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Feuer Leads in Contentious Race for City Attorney

Times poll finds 20% of likely voters back the councilman, with Delgadillo and D'Agostino not far behind. Councilwoman Chick leads opponents for city controller.

April 03, 2001|JEAN MERL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

City Councilman Mike Feuer holds a slight lead in the still-fluid race for Los Angeles city attorney, while Councilwoman Laura Chick is running well ahead of her competitors for city controller, a Los Angeles Times poll has found.

Feuer was the choice of 20% of likely voters polled with just over a week to go before the April 10 election, while 15% of respondents backed Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo. Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino followed with 12%, and Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank Tavelman got 3%.

But half of the likely voters said they still hadn't made up their minds about the race to replace James K. Hahn, who is barred by term limits law from reelection and is running for mayor.

"It's basically a wide-open race," said Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus.

Given the unusually high percentage of undecided voters, and the narrow divisions among those who have settled on a candidate, Pinkus added that it is unlikely that the contest will be settled next Tuesday. If no candidate wins a majority then, the top two vote-getters compete in a June 5 runoff.

The poll was conducted by telephone from Wednesday through Sunday, just as Feuer and Delgadillo were launching television ads throughout the area. It has a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points in either direction.

Feuer and Delgadillo each expects to spend more than $1 million on the race, and Delgadillo's campaign has received some outside help as well.

A large outdoor advertising firm--one of several that have clashed with Feuer over his efforts to tighten billboard regulations--has put up about 100 "Rocky Delgadillo for City Attorney" billboards across the city. And Mayor Richard Riordan, whose economic development efforts Delgadillo heads, has said he will include his aide on a slate mailer is he sending to likely voters.

Such efforts could be crucial in a contest with such a high proportion of undecided voters.

Among those who expressed a preference, Feuer led the other candidates in the main geographic divisions of the city. His support was strongest on the Westside, his political base, and somewhat weaker in the southern part of the city.

D'Agostino surpassed the others among Latinos: She polled 25% while Feuer got 18%, and Delgadillo--a Latino raised on the Eastside--got 17% and Tavelman 4%.

However, the Delgadillo campaign on Monday began running commercials on Spanish-language television stations, which should help boost his visibility among Spanish-speaking voters.

Feuer also did better than Delgadillo among whites (21% to 15%) and slightly better among blacks (19% to 16%).

The poll found there is something of a gender gap in the race--women favored Feuer over Delgadillo 21% to 11%, while men split their preferences between the candidates. Just 8% of women supported D'Agostino, the only woman in the race. D'Agostino, however, was expected to target women voters, beginning with a news conference today touting her endorsements from former Rep. Bobbi Fiedler, attorney Gloria Allred and Mitzi Grasso, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

Feuer's supporters are less likely than Delgadillo's to switch candidates, the poll found: Two-thirds of those who said they will vote for Feuer said they are certain of their choice, while half of Delgadillo supporters said they could change their minds by election day.

In the low-profile race for city controller--in essence, the city's bookkeeper and fiscal watchdog--37% of poll respondents said they favor Councilwoman Chick over business executive Laurette Healey and financial consultant Mervin Evans, each with 11%, according to the poll. Forty-one percent were undecided.

Chick leads also among all the city's ethnic groups, geographic areas and political divides, Poll Director Pinkus noted.

"Chick is a known entity, and she is doing very well all around," Pinkus said.

While Healey is strongly backed by the popular and well-heeled Riordan, his support "has not gotten her very far," Pinkus added. (The mayor's slate mailer, which was to include Healey, had not yet gone to voters when the poll was conducted.)

Chick has raised close to $500,000 to Healey's $92,000, and therefore has a better opportunity to get her message to voters. (Evans has said he does not intend to raise money for the primary election.)

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Associate Times poll director Jill Darling Richardson contributed to this story.

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