. "He's the consummate politican," agrees Rep. Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey, another GOP hopeful. "I've never seen anyone with the ability to walk into a room of people who oppose him and say things they can agree with."
Faithful to the "Eleventh Commandment" that Republicans not speak ill of other Republicans, the California candidates have said little about each other, attempting instead to glow the brightest in allegiance to Reagan and his programs. But as the economy grows more troubled, and Brown sharpens his debating points, some differences have begun to emerge.
Their standings in the polls also will change. Right now, according to the latest Mervin Field California Poll, with Hayakawa's 13 per cent discounted, Goldwater leads with 34 per cent, followed by McCloskey and Wilson, each 18 per cent, Maureen Reagan 9 per cent, Dornan 6 per cent, State Sen. John G. Schmitz 2 per cent, businessman Ted Bruinsma 1 per cent and others or undecided 12 per cent.
Goldwater, 43, has the glittering name and endorsement of his father, the senior statesman of American conservatives. Yet desite hard work for all his San Fernando Valley district and a solid reputation as the House's expert on privacy issues, his opponents suggest privately he might not have the intellectual resources or the campaign skills to stand up to Brown in debate.
Wearing a deep tan and a three-piece suit, Goldwater said he would emphasize the "personal security" issues, privacy, employment, Social Security. Although he supports Reagan's economic policy, and advocates even more accelerated tax cuts, he opposed the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to Saudi Arabia and has resisted some initiatives of Interior Secretary James G. Watt.
"I do not want to see our whole sea coast dotted with those little pearls of oil rigs," he said.
Wilson, 48, reelected twice as San Diego mayor by large majorities, has built a strong record that he hopes finally will take him to higher office. His 1978 campaign for governor failed, but he has sizable business support.
His task is to convince average Republican voters that he is not an opportunistic latecomer to the Reagan camp. He shows occasional displeasure with opponents who remind him that he campaigned for President Ford, against Reagan, in 1976--hence his label, "Grumpy."
Wilson, unlike the president, supports the equal rights amendment and opposes the right-to-life amendment, but he supported Reagan on AWACs at the last minute and has turned San Diego into a laboratory for such favorite Reagan programs as required work for able-bodied welfare recipients. Reagan in turn named Wilson to chair an urban affairs transition team.
McCloskey, 54, shares Wilson's problem, a widespread impression that he is not as conservative as a California Republican should be. He also earned the undying enmity of many Republicans when he challenged Richard Nixon for the GOP presidential nomination--on the Vietnam war issue--in 1972.
He opposes the right-to-life amendment and favors gun control, but he has supported the president's economic policy and the sale of AWACs, even issuing warnings against the "Israeli lobby" which have hurt him with Jewish voters. He is dubbed "Sneezy," though political newsletter writer Joe Scott, who named them, now is hard pressed to remember why.
Maureen (Snow White) Reagan, 41, the president's eldest offspring, enjoys instant recognition, but her connection with the White House may hurt more than it helps. Her father's August remark that he hoped she would not run was excused as typical backhanded Reagan humor, but continued sniping from Reagan aides and the president's brother (a Wilson supporter), who feel her candidacy is hopeless, has not helped.
She has been an active Republican worker since 1960. Her talents as a talk-show hostess and her outgoing personality have made her popular among state campaign workers, and her recent promotion of U.S. exports have revealed an understanding of international economics.
Dornan, 48, spent a record $2 million in 1980 to hold on to his congressional seat against businessman Carey Peck, actor Gregory Peck's son, only to have the seat cut out from under him in the reapportionment plan fashioned by his old ideological adversary, Democratic Rep. Phillip Burton. Dornan's nationwide fundraising mailers, left over from that campaign, are back in full gear. He offers a manic energy level, a large and photogenic family--and as a result is sardonically dubbed "Bashful."
Dornan favors a strong U.S. stand in El Salvador and supports the president's economic policy.
Schmitz, 51, is an ultraconservative state senator from Orange County who may have set a record for voter alienation when he referred publicly to "a sea of hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces" at a hearing on anti-abortion legislation. Schmitz was disciplined by the state senate for his remarks, but the former American Independent Party presidential candidate, dubbed "Happy," said the controversy has only won more support for him. He decries the U.S. failure so far to take a tougher stand toward communist activites in Latin America and has suggested a military coup may be necessary in this country if the economy collapses.
Bruinsma, 60, a successful businessman and the former dean of Loyola Law School, wins the scholarly label, "Doc." He is often praised by his opponents for his good sense and experience, even as they point out he has no chance in the race.
The same cloak of anonymity covers a newcomer to the race, Redwood City research scientist Jack Hickey, 47, who wants private companies to take over the Social Security system.
Knowing that the survivor of this free-for-all will benefit from the general Republican distaste for Brown, most of the primary candidates are trying to spend every dollar now. Leading the financing race as well as the polls is Goldwater, with $950,523 raised as of Dec. 31. Of that, $700,000 has come from direct mailings, including a letter from his father that says "because Barry Jr. is my son, the ultraliberals see this as the one last opportunity to repudiate me and all that you and I have fought for since I ran for President in 1964."
Dornan, who used the direct mail technique to build his $2 million congressional campaign fund, has the same sort of campaign going, with about $170,000 raised so far.
Wilson, who boasts that he has already picked up a third of Hayakawa's supporters, and McCloskey have received many contributions from businessmen, Wilson's total coming to $593,397. McCloskey has also relied heavily on direct mail, and is second only to Goldwater in fundraising at $763,140. Bruinsma raised a surprising $183,089, mostly from small southern California businessmen and lawyers.
Schmitz reported raising only $8,275 by Dec. 31 and Reagan only $28,965, including $1,000 from her mother, the president's first wife, actress Jane Wyman.