LOS ANGELES -- The California gubernatorial campaign burst out of its summer doldrums this week with a Republican television commercial designed to link Democratic nominee Dianne Feinstein with "unfair" and "extreme" racial quotas.
The 30-second spot created by the campaign of Sen. Pete Wilson, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, uses provocative newspaper headlines, such as "Feinstein Compares White Male Political Dominance To Apartheid," to capture independent and conservative male Democratic votes in what so far remains a close race.
A Feinstein spokesman immediately called the spot a distortion of Feinstein's position on state jobs and suggested Wilson was probing Democratic defenses for a much larger campaign in the fall.
It was the first new commercial put out by either side since shortly after the June 5 primary, and suggested an attempt by Wilson to use his larger bank account to tarnish Feinstein's favorable image before her campaign resumes full speed.
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, has been out of the public eye for several weeks raising funds and vacationing at her summer home at Stinson Beach.
She flew to Washington Tuesday for more fund-raising meetings with Democratic and women's groups, among others, and went to New York Thursday before returning home, Feinstein spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers said. Beginning with a campaign appearance Sunday in San Diego it will be "bombs away," Myers said.
The two sides have traded barbed faxes to gain some free news media attention but otherwise have stayed in the background while political attention focused on a bitter struggle in Sacramento over the resistance of retiring Gov. George Deukmejian (R) to any tax increase to close a $3.6 billion budget gap. Feinstein has suggested a tax increase might be needed; Wilson has declined comment.
Feinstein and her advisers appear most concerned that she raise the $10 million they say is needed to compete with an expected barrage of Wilson ads in the fall. Wilson, in turn, must contend with Feinstein's vibrant television personality and polls showing a preference this year for female candidates.
The new Wilson commercial attempts to strike at the heart of Feinstein's image as a friend of women and minorities: "Dianne Feinstein has promised as governor to fill state jobs on the basis of strict numerical quotas," the announcer said. "Not experience, not qualifications, not ability, but quotas. It's unfair, it's extreme and it's wrong."
During her nine years as mayor, the ad said, "the number of women appointed by Feinstein increased by only 1 percent." Myers said Feinstein had been hampered by a promise to honor the appointments made by her predecessor, George Moscone, whose murder thrust her into office. Myers said Feinstein appointed the city's first female treasurer and city attorney and two women to the Board of Supervisors.
Wilson spokesman Bill Livingstone provided pages of Feinstein quotes promising to appoint minorities and women in proportions matching the state population: 25 percent Hispanic, 7 percent black, more than 50 percent female. Wilson has charged this demeans appointees but Feinstein has responded that she will ensure all are qualified and that she does not expect to reach the percentages immediately. She had rejected the term "quotas," calling them "goals."
Myers circulated copies of an affirmative action plan used in San Diego when Wilson was mayor designed to hire city employees "consistent with the minority composition of the city of San Diego." Livingstone said Wilson's program was different because he did not promise "Hispanic groups that they would get 25 percent of all appointments."