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Personal Barbs Dominate Mayoral Debate in LA

May 27, 1993

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Harsh personal attacks and a revelation that Los Angeles mayoral candidate Richard Riordan was arrested 25 years ago weren’t enough to keep a debate audience from leaving early.

Midway through Wednesday’s two-hour debate between Richard, a Republican, and Democrat Michael Woo, most of the audience of 500 had left.

What they missed at the debate’s end were almost identical calls from both candidates for residents to come together to solve the city’s problems.

″Together, we will turn L.A. around,″ Riordan said.

″Together, we’ll make L.A. work again,″ Woo said.

Critics have complained that the two men vying to succeed Mayor Tom Bradley have spent too much time trading insults and too little offering solutions to Los Angeles’ racial and financial problems.

Those who left the debate sponsored by the Advertising Club of Los Angeles early cited pressing office needs. Besides, they said, they could catch the rest on their car radios.

At one point, Riordan, an attorney and businessman who has spent $6 million of his own money on his campaign, complained that Woo had tried to link him to right-wing politics.

″I think I have the right to call Mr. Woo a liar,″ said Riordan.

Woo, a councilman for eight years, fired back, saying, ″Mr. Riordan is the epitome of unbridled ’80s greed.″

Responding to a question from the audience, Riordan said he was arrested twice 25 years ago. In one case, he pleaded guilty to reckless driving on a drunken driving charge and was fined $100.

He said that he now favors strong penalties for drunken driving.

″I really learned my lesson because I could have hurt somebody,″ he said.

He also was arrested on a charge of interfering with an officer who was trying to arrest his drinking buddy. His campaign said later that he pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace in that case and was fined $50.

In the April primary, about three-quarters of registered voters stayed home, and a low turnout is forecast for the June 8 general election.

Woo, 41, a liberal trying to tap the multi-ethnic coalition that sustained Bradley for two decades, trails Riordan in the polls. Only a moderate-to-heavy turnout among minorities and undecided voters will carry Woo to victory, polls predict.

Riordan, 62, stands to gain from a light turnout. He appeals to white Republicans and moderate-to-conservative Democrats, who are traditionally the most likely voters to cast ballots.

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