Clinton heads for Oregon to forestall any surprises

GERMOND & WITCOVER

May 16, 1992|By GERMOND & WITCOVER

LOS ANGELES -- Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton is continuing to shuttle between California and Oregon out of respect for Oregon's reputation for political upsets. Although polls indicate that he is comfortably ahead of Jerry Brown for Tuesday's primary, the Clinton campaign is not taking it for granted.

Clinton is spending more in Oregon for television advertising than has been spent since he beat Brown in Pennsylvania. Brown, also aware of Oregon's penchant for surprises and of its standing as one of the nation's strongest environmentalist states, has been campaigning diligently there as well. In 1976, he beat Jimmy Carter in Oregon on a write-in vote.

The state is perhaps best known in presidential politics for its upset choice of Eugene McCarthy over Robert Kennedy in 1968, the first time any Kennedy lost an election. Four years earlier, the state's Republicans pulled another surprise in voting for Nelson Rockefeller over Barry Goldwater. Rockefeller used the slogan "He Cared Enough to Come" against the absent Goldwater, and it worked -- a lesson Clinton obviously has not overlooked.

Clinton campaign chairman Mickey Kantor says his candidate is also paying attention to Oregon because it is a state Clinton can win in November, provided the voters get an up-close look at him. Polls have shown Clinton to be weakest in the Far West, where he has campaigned little, focusing on primaries elsewhere

Another Hill-Thomas upset?

In the primaries in California for the last two years of the Senate term left unfinished when Pete Wilson won the governorship in 1990, Republican Sen. John Seymour and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco, appear headed for comfortable victories.

But the contests for the full six-year term also at stake are another story.

The California Poll by veteran pollster Mervin Field just out

showsReps. Barbara Boxer and Mel Levine both closing fast on Lt.Gov. Leo McCarthy in the Democratic race. McCarthy, who was comfortably ahead in every Field survey since September, now leads Boxer only slightly, 33 percent to 30, with Levine, who was in single digits until now, with 20.

Boxer has just begun airing television commercials featuring a photo of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas confrontation in last year's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, obviously aimed at the women's vote. The tactic is not surprising, considering the success female Senate candidates have already had this year with it in Democratic primaries in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

One of Boxer's main problems is the 143 check overdrafts reported against her in the House bank. Levine had no account in that bank, but he has plenty of campaign money -- a reported $4 million -- and has begun running ads of his own, one of them charging the Los Angeles riots on "a failure of political leadership." Levine's strategy of running a low-profile campaign

and then coming on strong on television in the end is reflected in his climb in the Field poll.

In the Republican primary for the full six-year term for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, moderate Rep. Tom Campbell and conservative television commentator Bruce Herschensohn are in a virtual tie with Campbell a shade ahead, 31 percent to 29 percent.

The best news in all this is for the Democratic Party. Each of the three Democrats is running ahead of each of the two Republicans in head-to-head matchups for the six-year seat.

King-Gates fallout

One City Charter amendment on the June 2 ballot in Los Angeles that was already favored to carry has gotten an enormous boost from the violent aftermath of the Los Angeles riots. The product of a special commission appointed after the Rodney King arrest, it calls for major reform in the office of police chief.

Daryl Gates, the beleaguered incumbent, has civil service protection, and this amendment would remove it, as well as limiting future chiefs to two five-year terms. Gates himself is oexpected to resign shortly, but his questionable conduct during and after the riots is credited with assuring voter approval. A poll just out in the Los Angeles Times indicated support of 61 percent of those surveyed, to only 17 percent against, with a disapproval rate of Gates himself of 81 percent.

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