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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS GOVERNOR : Van de Kamp Launches New Ad Campaign


Letting loose a barrage that probably will not cease until Election Day, John K. Van de Kamp will launch a television advertising campaign today meant to reintroduce California voters to the man who has been the state's top law enforcement officer for eight years.

The advertisement hits the airwaves on the heels of the Los Angeles Times Poll, published Sunday, which showed Dianne Feinstein 13 points ahead of the attorney general in their tussle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The poll contained very little good news for Van de Kamp, showing Feinstein broadening her base of support, appealing more to men and Southern Californians than she had earlier in the race.

Van de Kamp's ad mimics a radio commercial his campaign has been running in Los Angeles and other major cities. It offers biographical information on Van de Kamp--his prosecutorial background and opposition to assault rifles. It bores in on the three initiatives that Van de Kamp has pushed as his platform and the opposition the initiatives have summoned.

"He's hated by oil companies, chemical companies, the gun lobby," the 30-second ad says. "Measure the man by the enemies he's made."

Feinstein's press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, criticized the ad as "election year hyperbole."

Van de Kamp's campaign chairwoman, Barbara Johnson, said the ad is the first in a series that will run through primary day, June 5. But representatives from the campaigns of Feinstein and Republican Pete Wilson said their research indicates the television buy may be more limited.

Regardless, voters across the state are likely to be deluged with advertisements in the closing four weeks of the campaign. Campaign sources said that Feinstein is expected to renew her television campaign next week, unless the Van de Kamp announcement forces a change in her timetable. Feinstein campaign officials declined to confirm when their television ads would resume.

Van de Kamp is attempting to sway the vast number of undecided voters--39% in the Times poll. In contrast to an earlier commercial that was critical of Feinstein's tenure as San Francisco mayor, the latest Van de Kamp offering does not even mention the opposition.

"He's resorted to the high road in desperation," said Myers.

Kam Kuwata, a Democratic political consultant who is not involved in the gubernatorial race, said the ad is meant to flesh out Van de Kamp for voters who are still uncertain what he stands for--other than opposition to Feinstein.

"One thing Van de Kamp lacks is a very strong message," Kuwata said. "Obviously, he's got to broaden his appeal and give people a reason to believe in John Van de Kamp."

Before the two candidates had exchanged ads critical of the other, Feinstein had aired a well-received commercial touting her background. With that ad, political experts said, Feinstein gave voters a look at her that Van de Kamp had, until now, neglected to deliver.

The advertisement opens with a series of pictures of Van de Kamp: the attorney general at his desk, in a press conference, running a meeting, conferring with women.

"He's defended our environment. Sent murderers to Death Row--42 times. And banned assault rifles," the ad says.

Actually, while Van de Kamp has supported environmental initiatives and was instrumental in the state ban on assault rifles, he personally did not send murderers to Death Row. That was done by his underlings during Van de Kamp's tenure as Los Angeles County district attorney.

The ad then highlights the initiatives Van de Kamp has been pushing for the November ballot. An initiative that would limit terms of officeholders and impose other ethical strictures is identified as one that would "crack down on political corruption."

The environmental initiative--called "Big Green" by its proponents--is described as one that would "save the coastline, control pesticides and reforest California."

The third initiative is an alternative to Proposition 115, a Wilson- and Feinstein-backed plan to speed up trials and make it easier for prosecutors to impose the death penalty.

Van de Kamp has opposed Proposition 115 on the grounds that it would strip Californians of privacy protections now in the state Constitution and thus pose a threat to abortion rights. Van de Kamp says his version would "preserve a woman's right to choose." Supporters of Proposition 115 angrily deny that the threat is real.

Van de Kamp had previously described his anti-crime effort as a drug-fighting initiative.

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