L.A. 4th-Graders Prove Worthy of Questioning Brown's Politics

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although none of the students in Donna Showenkopf's fourth-grade class can vote, they are shrewd students of presidential politics.

Listen to the question that 9-year-old Maurice McRae lobbed Wednesday at Democratic presidential hopeful Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. during a campaign stop at 61st Street Elementary School in South-Central Los Angeles.

"What are you going to do to get more delegates?" Maurice asked.

An obviously flustered Brown asked his young interrogator for advice. Without missing a beat, Maurice said, "I think you should take a wee bit higher donations."

Brown limits campaign donations to $100, even though the legal limit is $1,000.

The former California governor spent the day in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, working to shore up support before the state's primary next Tuesday, in which 348 delegates are at stake.

But if he was expecting soft treatment from the children, he did not get it. Eventually, Brown won them over, but he had to work.

When asked later if he backs Brown, young Maurice said: "I don't take sides. But I think he's losing because Bill Clinton is leading in the race because he's taking larger donations, and that's why his campaign is doing better."

Clinton canceled trips to Ohio and New Jersey--which also vote Tuesday--so he can be in California for a week. He was due to arrive in Oakland early today.

"It's a better use of his time to be on the ground campaigning in California than to be spending 12 hours in an airplane," said press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

Clinton strategists said they feel confident of winning the primary, but they hope the time will pay off in the general election.

Back at the school, another student asked Brown--known for his refusal to live in the governor's mansion and for rejecting a chauffeur-driven limousine--why he didn't act more presidential. "You don't ride in a fancy car and live in a big white house . . . like Ronald Reagan," the student said.

Brown said he is running a populist campaign and noted, "We have too many fancy cars."

Then, to the students' delight, Brown resurrected an old campaign promise: "I believe every child should have a computer at his desk all day long."

Staff writer David Lauter, in New Jersey, contributed to this story.

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