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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / U.S. SENATE : GOP Leaders Host Feinstein, Hail Her as Strong Advocate


VENTURA — Sen. Dianne Feinstein enjoyed the gratitude Friday of some Republican hosts who said she deserves credit for being a strong California advocate in the Senate.

Friday morning, Feinstein was about 10 miles south of the congressional district represented by her Republican opponent, Rep. Mike Huffington (R-Santa Barbara). She took a boat tour of a harbor entrance in Ventura where she and the local Republican congressman worked to secure federal funding for improvements.

Feinstein later flew to California's GOP heartland, Orange County, for a fund-raiser that drew about 500 people.

Kathryn Thompson, a prominent GOP contributor and local developer, introduced Feinstein at the event by warning voters to study the candidates and not make decisions based on television commercials.

"We must demand that this Senate race be run on the record, not the rhetoric," she said at the Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach. "If we apply that standard, there is only one conclusion we can make: We must elect Dianne Feinstein."

After the lunch, Feinstein joined Republican luminary Peter V. Ueberroth to tour a pharmaceutical company that has benefited from tax credits she supported to spur research investment. Company officials at Allergan said they have hired about 35 researchers with the savings from the tax break.

In the evening, Ueberroth also hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Feinstein that raised about $100,000.

"I think this is the most unknown part of Dianne Feinstein: Republican or Democrat, if you are living in California, she will go to bat for you," said Ueberroth, the former commissioner of baseball and head of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. "All of the other Republican leaders who have joined in supporting her, what they are pleased about is that California has an advocate."

Friday was not the first time that Feinstein has been invited into enemy territory for accolades.

A group of prominent Republican farmers and ranchers headed by John Harris hosted a fund-raiser for the senator last month near Coalinga. Sherman Block, the Republican sheriff of Los Angeles County, has also worked for her campaign. And, in Huffington's congressional district, prominent GOP contributor Barney Klinger held a fund-raiser in August for Feinstein at his Santa Barbara home.

The support of prominent Republican leaders, however, has not translated into a shift of GOP voters to Feinstein, according to polls. A survey published by The Times on Friday found Feinstein supported by 23% of registered Republicans while Huffington was backed by 22% of the state's Democrats.

Overall, Feinstein was leading Huffington in the poll by seven points among the voters considered most likely to cast ballots Nov. 8.

Huffington campaign officials Friday were critical of the Republicans who have broken ranks and backed Feinstein. But they also said the GOP support Feinstein has received was not going to be significant in the outcome of the race.

"If Ueberroth is a Republican, then Beavis and Butt-Head are Rhodes scholars," said Huffington spokeswoman Jennifer Grossman. "She's fine to pick off a couple of wishy-washy Republicans because we're going after Reagan Democrats, and they'll provide us our edge."

In Ventura, Feinstein was joined by Rep. Elton Gallegly for a shipside news conference about the $6 million federal funding they acquired to improve the harbor entrance. With the improvements, the area is expected to generate more fishing and shipping activity, creating jobs, the officials said.

Gallegly said he is not supporting Feinstein, but he has also declined to endorse Huffington.

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