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Flurry of TV Ads, Speeches Set Stage for Today’s Vote

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

The long and tempestuous primary campaign came to a frenzied close Monday, the airwaves filled with a rush of television ads and candidates scouring the state to round up any undecided or teetering voters.

Ushering in an Election Day on which only 44% of California’s voters are expected to cast ballots, front-runners and underdogs alike put on confident faces and got in a few last digs at their opponents.

Both of the candidates in the state’s headline race--the Democratic gubernatorial primary--navigated the spine of California by airplane for get-out-the-vote rallies. For Dianne Feinstein, it was time to sound magnanimous and counsel her supporters not to take victory for granted--despite a comfortable double-digit lead in the polls.

At a rev-'em-up breakfast in Culver City that preceded stops in Stockton, Tracy and San Francisco, the former San Francisco mayor expressed confidence that California’s Democrats are ready to nominate a woman.

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“They do want to have someone strong who is going to take care of them and take care of their families, and they really don’t care what kind of shell that individual comes in,” Feinstein said of voters she hopes will ultimately make her the state’s first woman governor.

For John K. Van de Kamp, the state attorney general, Monday brought one last flurry of criticisms aimed at his opponent, one last urging for voters to ignore Feinstein’s gender and “vote for the best candidate.” Van de Kamp’s hopes are riding on the notion that the polls, which show Feinstein leading him, are wrong.

“Some of the people being polled, and particularly women, might be telling the pollsters one thing and doing another,” said Van de Kamp, who campaigned Monday in San Diego, Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood and Sacramento.

Today’s election holds the potential for sweeping change in California, quite apart from the governor’s race. Proposition 111 on the ballot would raise the state’s spending limit and double the state’s gasoline tax--perhaps signaling the beginning of the end of the Proposition 13 era. Two additional propositions, 108 and 116, would sharply increase spending for rail transportation.

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Stricter ethical standards--and the potential for a raise in pay--for legislators hang in the balance with Proposition 112. The legislators’ controversial power to draw their own district lines would be altered with the passage of Proposition 118 or 119, the competing reapportionment initiatives.

And the emotional issue of crime is at the heart of Proposition 115, which promises to speed up criminal trials and make it easier for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Opponents counter that its passage would endanger the right to an abortion, which currently is guarded by the California Constitution.

All of those issues will be in the hands of fewer than half of the state’s 13 million registered voters, according to predictions by Secretary of State March Fong Eu. If she is right, the percentage of voters would be within range of the state’s worst turnout--40% in 1988. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Besides the statewide races, there are contests of interest throughout California. In Oakland, Lionel Wilson, the 13-year incumbent who made history when he was elected the city’s first black mayor, is an underdog in a contest against seven challengers.

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In Los Angeles County, 10 people are vying for the seat being given up by veteran county Supervisor Pete Schabarum--but the outcome of the election is shadowed by a federal court judge’s decision Monday that the county board discriminated against Latinos in its last reapportionment.

And in the city of Los Angeles, voters will decide whether to give council members a $25,000 raise in exchange for enforcing limits on the outside income they can receive. The measure also would give the mayor a salary boost and would establish the public financing of political campaigns.

The Democrats running for their party’s nomination for governor closed off their multimillion-dollar election efforts the same way they began them--trying to persuade voters that their brand of change is the most compelling.

Urging her supporters to rally others to vote, Feinstein said she believes that California is “on the cusp of a very real change” in improving its education system and protecting victims of crime.

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“People do want change, not for the sake of change but for the sake of leadership . . . and solving the problems,” she said.

Van de Kamp, looking tired but maintaining a public confidence as he addressed dozens of senior citizens at a luncheon in Watts, described himself as being “in a battle for the soul of our Democratic Party” against an opponent he has described as a Republican in ideology.

He read a list of those he said oppose him because of initiatives he has proposed and actions he has taken as attorney general--oil and insurance companies, chemical concerns and the National Rifle Assn.

“It isn’t hard to avoid making enemies,” he said in a swipe at Feinstein. “Just don’t do much. Campaign on generalities. Run on a smile. Run on a promise. Do that and you can still take power lunches with the Establishment and with the powerful.”

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The winner will face Republican Sen. Pete Wilson, who is assured of his party’s nomination for governor.

Like Van de Kamp and Feinstein, candidates in the state’s other races also bounced around California in search of votes--once with unintended consequences.

Arlo Smith, the San Francisco district attorney who is running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general was threatened with arrest for shaking the hands of potential voters in downtown Los Angeles.

Security guards at the Arco Tower called police on Smith, who is vying with Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner for the top law enforcement job, when Smith decided to greet office employees on their way to work.

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Representatives of the building’s owner, Japanese-based Shuwa Investments Corp., wanted no part of it and pointedly told Smith’s entourage that the sidewalk was private property.

Between handshakes, Smith called the corporation’s demands that he move “ridiculous,” but he moved on down the street.

By the time two Los Angeles Police Department cruisers arrived, the guards had decided not to press their case. And leaving, Smith decided to shake hands with three more potential voters--the cops.

Times staff writer Paul Feldman contributed to this article.

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