Scope and Content
Biography/History provided by the donor
Organization and Arrangement
Title: Garry South Political Campaign records
Date (inclusive): 1982-2004
Collection number: 1892
57 boxes (55 linear ft.)
Abstract: Collection of management files for the political campaigns of California Governor Gray Davis, compiled by Garry South, campaign
Language: Finding aid is written in
University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections
for paging information.
Restrictions on Access
Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library
Special Collections for paging information.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
Copyright of portions of this collection has been assigned to UCLA Library Special Collections. The library can grant permission
to publish for materials to which it holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or quote must be submitted
in writing to UCLA Library Special Collections. Credit shall be given as follows: © 2011 The Regents of the University of
California on behalf of the UCLA Library Special Collections.
Provenance/Source of Acquisition
Gift of Garry South, 2011.
Processed by Megan Hahn Fraser, with assistance from Brian Kovalesky and Daniella Perry, 2011.
[Identification of item], Garry South Political Campaign records (Collection Number 1892). UCLA Library Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
Garry South is a political consultant who managed Gray Davis's campaigns for Lt. Governor of California in 1994, and Governor
in 1998 and 2002. He served as Davis's Chief of Staff during his term as Lt. Governor. He also advised or consulted on campaigns
for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, and has had an extensive career in Democratic Party politics. His firm, the Garry South Group,
operates in Los Angeles.
Joseph Graham "Gray" Davis served as Chief of Staff for Governor Jerry Brown (1975-1981), a member of the State Assembly (1983-1987),
state controller (1987-1995), Lt. Governor (1995-1999) and Governor (1999-2003). Davis's administration focused on education,
the environment, healthcare issues and improving relations with Mexico. Davis left office in November 2003, after a special
recall election was held ten months into his second term.
Scope and Content
The collection contains administrative files, research, correspondence, campaign materials, poll data, clippings, and recordings
of commercials, news coverage and debates related to the political campaigns of Gray Davis from 1982 to 2003, compiled by
The Gray Davis Record series (Series 1) is a gathering of statements, speeches, clippings and other materials that illustrate
Davis's positions and opinions on a wide range of topics pertaining to the government of California, such as immigration,
the environment, economics, health and subgroups of the population. Material on controversies during Davis's career is also
included in this series.
Series 2 through 7 contain research materials, news clippings, schedules, publications, correspondence and recordings of commercials,
debates and news coverage related to Davis's campaigns from 1982 through 2003. Records from the 1982 and 1984 Assembly campaigns,
1986 and 1990 Controller's campaigns and 1992 Senate primary campaign were not created by South, but became part of his files
after he began working for Davis. These series also contain extensive research on Davis's opponents, either in primaries or
general elections, such as Al Checchi, Jane Harman, and Dan Lungren in 1998, and Bill Simon and Richard Riordan in 2002.
Garry South's professional correspondence, including letters from friends and colleagues mostly regarding his work for Davis,
and additional office files are found in Series 10.
Biography/History provided by the donor
The following text was written and provided by the donor.
The Garry South Political Campaign Records represent substantial archival material from three successive statewide California
campaigns, one for lieutenant governor and two for governor. It is thought to be one of the most complete campaign archives
in existence, since South managed all three of the campaigns, and kept in his possession all of the files and materials from
campaign to campaign. Often after campaigns, whether they win or lose, campaign offices are relinquished and cleaned out,
files are thrown away and significant players scatter to the four winds.
About Garry South
Garry South, Principal of The Garry South Group, has been called "the Carville of California" by
The New York Times and "one of the top political strategists in the Democratic Party" by DailyKos.net.
Newsweek described him as "a one-man brain trust on the battlements of Fort California." The
National Journal finds him "shrewd and widely feared." The Hotline labeled South the "über California Democratic strategist."
Capitol Weekly in 2011 named South one of the Top 50 most influential political players in California.
South has 40 years' experience at very high levels in government, politics and business consulting. He has worked for both
the federal government and state governments in three different states, including as Special Assistant to a U.S. Cabinet Secretary,
Senior Political Advisor to a Governor, Communications Director to another Governor, Chief of Staff to a Lieutenant Governor
and Public Information Director of a state Legislature. In addition, he has managed or played leading roles in campaigns
for president, U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, state Legislature, county executive, county supervisor, mayor and
city council. He is also a former Midwest Regional Finance Director of the Democratic National Committee
He is a member of the Council on American Politics of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management,
a regular contributor of opinion pieces to major publications, such as POLITICO and The Huffington Post, and a frequent guest
commentator on NPR. South also is a member of the Advisory Board of the
A native of Montana, South graduated with honors with a double major in history and political science from the University
of Montana, where he served as Student Body President. In 2008, he was the recipient of the University's Distinguished Alumni
Award, largely on the basis of his political campaign work.
Here are the three races documented in The Garry South Campaign Collection, each of which was historically significant in
its own way:
Gray Davis For Lieutenant Governor - 1994
In 1992, California state Controller Gray Davis made what many considered an ill-advised run against former San Francisco
Mayor Dianne Feinstein for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to take on appointed GOP Sen. John Seymour. In essentially
a two-way race, Davis received only 32.75 percent of the primary vote. Many political observers and reporters thought Davis's
political career might be over. After that debacle, and leading up to a run for lieutenant governor in 1994, Davis jettisoned
his long-time campaign consultants and brought on a new team, including Garry South as Campaign Manager.
South's first challenge was to try to nudge out of the Democratic race Phil Angelides, the immediate past chairman of the
California Democratic Party and a wealthy land developer. Davis was concerned that a full-out nomination battle in the June
primary might drain all of his funds, and leave him with a depleted kitty for the five-month general election campaign in
what was shaping up as a difficult year for Democrats nationally. Ultimately, the Davis operation and his supporters, including
legendary Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, were able to encourage Angelides into changing his target to the race for state treasurer,
and Davis won the primary handily against token competition.
In the general election, Davis's legitimate worry was that Gov. Pete Wilson might wrap up his race against state Treasurer
Kathleen Brown so early that he might shift millions of dollars into helping the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, state
Sen. Kathie Wright (which Wilson eventually did). The Davis campaign launched ads against the extremely conservative Wright
with the clever slogan, "On almost everything we care about, Wright is wrong." The spots reminded voters of her staunch opposition
to abortion, her votes against reasonable gun-control measures, and even her having voted against the state's new indoor smoking
ban - which had been signed into law by her own running mate, Gov. Wilson.
Despite 1994 being a horrible Democratic year - with the loss of the U.S. Senate and House, as well as Republicans winning
a majority in the California Assembly for the first time since 1970 - Davis won a landslide victory, thrashing Wright 52-40.
One of only two Democrats to win statewide partisan office in California, he also received more votes (nearly 4.5 million)
than any other Democratic candidate running for any office anywhere in America that year. South served as Lt. Gov. Davis's
Chief of Staff from 1995-99.
Gray Davis For Governor - 1998
In 1998, Garry South managed the come-from-behind, landslide victory of then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis for governor of California,
the first sitting Lieutenant Governor of the state in 72 years to win the governorship in his own right, and one of only three
- and the only Democratic Lieutenant Governor - ever to do so. But at one point in the campaign, Davis was running a poor
fifth in the respected Field Poll, with only 8 percent of the vote. As late as March 1998, two months before the primary,
he was mired in fourth place. One national magazine wrote him off as political "road kill."
Davis's two self-funding Democratic primary opponents between them spent nearly $60 million, still a national record for a
state primary campaign. But through clever marshalling of resources, perfect timing, a highly targeted approach to voters
- and a devastatingly effective slogan, "Experience Money Can't Buy" - Davis demolished the other Democrats, spending only
$9 million but receiving more votes than both of them combined. The headline in the
San Diego Union-Tribune said it all: "Davis defeats big money." He even received more votes than the only Republican running in the open primary,
Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren.
In the general election, Davis swamped Lungren, the Republican nominee, by 58-38 - the biggest winning margin in an open-seat
governor's race in the state in 40 years - becoming the first Democratic governor of California to be elected in 20 years,
and only the fourth in the entire 20th century.
The Sacramento Bee described South as the "mastermind" behind Davis's victories, while the non-partisan
California Journal described his work as "stunning" and "one of the greatest resurrections in California political history." For his achievement,
he was named "Campaign Manager of the Year" by the American Association of Political Consultants, an honor he shares with
Karl Rove, James Carville and the late Lee Atwater.
Gray Davis For Governor Re-Election - 2002
At the end of 2001, Gov. Gray Davis was in serious trouble, with a negative job rating brought about by his perceived mishandling
of the state's electricity problems. And the most formidable Republican lining up to take him on was recruited by none other
than Karl Rove and the Bush White House itself - former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a moderate Republican who had won
twice in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. In a December 2001 survey by the respected, nonpartisan Field Poll, Riordan was
leading Davis 43-36, with only 39 percent of voters indicating they were inclined to re-elect Davis (and even 33 percent of
Democrats saying they would probably vote against the Democratic Governor).
Riordan launched his primary campaign by ignoring the other two GOP candidates, Sec. of State Bill Jones, the only Republican
then in statewide office, and newcomer William E. Simon Jr., a businessman and son of former Nixon Treasury Secretary William
Simon. In a fall '01 Field Poll, Riordan sported a 27-point lead on Jones and a 41-point advantage over Simon. Riordan's
primary pitch to GOP primary voters was that as a Republican who supported a woman's right to choose, he had the best chance
of defeating Davis in this overwhelming pro-choice state.
But the Davis campaign, led by Chief Strategist Garry South, turned the tables on Riordan by running $10 million worth of
ads in the Republican primary reminding voters of Riordan's previous financial support for anti-abortion groups and his national
chairmanship of the campaign to confirm the anti-Roe v. Wade Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Then, just as Riordan vehemently
protested, the coup de grace: a videotape of Riordan himself, a devout Catholic, telling a TV interviewer in 1991 that he
"strongly" supported the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion, calling it "murder." South had acquired and squirreled
away the videotape in 1993 when he worked as Communications Director for the candidate Riordan beat in the Los Angeles mayor's
race that year.
When the hypocrisy and mendacity of Riordan's flip-flop soaked in, his support evaporated almost overnight among both pro-choice
GOP women and anti-abortion activists, with both groups just concluding he was lying. "I've never seen so much movement in
such a short period of time like this," said Mark Baldassare, who conducts polling for the non-partisan Public Policy Institute
of California. On Primary Election Day, Riordan received only 31 percent of the votes, buried by the novice Bill Simon, who
got 49 percent. It was a nearly 60-point turnaround in a matter of several weeks.
Newsweek, in a story on the GOP primary upset titled "Southern Strategy," called South "a one-man brain trust on the battlements of
Fort California [who's] shown a knack for foiling Rove's plans." Bruce Cain, Director of the Institute for Governmental Studies
at UC Berkeley described South's strategy to
The New York Times as a "political hall of fame" move. South went on to direct Davis's successful re-election effort, helping Davis become
only the third Democratic Governor in the state's history to win a second four-year term, and the first since Jerry Brown
24 years before. In a strong Republican year nationally, in which the GOP took back control of the U.S. Senate, Davis was
only one of two incumbent Democratic governors to win re-election.
As of 2012, South is still the only person in the last 74 years to have run a successful Democratic gubernatorial campaign
in California for a candidate not named Brown, and the only one to have run two winning Democratic governor's races in the
state's history (both Govs. Pat Brown and Jerry Brown had different campaign managers in their respective winning races).
Organization and Arrangement
Arranged in the following series:
- Gray Davis Record
- Gray Davis 1994 Lt. Governor's Race: Management Files
- Gray Davis 1998 Governor's Race: Management Files and Opposition Research
- Gray Davis 2002 Governor's Race Management Files
- Gray Davis 2002 Governor's Race Opposition Research
- Gray Davis 2003 Recall Election
- Gray Davis 1982 and 1984 Assembly Races; 1986 and 1990 Controller's Races, 1992 Senate Primary Race Files
- Polling data
- Garry South Correspondence and office files
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.