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Appeal Draws Voters to Key Senate Contest

May 13, 1987|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

Even before the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, hundreds of volunteers scurried through the suburban streets of the 33rd state Senate District to hang reminders on the doors of prospective voters to urge them to support either Democrat Cecil N. Green or Republican Wayne Grisham.

By mid-afternoon, their appeal seemed to be paying off. Election officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties said turnout in the special election for the key Senate seat appeared to be running higher than it had in the March 17 primary. In that election, about 20% of the registered voters cast ballots.

At 3 p.m., Los Angeles County election officials reported that 17% of the voters already had turned out, while in Orange County the turnout was estimated at 15%. The district, located in southeastern Los Angeles County and northwest Orange County, includes such cities as Norwalk, Cerritos, Downey, Cypress and Los Alamitos.

As part of the large get-out-the-vote effort, the Green and Grisham campaigns each chartered planes to bring volunteers from Sacramento. Many of the campaign workers took the day off from jobs in the Capitol, where the state Assembly canceled most hearings. Both campaigns also mobilized fleets of vans to shuttle voters to the polls.

The big Election Day push was yet another sign of the importance attached to the contest, which both parties were treating as the opening round in the fight over reapportionment that will take place after the 1990 election. The highly partisan redrawing of legislative and congressional district boundaries takes place every 10 years.

Democrats pinned their hopes on Green, 63, a former Republican who is a veteran of the Norwalk City Council and campaigned as a friend of labor and an opponent of Gov. George Deukmejian. Republicans counted on Grisham, 64, a former congressman who is now a state assemblyman. Grisham portrayed himself as a supporter of Deukmejian, but in recent weeks opposed the governor on such issues as the governor's plan to abolish the state worker-safety program (Cal-OSHA) and the administration's proposed $300-million budget cut in the Medi-Cal program.

When the final accounts are tallied, the campaign will rank as one of the state's costliest legislative elections ever. The record is the $3.3 million spent in 1982 by Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and his Republican opponent.

On the eve of the election, Grisham and Green reported raising a total of nearly $2.5 million in campaign contributions, most of it spent on direct-mail campaign literature. Green reported raising more than Grisham, who said that last week he was forced to dip into his own pocket for $5,500 to pay the postage for his final mailer.

Senate Republicans hoped to pick up the 33rd District seat as a first step toward taking control of the Senate in 1990, and ensuring themselves a say in the reapportionment for the 1990s. Democrats now outnumber Republicans 23 to 15 in the upper house, with one seat held by an independent and the 33rd District seat vacant.

Governor Gets Active

With such high stakes, Deukmejian, in a rare display of campaign enthusiasm, turned into Grisham's No. 1 booster. The governor made four appearances on Grisham's behalf, raised money for the GOP candidate and promoted his candidacy in several mailers. Meanwhile, such Democratic heavyweights as U.S. Sen. Alan Crantson (D-Calif.) stumped on Green's behalf.

The contest has also turned into a test of the leadership of state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) and Senate Republican Leader James W. Nielsen of Rohnert Park. The outcome of the election could determine if they will stay in their leadership positions.

Registered Democrats

In the 33rd District, Democrats outnumber Republicans 54% to 38%, but voters have been increasingly willing to support GOP candidates. Until last January, it was represented by Cypress Democrat Paul Carpenter, who was elected to the state Board of Equalization.

In an eight-candidate primary to succeed Carpenter on March 17, Grisham was considered the front-runner, but he finished second to Green, who took 48% of the vote to Grisham's 43.6%. A runoff was required because neither candidate received a majority of the votes.

Also on Tuesday's ballot were Peace & Freedom Party candidate Ed Evans and Libertarian Lee Connelly, neither of whom had the money to mount more than a minimal campaign.

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