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ELECTIONS

In Glendale, Many Voters Overwhelmed

Campaign: With mailboxes stuffed daily and phones and doorbells ringing regularly, fatigue is rapidly setting in.

November 03, 2000|SUE FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — Almost every day, democracy is crammed anew into Jean Webster's mailbox.

It tumbles out when she unlocks the tiny metal door, handfuls of political mail clamoring for her vote.

The tally on a recent day: four mailers from Rep. James E. Rogan, the Republican fighting to hang on to his seat; two from his opponent, Democratic state Sen. Adam Schiff; three from Democratic Assembly candidate Dario Frommer; one from Assemblyman Jack Scott, a Democrat running for Schiff's state Senate seat; and two from the Republican Party.

"It's very excessive," said Webster, a middle-aged woman and registered Republican who has lived in Glendale for 35 years. "Just stuffed in my box, every bit of it political. . . . For the most part it's just repetitious."

This year, Webster's placid suburban town is at the center of a political maelstrom as a raft of well-funded candidates battle for ground in the House of Representatives and the state Senate and Assembly, not to mention the fierce race for the White House. As the campaigns barrel into the final week, people here are being bombarded every which way they turn, from overflowing mailboxes, lawn signs and TV ads to ringing phones and doorbells.

A block away from the North Glendale post office where Webster retrieves her mail, 74-year-old Gonzalo Molina marches down West Dryden Street looking for Democrats. A retired teacher who speaks five languages, which he often employs with the many immigrants he encounters here, Molina brings an almost missionary zeal to his get-out-the-vote precinct walking.

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At a gated apartment complex, Molina and his team of students, all Democratic Party volunteers, are momentarily thwarted when a muscular young man refuses to let them in.

"Are you guys here with more propaganda?" the man asks. "I don't like to be bothered, and I don't like my neighbors to be bothered."

But there are at least five apartments behind that steely gate occupied by registered Democrats, according to voter lists, and Molina's got a message for them.

He buzzes each apartment from the intercom posted out front. When a woman leaves the building, he grabs the gate before it closes and hustles his fellow Democrats inside. "Nothing to be scared of," he says firmly. "Not if you're polite and you have conviction about what you're doing."

But among many residents in this contested city, a sort of voter fatigue has set in. Some appreciate all the attention and dutifully save each political flier, but others complain of waves of junk mail from candidates and dinner hours interrupted by campaign telephone calls. Even people who are not U.S. citizens and therefore can't vote say they are getting political mail. And registered voters are being hit from all sides.

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Dave French, a 39-year-old accountant, said he simply throws away the three to five political mailers he gets each day.

"It's just a waste of paper," said French, a registered Republican who said he probably will vote for Rogan and presidential candidate George W. Bush. "I'll be happy when this stuff's over. Every night on TV, it's the same thing."

French lives in a hotly contested precinct west of Brand Boulevard and north of Glenoaks Boulevard, a microcosm of the shifting terrain of Rogan's 27th Congressional District. Once a bastion of white conservatism, a large influx of Asian, Latino and Armenian immigrants has loosened the Republican grip here.

The leafy neighborhood, a mix of single-family homes and small apartment buildings, still retains a Republican edge in voter registration, 40% to 36%. But the makeup of the district as a whole tilts the other way, 44% Democratic to 37% Republican.

To win reelection, Rogan is trying to shore up his Republican base while nabbing votes from Democrats and independents. His race is one of the nation's most expensive House contests, with the candidates expected to spend more than $10 million by election day, plus another $2.5 million in unregulated "soft" money.

All the cash being lavished on the area has left the following none-too-enthusiastic impressions, gathered during an informal survey of voters at the local Ralphs supermarket:

* "I'm getting a lot of phone calls. They're driving me crazy," said Melinda Irie, 31, a Republican and the busy mother of a newborn girl. "I usually hang up before they have much of a chance to say anything."

* "I've never been less excited in all my life for an election," complained 80-year-old Republican Everett Boone. "They're all a bunch of nincompoops."

* And from an elderly Democrat who identified herself only as Natalie: "We're inundated. You should see all that mail. Scott and Rogan and the other one. It's too much. Nobody even reads it."

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