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CAMPAIGN TALK

A weekly window on the California elections.

INTELLLIGENCE

Gunslingers: For months speculation swirled. How dirty will the Democratic race for governor get? How nasty will the commercials be? In truth, though, the great preponderance of television commercials so far have been more or less “positive,” certainly nothing like the mudslinging seen in Texas earlier this year. Dianne Feinstein and John K. Van de Kamp are now on the air with harmless “bio” spots to build up their own positive images. But their hired-gun consultants have gathered in town, and there is again a feeling of anticipation--if the race is going into the mud, it will happen soon. Van de Kamp has said he will not rule out “comparative ads,” the euphemism for attack commercials. A Feinstein spokeswoman said, “The stakes are high. We expect people will do whatever it takes to win.”

Looking ahead: There are two weeks left to request absentee ballots for the June 5 elections, but already there are indications California will set new records for voting at home. The secretary of state’s office reports that almost 1 in 10 registered voters in San Francisco--40,000 of 401,000--have already applied for absentee ballots. If that trend continues, voting from home will certainly exceed the 9.5% rate of 1988. “I fully expect to see a record for a primary election,” says elections chief Caren Daniels-Meade.

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At least three groups, and probably more, are known to be organizing absentee vote drives--the National Rifle Assn., the California Democratic Party and a coalition sponsoring two voter initiatives to curb legislative control of reapportionment.

Can you spare a dime?: State attorney general candidate Ira Reiner held his recent $500-a-plate spring campaign fund-raiser at the snazzy Century Plaza Tower. The affair was emceed by a certified TV celebrity, Mary Hart, host of “Entertainment Tonight.” San Francisco’s Arlo Smith, Reiner’s Democratic primary opponent, is a long way from Hollywood. He held his $250-a-person fund-raiser this week at a San Francisco function hall called Bimbo’s 365 Club. The emcee was Smith’s campaign lawyer.

SOUNDINGS

A pitch for money to road-builders, from the campaign for Proposition 111, which would raise gas taxes and give a good chunk of the dollars to roads:

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“For example, if you currently receive $500,000 in contracts from Caltrans, $5,000 does not seem an unreasonable investment to help preserve and strengthen that contract and provide the opportunity to bid on future contracts.”

Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), referring to abortion rights:

“What women want is absolute certainty and security on this issue.”

Campaign for Merle Woo, socialist feminist candidate for governor in the Peace & Freedom Party primary:

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“The Democrats and Republicans are inextricably tied to big business and so will never fully address the needs of working and oppressed people.”

WORDWATCH

“More people watched the L.A. Dodgers. And the Dodgers weren’t on TV."--Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp on the low ratings for Sunday’s televised debate with Dianne Feinstein.

“More people watched the San Diego Padres’ game that night than watched us. And they weren’t even playing.”

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--Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp, localizing his remarks in San Diego.

Actually, the Dodgers were rained out in New York. The Padres played before about 16,000 fans.

EXIT LINE

“If Abraham Lincoln had a political consultant, he never would have freed the slaves.”

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--Steve Thompson, director of the Assembly Office of Research, quoted in the San Francisco Examiner.

COMPARING THE POLLS

Two leading state polls have been asking Californians who they will vote for in the Democratic primary for governor. But the pollster are getting very different answer, which is confounding pollsters from both camps. The San Francisco-based California Poll and the Los Angeles Times Poll do agree on one important point: A lot of voters remain undecided. California Poll Dianne Feinstein: 39% John Van de Kamp: 36% Someone else: 1% No opinion: 24% LA Times Poll Dianne Feinstein: 37% John Van de Kamp: 24% Someone else: 1% No opinion: 39% Note: The California Poll was conducted May 1-8, among 631 registered Democrats and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The LA Times Poll was conducted April 28- May 3, among 792 registered Democrats with a margin of error of 5 points.


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