- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO A California police organization's endorsement of Republican Bill Simon has provoked anger within Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' re-election campaign as well as hints of retaliation against the veteran policeman who heads the group.
Last week, the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs (COPS) announced its support of the Republican nominee for governor.
Publicly, the Davis campaign dismissed the police endorsement of Mr. Simon, claiming COPS is a minor group that is desperate to recruit members through publicity and that the group actually represents relatively few law enforcement officials in the state.
But a memo from Davis campaign chief strategist Garry South showed outrage at the COPS' endorsement of the governor's opponent.
The memo lashed out at COPS Executive Director Monty Holden as an ingrate because Mr. Davis had appointed him to a state police commission known by its acronym POST.
"What is this [expletive]?!" Mr. South wrote. "Monty Holden declaring war through COPS on the governor of California who only appointed him to POST."
In the leaked memo which made front-page news in California newspapers Mr. South accused Mr. Holden of "pimping for Simon."
"Has Holden lost his mind?" Mr. South wrote. "If this reflects his sentiments, he needs to lose his job!"
Mr. Holden spent 14 years as a police officer and sergeant in Bell Gardens, Calif., and served four years as a police investigator in Montebello, Calif.
The Simon campaign called that remark a Davis threat against the COPS director.
"It would be unfortunate, but not surprising, for Gray Davis to punish someone for not supporting him," said Simon campaign spokesman Mark Miner.
Mr. Miner pointed to "Davis' stark record of demanding money from organizations" as the motive for retaliation against Mr. Holden.
But Gabriel Sanchez, Davis campaign deputy press secretary, said in an interview that the COPS endorsement of Mr. Simon doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
"Gray Davis has the overwhelming support of law enforcement officers," Mr. Sanchez said. "For Bill Simon to trumpet this as a serious law-enforcement endorsement is a joke. COPS is made up of a few guys with a neat acronym and a telemarketing operation."
Mr. Sanchez added: "The question you have to ask is, 'How much did Bill Simon pay for this endorsement?'"
The COPS endorsement was good news for the White House. President Bush's political advisers acknowledge having a big stake in seeing Republicans retake the governorship of the most populous state before Mr. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
The COPS endorsement was even bigger news in California. COPS had endorsed Mr. Davis in his successful 1998 gubernatorial run and had in the past also endorsed the state's two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
The endorsement bolstered Mr. Simon's claim that police officers agree with his contention that crime is on the rise and that law enforcement has suffered during Mr. Davis' tenure.
Citing statistics that show crime in the state rose 3.5 percent in 2000 and 5.8 percent last year, Mr. Simon said, "Governor Davis views public safety purely and simply as a political issue. For him, being tough on crime is a poll-tested, calculated position taken to benefit his campaign."
The Davis campaign spokesman dismissed the political value of the COPS switch. He noted that in the lead-up to the March gubernatorial primaries, Mr. Simon paid $100,000 to be included in the COPS voter guide.
"COPS offered us the same deal, and we declined," Mr. Sanchez said. "We didn't have a primary fight and Simon did."
Mr. Davis was unopposed, while Mr. Simon won a surprise victory over two better-known Republican-nomination contenders.
Mr. Sanchez says COPS' endorsement of Mr. Simon was "a business decision and not based on the governor's record." Besides, Mr. Sanchez argued, Mr. Davis has the endorsement of "more than 150,000 law-enforcement professionals, which includes police and firefighters."
Asked why Mr. South would write the memo if the Davis campaign really believed COPS' support of Mr. Simon was not a threat, Mr. Sanchez said: "Because COPS and Simon are running up and down the state, appearing together and talking about it."


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