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L.A. Mayoral Candidates Call Each Other Names, Then Plead for Unity

May 27, 1993

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ The two candidates for Los Angeles mayor called each other names during a debate, and one was forced to explain two arrests 25 years ago.

The debate ended with Michael Woo and Richard Riordan calling on residents to come together to solve the city’s problems.

Woo and Riordan, a city councilman and a wealthy businessman who are vying to replace retiring Mayor Tom Bradley, sparred for two hours Wednesday.

″I think I have the right to call Mr. Woo a liar,″ Riordan said at one point, complaining that Woo has tried to link him to right-wing politics.

″Mr. Riordan is the epitome of unbridled ’80s greed,″ Woo fired back.

A question from the audience revealed that Riordan was charged 25 years ago with drunken driving. He said he pleaded guilty to reckless driving but could not recall what penalty he received. But he noted, ″I didn’t go to jail.″

Around the same time, he was charged with interfering with an officer for getting involved when police tried to arrest a friend who had been drinking. He didn’t disclose his plea or penalty in that case.

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

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

Woo also promoted his tough-on-crime stance.

The pair closed with nearly identical pleas for unity.

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

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

The audience of about 500 dwindled to nearly nothing by the time to debate was halfway through, reflecting the interest voters have shown in the race.

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

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

Riordan, on the other hand, stands to gain from a light turnout.

A businessman who has spent some $6 million of his own money on the campaign, Riordan appeals to white Republicans and moderate-to-conservative Democrats. These are traditionally the voters most likely to cast ballots, even in low turnout years.

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