Michael S. Dukakis’ choice of Cerritos Community College to make a campaign speech Monday was no accident. The area, which includes the young city of Cerritos and the older cities of Downey and Norwalk, is now a major focus of the Democratic presidential nominee and of Republican nominee George Bush in Los Angeles County.
“This is the battleground now for the Reagan Democrats,” said Jim Wisely, a Democratic expert on demographics and voting trends.
Interviews in this southeastern Los Angeles County area before Dukakis arrived found a mix of support for both men, with older residents leaning toward Dukakis and younger ones toward Bush.
‘Quayle Tipped It for Me’
“I think I’m going to vote for Dukakis,” said Marshall South, 63. “Bush seems to be OK, but (Republican vice presidential nominee Dan) Quayle tipped it for me. I’d rather have (Democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd) Bentsen in there in case something happens.”
Two blocks away in the neighborhood of neat, modest houses, Andrea Estrin, 26, was carving a jack-o'-lantern for her son Darin.
“Bush,” Estrin answered when asked how she planned to vote next Tuesday.
“I like the way things are now,” she added. “I don’t want a lot of upheaval in there.”
Cerritos was the fastest growing city in California in the 1970s, according to the 1980 U.S. Census. Its residents tend to be younger.
Downey and Norwalk, on the other hand, are among Los Angeles’ earliest suburbs and contain a lot of voters in their late 50s and early 60s, according to Wisely.
Wisely, who canvassed the area recently, said: “The way it’s breaking for Dukakis seems to be that he’s picking up a lot of older Democrats, folks who voted for Reagan but never strayed far into the Bush column if they strayed at all.”
But what about younger Reagan Democrats?
“Don’t ask,” Wisely said. “I’m partisan, of course, and it’s dismaying, but they seem to lean Bush. The only presidents they have known are (Jimmy) Carter and (Ronald) Reagan, and a lot of them have gotten entry-level jobs while Reagan is President. So you can see how they’re thinking.”
Los Angeles County went for President Reagan in 1984 by a margin of 256,000 votes.
But, in 1986, Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston won it by 215,000 votes by attracting voters like Manny Rosales, 66, who was sitting in his front yard minding his granddaughter Monday as the Dukakis rally at Cerritos College broke up.
Rosales is still making up his mind.
“There’s a choice,” he said. “On the one hand, Mr. Bush has lots of experience. But then I think you could argue that we need a change now. So I don’t know.”