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Early Reagan Campaign Manager Dies At 63

July 1, 1988

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Bill Roberts, a veteran political manager who engineered President Reagan’s early California political triumphs, has died at age 63.

Roberts, a major figure in California politics for more than three decades, died Thursday of heart failure, said Adam Ortega, an associate in his political consulting firm. He had been in failing health in the past year.

Among hundreds of California campaigns managed by Roberts, either independently or with longtime colleague Stu Spencer, were Reagan’s successful campaigns for governor in 1966 and 1970 and George Deukmejian’s gubernatorial campaign in 1982.

In Deukmejian’s 1982 campaign, Roberts’ off-the-cuff remark that there was probably a hidden racist vote against the black Democratic nominee that didn’t show up in polls sparked a furor that led to his dismissal as campaign manager. Deukmejian narrowly beat Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in that contest.

Roberts and Spencer also worked on Reagan’s presidential campaign in Florida in 1976 and Roberts served as a consultant to both the Republican National Committee and Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.

Deukmejian’s office issued a statement that the governor ″has known Bill Roberts for over two decades and had great respect for his considerable political skills ... and was saddened to hear of his passing.″

Roberts, a native of St. Louis, spent most of his life in California.

In 1960, Roberts and Spencer formed a campaign management firm that pioneered many modern campaign techniques. Roberts’ firms were among the first to offer complete management of all phases of campaigning.

He is survived by two sisters, Mary King and Jane Thimmesch.

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