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State GOP Gathers to Boost Election Bids

Politics: Wilson insists Dole will wage serious campaign in California despite Clinton's lead.


ANAHEIM — Fresh from their national convention last month in San Diego, California Republicans gather here today to build momentum for their national ticket even as they work to overcome undercurrents of discord and concern over Bob Dole's presidential campaign.

Gov. Pete Wilson and Ken Khachigian, Dole's California strategist, tried Friday to counter a series of bad news reports about Dole's campaign this week. They insisted that the GOP candidate will wage a serious campaign to win California even though a recent poll gave President Clinton a commanding lead in the state.

"There's almost a disinformation campaign . . . by Democratic consultants to try to persuade the world that the Dole campaign already has left California," Wilson said. "It's just not true. If they wish to console themselves with that, fine. There is nothing that I prefer [more] than an opponent who misleads himself."

Meanwhile, Republican leaders also pointed their members to other election day issues.

They trumpeted today's scheduled announcement that a "top Republican woman" is endorsing Proposition 209, the ballot initiative to end affirmative action programs in government. The woman was later identified as Orange County Supervisor Marian Bergeson, a former state senator and unsuccessful GOP candidate for lieutenant governor.

Wilson and others also called attention to the battle for California's Republican candidates in Congress and Legislature.

Wilson said one ally in his effort to keep the Dole campaign active in California is House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The governor also predicted that Gingrich will spend heavily on Republican congressional campaigns in California.

About 1,000 party members were expected to attend formal convention sessions today and Sunday, but early registration figures indicated that there might not be enough voting delegates on hand to constitute a quorum. However, that was not viewed as a major problem. There is no pressing official business for the convention to handle.

This meeting is mandated under party bylaws even though it comes just three weeks after the national nominating convention down the road in San Diego. Thus, the gathering has been viewed all along as primarily a pep rally to energize GOP troops going into the fall campaign.

The "smart ones," said one party source, are not coming to Anaheim, but remaining in their home districts this weekend to campaign among voters on behalf of the Dole-Kemp ticket and GOP candidates for the House and the state Legislature.

But the convention also provides the opportunity for mischief on the part of conservatives who dominate the California party structure and who are irked at Wilson for leading the fight of abortion rights advocates in San Diego.

Jon Fleischman of Irvine, a conservative activist who has sparred with Wilson in the past, expected a quiet convention.

"The focus is winning in November," said Fleischman, who is president of the California Republican Assembly, an organization of conservative stalwarts.

"Wilson is a lame duck," he added. "It would be different if he was running for senator or something."

If that were the case, Fleischman indicated, conservatives might seek to embarrass the governor or undermine his support in order to boost the relative fortunes of potential Wilson opponents in a future state GOP primary campaign.

Wilson is scheduled to address a fund-raising luncheon today but is not on the program to speak during any of the formal convention sessions.

And the delegates were not to hear from Dole or running mate Jack Kemp, either in person, by telephone or video, as is sometimes arranged for state party conventions. The featured address at tonight's banquet will be delivered by a Dole surrogate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, a declared candidate to succeed Wilson as governor in 1998, will be the major speaker at Sunday's session.

Times staff writers Dan Morain in Sacramento and Peter Warren in Orange County contributed to the story.

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