Riordan blasts Davis on education

LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan lashed out at Gov. Gray Davis for his education policies, shouting at a Saturday news conference, “Gray Davis, in the name of God, in the name of our children, stop this!”

In a tight contest with businessman Bill Simon for the March 5 GOP nomination for governor, Riordan, at the Republican Latino Summit, accused the Democratic governor of promoting policies he said were undermining Proposition 227, which limited bilingual education.

“It’s worse than nonsense. It’s downright evil,” Riordan said heatedly of regulations under consideration by the state Board of Education that would give teachers rather than parents the right to apply for waivers to place students in bilingual programs.

Davis press secretary Roger Salazar dismissed the criticism and said although the governor opposed Proposition 227, he is committed to upholding it. Salazar said the Board of Education is simply considering regulations to make sure the proposition works.

“This man has lost it,” Salazar said of Riordan. “His campaign is obviously in a free fall . . . they’re frantically trying to find a way to save themselves.”

Proposition 227 passed in 1998 with the support of 61 percent of voters, but only 37 percent of Hispanic voters. Nonetheless Riordan made the issue the centerpiece of a news conference at the daylong Latino Summit hosted by state and national Republicans at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.

He also unveiled a 30-second Spanish-language advertisement that began running statewide Saturday, the first Spanish-language ad to be run by a GOP candidate during a California gubernatorial primary.

Davis began running an ad in Spanish on Tuesday.

Riordan, a moderate who enjoyed strong support from Latinos during his eight years as mayor, might seem to have stronger appeal to Latino voters than conservatives Simon or Secretary of State Bill Jones, the third major GOP candidate.

But Jones and Simon also were present Saturday, and at a lunchtime forum each candidate spoke of his commitment to education and delivered other messages tailored for a Latino audience. It was probably the candidates’ last face-to-face meeting before Election Day, but the event did not allow them the opportunity to interact with one other.

Simon also criticized Davis on education, alleging California schools are failing children.

“It’s a moral outrage; it’s the worst thing about our state in my estimate,” he said.

Jones touted his work as secretary of state in cracking down on notaries public who seek to defraud Latinos.

“We’ve worked hard to work with the Latino community and walk the walk,” he said.

The summit, designed to help the GOP reach Latino voters and generate enthusiasm nine days before the primary, drew state and national party leaders as well as some 400 party members and Latino activists.

With President Bush committed to increasing the Republican Party’s strength among Latinos, party members are stepping up efforts in California, home to a burgeoning Latino community that’s demonstrated a reluctance to vote Republican.

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