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Remarks Endorsing the Candidacy of Michael Woo for Mayor of Los Angeles and an Exchange With Reporters in Van Nuys

May 18, 1993

The President. Good afternoon, everyone. As you know, a couple of days ago I issued a statement endorsing the candidacy of Mike Woo for Mayor of Los Angeles. I wanted to just amplify a little on that today, make a couple of comments, give Mr. Woo a chance to say something, and then answer a few of your questions.

Let me say that I know it is somewhat unusual for all these national figures to be involved in a mayor's race in Los Angeles. But that's because what happens in Los Angeles matters to America and because we can't really turn America around until we can lift the economy of California up.

I endorsed Mike Woo not because I have something against his opponent; I don't. I just like him, and I like him for some very good substantive reasons. I feel a personal affinity for him because he supported me early in the race for President before the New Hampshire primary. And that's a part of it. But I also have been terribly impressed by what he has said to me in private about this city, about the need to bring people together across racial and ethnic lines, about the need to try some new ideas to get the economy going again.

After the riots last year and long before I was President, I came here and walked the streets of Los Angeles with Mike Woo. And we talked abut the kinds of things it would take to start businesses, to attract investment, to change the framework of people's lives; the kinds of incentives that are embodied in the empowerment zone legislation that I have presented to Congress, which will provide much more dramatic and comprehensive incentives to invest in businesses and jobs and education and anticrime initiatives in our cities than has ever happened before; the kinds of initiatives that are embodied in the national service program that I have presented, that will be embodied in the welfare reform program that is coming forward. I want to do something to help Los Angeles, southern California, and this State revive and come back.

I've assigned the Secretary of Commerce to come out here. He's been here seven times. And I want the best possible partnership to get that done. That's why I endorse Mike Woo. It is 100 percent positive feeling. I have nothing against his opponent. I just care a lot about this community. I care a lot about this State. I want to do everything I can to make it work. I think this will help. And I think the decision was an appropriate one and one I feel very comfortable with.

[At this point, Mr. Woo expressed his appreciation to the President.]

Q. Mr. President, have you ever met Mr. Riordan, and what do you know about him?

The President. I know quite a bit about him. I have met him, and I know a lot of people who are working in his campaign, as you know. And my wife has spent some good time with him. I have nothing against him. I'm for Woo. There's nothing negative here in my feelings about Dick Riordan.

Q. Mr. President, if Dick Riordan does win the election, can Los Angeles count on as close a relationship with the White House as it will have if Mr. Woo—

The President. It won't affect my attitude about Los Angeles in any way. I will work as hard as I can to help the people here, whatever the voters of this city decide to do.

But let me try to reinforce that and put it in what I consider to be the proper framework. Just like I told those students out there today at this college, whatever I do as President, whether this economy works or not depends on their willingness to prepare themselves to compete and win. In other words, they have to do certain things. I'm going to do everything I can. My Secretary of Transportation was out here just a few days ago announcing a $1.4 billion commitment to the Red Line Mass Transit System. We're here for the duration. Ron Brown is going to be here supervising this economic program and our coordinated efforts. But I think it will work better if there's a mayor who has a lot of good ideas about how to start businesses, how to rebuild communities, how to pull people together. I think Mike Woo's ideas are good. That's my point. It's not anything negative.

Q. Mr. President, is your prestige on the line at all because of this? You know candidates have coattails—sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

The President. Frankly, I don't know if they ever do. If I have any coattails, it would only be because of the ideas that I share in common with Mike and the things that I hope that we can do together. I was only too happy to do this. Ultimately, in the end, the people of Los Angeles will vote the way people do everywhere. They'll vote on the merits of the issue before them.

The one thing that I hope will happen is that you will have a very good turnout. I hope the citizens of this city realize that this has a lot to do with how things work out in the future. A lot of the things that I want to do—for instance, you take this empowerment zone issue, for example. If we pass this bill through Congress, look what it will do. Say Los Angeles, a big section of Los Angeles, is selected as an empowerment zone. There will be new jobs credits and other new tax incentives for private sector people to invest in these communities and to hire people. There will be all kinds of new initiatives to facilitate investments in housing and in anticrime initiatives, and in education and training initiatives. That's good. But whether it works or not depends on how it's put together once the Federal Government makes the selection. That has to happen from the grass roots

So what I would say to the people of Los Angeles is, you need to vote based on what you think is best for you. The re, on I think Mike Woo is the better candidate is because I know him, I know how he thinks, and I know he can figure out how to make this stuff work. And in the end, the test of our endeavors is not how well we speak or what we say as much as whether we can change the lives of people. That's the way we ought to ultimately keep score. So that's why I took this position.

Press Secretary Myers. Last question.

Q. [Inaudible]—of your administration be coming to Los Angeles and campaign on Mr. Woo's behalf?

Q [Inaudible]

The President. Well, let me tell you something. When Michael Woo endorsed me, there was not much in it for him. I mean, Michael Woo endorsed me before the New Hampshire primary, and I was still running third in California in June. So there was nothing in it for him. There was never any anticipation that there would be some political payback. He did it because he thought I had good ideas and he thought I'd be a good President.

Do I feel a personal sense of loyalty to him? You bet I do, and I'm not ashamed of that. But would I do it if I thought he wouldn't be a good mayor? Never in a thousand years. I believe he'd be a very good mayor.

Q. Mr. President, will members of your administration be coming to Los Angeles to campaign on Mr. Woo's behalf?.

The President. I'm embarrassed to tell you I don't know. I've never even discussed that with them or with him. But I'm strongly in favor of him, and I know Ron Brown feels very positively toward him because we talked about him on the way in here today. This is something I want to do because I believe it's good for the people of Los Angeles. If I didn't think it was, I wouldn't do it.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the courtyard at Los Angeles Valley College.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Endorsing the Candidacy of Michael Woo for Mayor of Los Angeles and an Exchange With Reporters in Van Nuys Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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