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Senate Runoff Hinges on Who Corrals Most Voters in Election Day Roundup

May 10, 1987|STEVEN R. CHURM and MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writers

Long before the polls open Tuesday, the Republicans and Democrats plan to send scores of campaign workers into the darkness in a final drive to win the 33rd state Senate District seat.

Attaching voting reminders to doorknobs and on mailboxes in the pre-dawn hours is only one thrust of the election day offensive both camps have mapped out in hopes of capturing the high-stakes runoff between two-term Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk) and Democrat Cecil N. Green, a Norwalk city councilman.

In a race regarded as a tossup, both sides agree that the outcome hinges on who does a better job of getting voters to the polls. As a result, each campaign says it hopes to mobilize an election day army of 1,000 workers--some paid as much as $8 an hour to walk precincts or telephone voters--to round up carefully targeted registered voters and get them to the polls.

Both sides predict that the turnout among the district's 275,267 voters may top 30%. Only 20% of the voters in the two-county district cast ballots in the March 17 primary, when Green surprised Grisham by outpolling the Republican lawmaker. However, the 63-year-old Green failed to win an outright majority, prompting the runoff with Grisham, 64, and two minor party candidates: Libertarian Lee Connelly, 34, and Ed Evans, 39, a Peace and Freedom Party member.

They are seeking to fill the unexpired term of former Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Cypress), who left office in January after he won a seat on the state Board of Equalization. The winner will be required to run for reelection next year.

The polls will be open Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Foes Continue to Spar

In the final week of the campaign, Green and Grisham continued to spar over one of the few issues to emerge in this costly campaign--education and how to fund it. Green, who has been endorsed by the California Teacher's Assn., accused Grisham of "flip-flopping" on Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed program cuts for gifted, minority and handicapped students. Grisham had supported the education cuts, but recently said he will side with Democrats and vote to restore the programs, even if it means opposing the governor.

In response to Green's charge of "flip-floping," Grisham told a group of Downey school administrators and parents: "I'm simply listening to what you want. You want those programs and by gosh we're going to fight to keep them."

Green, a real estate development consultant, opposes the program cuts and contends that the Legislature should dip into the state's $1-billion surplus to build new classrooms and hire more teachers.

To undercut Green's support, the Republicans late last week hammered away at his previously publicized travel expenses as a councilman. A Times survey in 1985 showed that the Norwalk council members, including Green, who was mayor at the time, spent $87,019 for travel and meetings in fiscal 1984-85, nearly 2 1/2 times that of any similar-sized city in Southeast Los Angeles County.

At a Sacramento press conference, Senate Republican Leader James W. Nielsen of Rohnert Park said that Green and his wife, Mary, accepted a trip in May, 1984, to a conference in the Washington, D.C., area sponsored by group with ties to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

According to records at Norwalk City Hall, Green never reported the trip as a gift. By state law, a councilman must report any gift over $50. Green acknowledges that organizers of the anti-communist seminar, CAUSA, paid for the couple's flight and accommodations. But he said he did not realize he had to report it.

"The trip is typical of Green's abuse of his office," said Steve Presson, a consultant for Grisham's campaign, which is targeting Green's travel in some of its mailers.

Green denied the charge, saying such trips helped him become a more effective leader.

Last-Minute Mailers

To win last-minute converts, both camps have filled district mailboxes with literature.

In a district with an aging population, the Democrats hoped to score points for Green with an endorsement from Rep. Claude Pepper, the Flordia Democrat who has long been considered the nation's leading champion of the rights of older people.

And Grisham was expected to send a letter from President Reagan urging Republican voters to support the former real estate broker.

But in the end, most experts believe, it will come down to the election day push.

During a special election, Grisham said, the type of mail a candidate sends, what he says or even how much he spends sometimes is not as important as "who gets who to the polls."

Larry Sheingold, Green's Sacramento-based campaign consultant, agreed: "Just like the primary, the team that does a better job of getting its voters to the ballot box wins. There is no mystery to this . . . . "

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