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Atty. Gen., Treasurer Races Tight; Incumbents Lead Others

October 27, 1990|GEORGE SKELTON | TIMES SACRAMENTO BUREAU CHIEF

The races for state attorney general and treasurer are neck-and-neck and appear to be going down to the wire on Election Day, but incumbents in three other statewide contests are running comfortably ahead, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

In another race, for the new elective office of state insurance commissioner, the Democratic nominee is holding a respectable lead.

But there is a lot of fuzziness in voters' minds about these contests. Roughly four in 10 people still have not decided whom to vote for.

In the tight races for attorney general and treasurer, Democrats outnumber Republicans among the undecided by 4 to 3. This presumably represents a potential boost for the Democratic candidates. There is no similar party advantage among undecided voters in the other contests.

Basically, the standings in these races have not changed significantly since August, various Times surveys have shown.

In the latest survey, the Times poll interviewed 1,941 registered voters by telephone over six days ending last Wednesday night. The margin of error is 3 percentage points in either direction.

This is what the poll found, by contest:

Treasurer: Kathleen Brown (D) 28%, incumbent Thomas W. Hayes (R) 28%, "some other candidate" 1%, undecided 43%.

Brown, the sister and daughter of two former governors--Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. and Edmund G. (Pat) Brown--does not appear to be benefiting from any "gender gap." Women are supporting her by 7 points over Hayes, but men are backing the male incumbent by 6 points.

Actually, Brown's slight edge among women could result from party choice as well as gender bias, since women register significantly more as Democrats than they do as Republicans. Men split about evenly between the two parties.

Democrats are supporting Brown by 4 to 1, while Republicans are backing Hayes by 6 to 1. Independents are divided about evenly.

Brown, who once was an elected member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, is leading in Los Angeles County by 3 to 2. But Hayes, appointed treasurer by Gov. George Deukmejian to fill a vacancy, is ahead in the rest of Southern California, and 2 to 1 in Orange County. The candidates are virtually tied in the San Francisco Bay Area and the rest of Northern California.

Blacks are supporting Brown by 8 to 1. So are Latinos, by 3 to 2. Anglos lean a bit toward Hayes.

Union members prefer Brown by 3 to 2; management people Hayes by 3 to 2.

Attorney General: Daniel E. Lungren (R) 29%, San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith (D) 28%, "another candidate" 1%, undecided 42%.

Although both candidates support the death penalty, the Republican is preferred 4 to 3 by people who favor capital punishment. And supporters of the death penalty make up three-fourths of the electorate. The one-fifth of voters who oppose the death penalty overwhelmingly support Smith, by 3 to 1.

Republicans are backing attorney Lungren, a former congressman from Long Beach, by 6 to 1. Democrats support Smith by 4 to 1. Independents are split about evenly.

In this race, Lungren could benefit slightly from a low turnout on Election Day. Traditionally, Republicans are more apt to cast ballots than Democrats.

Smith is ahead by 3 to 2 in his home San Francisco Bay Area, but the candidates are tied in the rest of Northern California and Los Angeles County. Lungren is leading by 3 to 2 in the remainder of Southern California, and almost 2 to 1 in Orange County.

Smith is being supported 7 to 1 by blacks and 3 to 2 by Latinos. Union members back him 3 to 2.

Lieutenant Governor: Incumbent Leo McCarthy (D) 37%, state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R) 20%, "another candidate" 1%, undecided 42%.

In this contest, women voters strongly favor the male candidate, by 2 to 1. Men back him by less, 3 to 2.

In large part, this substantial female bias for McCarthy could be because women lean more toward the Democratic Party than the GOP. Democrats back McCarthy by 8 to 1. Independents support him by 3 to 1. Republicans support Bergeson by 5 to 2.

But Bergeson's anti-abortion stand also may have hurt her among women. Voters who believe that "the decision to have an abortion is a choice that must be made only by the woman herself"--and they make up 80% of the California electorate--support McCarthy by 2 to 1. The small percentage (12%) who say that "the government has a legitimate right to regulate abortion" are divided about equally between the two candidates.

McCarthy, a former state assemblyman from San Francisco, leads by nearly 4 to 1 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 2 to 1 in the rest of Northern California. The Democratic incumbent holds a 5 to 2 lead in Los Angeles County. But the candidates are running even in most of the rest of Southern California. In Bergeson's home of Orange County, she is slightly ahead.

Insurance Commissioner: State Sen. John Garamendi (D) 33%, Wes Bannister (R) 20%, "another candidate" 1%, undecided 46%.

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