- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

National Republicans are about to give Bill Simon the financial cold shoulder unless he more than doubles the $9 million he has already loaned his campaign to defeat California Gov. Gray Davis.
The Republican Governors Association meets today to decide how to divvy up among 27 competitive gubernatorial races about $15 million it has to spend. Mr. Simon had hoped the association would give him $1 million from its kitty and that the Republican National Committee would kick in another $1 million.
But he'll get only about half of that, at best, officials of both committees said, unless he writes a big check of his own.
"If he puts in $10 million more of his own money, it tells the rest of the world he's serious and makes it easier for the RNC and the RGA in Washington to open their checkbooks," said a senior Republican associated with one of the committees. "We think he can win this, mainly because Davis is so disliked by voters, but Simon has to step up to the plate."
Several major donors from California say they want to see him kick in between $15 million and $30 million before they'll feel confident enough to write big checks to his campaign.
Mr. Simon, in an interview, said that, 41 days before the election, his campaign has barely enough cash for two weeks' worth of saturation television advertising statewide.
"We've got a couple million bucks [cash on hand]," Mr. Simon said. "I am not going to give you the exact number, but I know what it is."
Since scoring a Republican primary upset against Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan in March, the Simon campaign has suffered a number of front-page embarrassments though polls show Mr. Simon has narrowed the gap against Mr. Davis, the unpopular Democratic incumbent.
"Everyone believes Gray Davis is beatable, but [Mr. Davis] has to be the issue, not Bill Simon or Simon's campaign," a Republican committee official said privately. "Right now, people in Washington who look west to California are spending more time talking about the Simon campaign and what's wrong with it, rather than about Gray Davis and what's wrong with him."
Said a top Republican from another national campaign committee: "We asked him to reorganize his campaign and get it to focus better, but he is still making mistakes the campaign says one thing about whether he would sign Davis' budget and then he says the opposite. This came on top of his flip-flop on the gay issue."
Mr. Simon told The Washington Times that he would not, as governor, legalize same-sex "marriages" or declare a statewide "gay-pride day," despite his earlier answers to a questionnaire that the Republican Log Cabin Club, a pro-homosexual rights group, says he filled out and signed.
"People in my campaign filled it out without my review or approval," Mr. Simon said. "Obviously, that will not happen again."
He said he is still running as the "limited-government conservative" he said he was during the Republican primary and would not raise taxes as governor, despite the $24 billion deficit "Davis ran up on his watch."
But national Republican officials are skeptical that Mr. Simon will bring coherence to his campaign unless he demonstrates his commitment by risking a significant portion of his personal wealth.
Aides reportedly once said Mr. Simon was prepared to spend up to $60 million of his own money to win, but now his campaign advisers say he never made such a commitment.
The Simon campaign concedes it did not get the expected lift either in the polls or in fund raising from a judge's reversal of a Los Angeles jury's $78 million fraud verdict against his investment firm. Nor did he get a fund-raising boost from major donors after he lent $4.2 million to his campaign recently. Before that, he had lent his primary campaign $5 million.
Aided by the advantages of incumbency and what even Republicans say is a first-rate campaign team, Mr. Davis has outraised Mr. Simon by a 5-1 ratio.


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