April 11, 2002
Simon, Bush mend fences, talk about gubernatorial race
By DANA WILKIE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – For the first time since starting his run for
California governor, Bill Simon yesterday met with President
Bush, who once dismissed Simon's chances of becoming the
Republican Party's hope for the Golden State.
During what some described as a fence-mending meeting, Bush
and the GOP gubernatorial nominee discussed the financial and
political support the president might lend Simon. But how strong
that support will be remains to be seen, given the friction
between Simon and Bush operatives and GOP concern that
Simon is too conservative to win California.
Simon described the meeting as a "very, very constructive"
examination of his campaign positions and strategy.
"We've got a very strong, collaborative working relationship in
connection with my campaign," the Los Angeles financier told
reporters. "We talked substantively . . . about my vision for
Also at the Oval Office meeting were Vice President Dick Cheney
and some of the president's political advisers.
Last year, Bush helped persuade former Los Angeles Mayor
Richard Riordan to enter the Republican gubernatorial primary.
The early front-runner, Riordan was the target of a withering
television campaign by Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and lost
badly to Simon, resulting in embarrassment for the White House.
Relations were further strained when Bush's California political
adviser, Gerald Parsky, told reporters that an "extreme
conservative" could not win the state. This angered state
conservatives who were already mad at Parsky for engineering
Bush-ordered reforms of their party that left them significantly
weakened. Parsky has since emphasized his strong support for
"We're well past 'making nice' and on to specific things they're
going to do to help us out," said Simon spokesman Jeff Flint.
"They've been outstanding so far . . . in terms of political and
The president, who lost California by 13 percentage points to Al
Gore in 2000, this month plans to attend two fund-raising
dinners for Simon in California. Flint said the campaign also is
talking with national GOP officials about strategy.
Beyond that, however, Flint could point to few things the White
House plans to do on Simon's behalf.
Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the Davis campaign, said he
doubts the White House will invest much in Simon. He noted that Bush political strategist Karl Rove recently said the White House will do whatever it can for Simon, "within reason."
"This just shows me they're not all that committed," Salazar said.
Some believe that despite his personal wealth, Simon will have a hard time raising money in the state because business leaders
are reluctant to cross Davis, who has vetoed anti-business
legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Moreover, some Republicans worry that Simon's opposition to
abortion, gun control and gay rights is not in sync with the
majority of California voters.
But Tony Quinn, a California political analyst, said it behooves
the GOP to invest in Simon's campaign, in part because that
would force Davis to spend money he might otherwise use to run for president in 2004.
"They would like to see Davis spend that enormous war chest so
he doesn't have too much money going into a presidential
contest," Quinn said.