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Bubble Gum Vote : Kids Convention ’88: Dukakis Beats Out Bush Among the Younger Set

Times Staff Writer

Dukakis got the the bubble gum vote Wednesday.

As the band played “Happy Days Are Here Again” and 2,000 delegates at the Kids Convention ’88 cheered, credentials manager David Ford, 11, announced that the Democratic presidential nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, had bested Republican candidate George Bush, 53% to 47%.

“We as children want to set an example for adults,” David told his fellow delegates gathered at Universal Studios. “There is no excuse not to vote.”

“I don’t know how much parents influenced their children’s voting patterns, but maybe we’ve got an upset in the making,” said Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif), who gave the “acceptance speech” for Dukakis. He was referring to national public opinion polls that show Dukakis trailing Bush.

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The delegates, most of them 10 to 12 years of age, also debated and voted on a “kids rights platform,” which called for life in prison for drug pushers and government aid to the homeless. To vote on the various issues, the delegates used hand-held computers that flashed instant results on large television screens.

In another of the straw votes, GOP Sen. Pete Wilson captured the California Senate race 51% to 49% over rival Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy.

The convention included appearances by several politicians and television stars, including “Facts of Life” actress Lisa Welchel, who gave a short campaign speech for Bush.

The event was the grand finale of election year activities for 44 Southern California school districts that participated in a May Co. Foundation-sponsored civics program. During the last several weeks, the students held “kids caucuses” in their elementary school classrooms to study and debate a variety of political issues, including relations with the Soviet Union, environmental pollution and the AIDS crisis.

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As part of the program, 4,000 children voted Oct. 1 at May Co. stores throughout Southern California, using real voting machines manned by members of the League of Women Voters. It was the results of that mock election that were announced at the convention.

Craig Lazar, one of the program developers, noted that only 16% of adults 18 through 24 vote.

“We hope this enthusiasm will spur them to become involved, and maybe even encourage their parents to vote,” he said.

Jean Castorena, a bilingual coordinator at 107th Street School in South-Central Los Angeles, who watched her students participate in the civics program, said: “I’m really surprised at the expertise they have shown regarding the issues. It’s an experience that will have a long-lasting effect on their decision to vote later on.”

David, who is a sixth-grader at Norwalk Glazier Elementary School, wrapped up his convention duties and then explained why he, like the majority of delegates, had preferred Dukakis: “I like him. He’s a nice guy. Besides, I’m a Democrat.”


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