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Anti-Gay Remark by Ferguson Stirs Up Controversy : Politics: Candidate for state 31st District Senate seat says he did not know the term was offensive. Tuesday's special election is predicted to be close.

February 04, 1990|DAVE LESHER and ROSE ELLEN O'CONNOR | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Polls have shown that the public is receptive to such a message in the wake of a series of corruption scandals, including an FBI investigation in Sacramento that resulted in the conviction Friday of state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) on seven counts of extortion, racketeering and money laundering.

Hill has been most heavily attacked because he is still a target in that same FBI investigation. But Ferguson complained that "they tar the brush over and it gets on my name, too."

Abortion may also play a significant role in the outcome Tuesday.

The pro-choice movement, which was a major factor in two recent legislative races, has been working on behalf of Isles, the only pro-choice Republican in the race. Pro-choice groups from Orange and Los Angeles counties endorsed Isles, believing that a Democratic victory is unlikely in the 31st District.

As a result, Isles is using the same formula that Assemblywoman Tricia Hunter (R-San Marcos) employed in her victory last October by appealing to Democratic voters to cross party lines and cast their votes on the single issue of abortion.

"In a low turnout race, a candidate who is pro-abortion and Republican . . . can pick up enough Democratic votes on that single issue . . . to tip the scales," said Ferguson. "The potential is strong" for a repeat of the Hunter race, he said.

Since the candidates are relying almost entirely on direct mail, the campaign has been almost invisible, making it harder to predict the outcome.

Sources said a poll done recently by state Republicans found the four GOP candidates bunched in a tight pack, with Isles and Miller holding a slight edge over Ferguson and Hill. However, the poll also showed there was a large bloc of undecided voters, sources said.

There are three Democrats in the race and one American Independent Party candidate.

The Democrats are Graham, of Laguna Hills; Bradley John McFadden, of West Covina, and Thomas M. Whaling, of El Toro. The American Independent candidate, who will represent his party in the runoff if no one gets more than 50% of the vote Tuesday, is Robert Lewis, of Rowland Heights.

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