CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS STATE SENATE, ASSEMBLY DISTRICTS : Hugs, Handshakes: Is This Politic?

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

At a time when professional managers run political campaigns dominated by attacks and accusations, two Democratic candidates seeking a state Senate seat in Anaheim are running a race of friendly thoughts and common goals.

Before the election season began, Democrats John J. Duran and Evelyn Colon Becktell got together and agreed not only to keep their campaigns positive but also to avoid competing for endorsements that would divide their party.

"Evelyn and I have been asked to speak to Democratic groups around the county, and when we go, we greet each other with a handshake and a hug," Duran said. "We are not willing to drag each other through the mud. That has been our friendly agreement.

"We keep kidding each other that we should car-pool, that's how friendly it's been."

Duran, 30, a civil rights attorney from Santa Ana, and Becktell, 52, a senior center coordinator in Santa Ana, are seeking their party's nomination in the June 5 primary to challenge four-term state Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) in the 32nd state Senate District. Royce is running unopposed in the primary.

Duran, an activist in the homosexual community, said he has found himself in the unusual position of being the most conservative of the two because of his support for the death penalty, almost the only issue on which the two disagree.

"It's an interesting twist to have me be the moderate Democrat," he said. "But it's the biggest issue that separates Evelyn and me."

Becktell said she is running largely because Royce has not adequately addressed such issues as homelessness and family planning.

"I don't personally know Ed Royce; he's probably a very fine person," she said. "However, I just don't think he's very vocal for our community in Sacramento."

The 32nd Senate District, represented by Royce since 1982, includes the cities of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Stanton, Fullerton and La Habra. Republicans have an edge in registered voters of about 48% to 43%, even though it includes some of Orange County's most Democratic territories.

Meanwhile, two Democrats are seeking their party's nomination to challenge Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress).

Allen has represented the 71st Assembly District, which encompasses Los Alamitos, Cypress, Buena Park and parts of Anaheim and Garden Grove, for eight years. The district also has a Republican edge in voter registration of about 49% to 41%.

Most recently, Allen has championed an initiative that would ban gill-net fishing off California's coast because of its threat to dolphins and other marine mammals. Officials are reviewing about 1 million signatures that were submitted recently to qualify the proposal for the November ballot.

Of the two Democrats seeking to challenge Allen, one is in support of her initiative and the other is undecided.

"I think it's an environmental issue and a humanitarian issue as well," Peter Mathews, one of the candidates, said.

Mathews, 38, a state government professor in Cypress, is running against La Palma City Councilman Richard Polis, 48, for the Democratic nomination.

Once again, the only major issue that separates the two is their disagreement the death penalty. Mathews is opposed to it and Polis favors it. On other issues, they largely share similar views. Both support abortion-rights laws and Proposition 111, the proposed 9-cent gasoline tax increase for transportation improvements.

Allen opposes abortion, favors the death penalty and has not taken a position on Proposition 111.

Both Democrats said they decided to run for the office because Allen has failed to represent the interests of her district. They said the gill-net initiative is an example of how her efforts are focused outside of the district.

"We've got problems in our schools--kids that are not going beyond high school and can't find jobs," Polis said. "I'm more worried about our kids than . . . fish."

"It's been a hard fight and it's an important one," Allen said of her initiative. "I can't imagine anybody who has looked at this being against it."

Mathews said, "I feel like Doris Allen has not provided the leadership. . . . I would say that an Assembly person has to be a leader."

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