Cohen, Dills Both See Poll as Good News

TIMES STAFF WRITER

POLL PUNDITRY: Attorney David Barrett Cohen's campaign was crowing this week about a new poll that shows he's within eight percentage points of state Sen. Ralph C. Dills(D-El Segundo).

But politics is a game of expectations, and Dills' campaign says their man is thrilled as well.

The poll, commissioned by the Cohen campaign, showed 29% of the voters would select Dills, 21% would pick Cohen and 42% were undecided. The survey of 350 registered voters in the 28th Senate District has a 4% margin of error.

"It shows that whatever support Dills does have is very soft," said Cohen, who lives in Redondo Beach. "He is tremendously vulnerable."

Another poll figure--of voters considered most likely to make it to the polls--shows Cohen within two points of Dills. Dills got 28%, Cohen 26%; 42% were undecided.

"I haven't even sent out my first piece of mail yet," Cohen said. "People are giving me the benefit of the doubt."

Dills' campaign coordinator, Tim Mock, didn't comment on the survey of the most likely voters. But he was encouraged by the 29%-21% spread.

"That's good news for us," he said. "We're eight points ahead."

He expects the gap to widen once Dills steps up his campaign. Although the 84-year-old incumbent has a legal and judicial career dating back to 1938, reapportionment carved up his old Gardena-area district. His district now covers new territory of Torrance, the beach cities and Marina del Rey.

"I think we're going to win by substantially higher margins," Mock said.

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BY THE NUMBERS: Republicans hope a backlash against Democratic leadership helps Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks defeat Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills).

But registration in the 36th Congressional District so far has not changed much since 1992, when Harman defeated Republican Joan Milke Flores. As of Sept. 8, 42.6% of the voters were registered Democrats and 42.4% Republicans. The deadline to register is Oct. 11.

Democrats also have widened their registration leads in two Assembly districts where registration was almost evenly split two years ago. In the 54th Assembly District, Democrats account for 45.9% of the registered voters, Republicans 40.8%. Incumbent Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) is facing Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Steve Kuykendall in that district.

In the 53rd Assembly District, 43.3% of the voters are registered Democrats and 40.9% Republicans. There, first-term Assemblywoman Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) faces insurance agent Julian Sirull.

Based on past trends, political analysts say, Republicans are more likely to go to the polls, which means their party still can enjoy an edge in districts where they are slightly outnumbered.

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THEY MEET, AT LAST: For politicos, Sunday is the day for their candidates to shine--or say something stupid.

Candidates in three races will meet at a League of Women Voters Forum at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. Among the faceoffs: Bowen and Sirull at 1 p.m.; Dills and Cohen at 2 p.m.; and Brooks and Harman at 3 p.m.

The candidates won't be debating one-on-one. Instead, audience members will be able to submit questions to a moderator, who will choose which ones to pose to the candidates.

The event's other sponsors are the American Assn. of University Women, Torrance Branch, and the Torrance Council of PTAs.

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