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Finding Aid for the Garry South Political Campaign records, 1982-2004
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Biography/History provided by the donor
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Garry South Political Campaign records
    Date (inclusive): 1982-2004
    Collection number: 1892
    Creator: South, Garry.
    Extent: 57 boxes (55 linear ft.)
    Abstract: Collection of management files for the political campaigns of California Governor Gray Davis, compiled by Garry South, campaign manager.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: 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.

    Administrative 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.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Megan Hahn Fraser, with assistance from Brian Kovalesky and Daniella Perry, 2011.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Garry South Political Campaign records (Collection 1892). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 6787264 


    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 Garry South.
    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 Capitol Weekly.
    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:
    1. Gray Davis Record
    2. Gray Davis 1994 Lt. Governor's Race: Management Files
    3. Gray Davis 1998 Governor's Race: Management Files and Opposition Research
    4. Gray Davis 2002 Governor's Race Management Files
    5. Gray Davis 2002 Governor's Race Opposition Research
    6. Gray Davis 2003 Recall Election
    7. Gray Davis 1982 and 1984 Assembly Races; 1986 and 1990 Controller's Races, 1992 Senate Primary Race Files
    8. Videotapes
    9. Polling data
    10. Garry South Correspondence and office files

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    COLLECTION CONTAINS DIGITAL MATERIALS: Special equipment or further processing may be required for viewing. To access digital materials you must notify the reference desk in advance of your visit.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Garry South---Archives.
    Gray Davis.