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Voters Cool Toward State Bond Package

Public works initiatives spark little enthusiasm. Democrats Feinstein, Brown hold wide leads.

September 30, 2006|Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writer

A $37-billion package of public works bonds that has strong bipartisan support in Sacramento is in some peril among voters, along with ballot measures dealing with alternative energy and a cigarette tax, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll.

The vast majority of likely voters knew too little about the infrastructure bonds -- backed by both Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators -- to express an opinion.

After poll respondents were read a ballot summary of each measure, none of the items generated much enthusiasm. Only two eked out a bare majority: those on housing and disaster preparedness.

The measures on smoking and alternative energy were much better known, thanks to extensive advertising campaigns, but neither drew majority support.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 02, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Tony Strickland: An information box accompanying an article in the California section Saturday about the state controller's race misstated candidate Tony Strickland's age as 37. He is 36.

Two of California's most durable Democrats, meanwhile, were in strong positions as the November election nears.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein holds a hefty lead in her run for reelection.

And Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown enjoys a sizable edge as he bids to become state attorney general, the poll found.

The positive news for Feinstein and Brown contrasted with a series of much closer contests in the so-called down-ballot races for statewide office. If a Democratic wave is building in the country, as polls suggest, it has yet to materialize in California.

Although Democratic Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer enjoys a commanding lead in his effort to become state treasurer, the rest of the contests for constitutional offices are far more competitive. A substantial chunk of the vote remains up for grabs, with just a little more than five weeks left before election day.

The Nov. 7 ballot features, at the top of the ticket, the race between Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Phil Angelides, the state treasurer. Also included are the Senate and down-ballot races, legislative and congressional contests and 13 initiatives, as well as local issues.

In the campaign for U.S. Senate, Feinstein was leading Richard Mountjoy, a former Monrovia state senator, 54% to 36% among likely voters and 54% to 29% among registered voters. That compares to a 59%-to-30% advantage for Feinstein among registered voters surveyed in the last poll.

"I find that many times she votes more conservative than I would want and is a little too conciliatory toward the Republicans," said San Francisco Democrat Marilyn Levy, a retired technical writer in her 50s, explaining her support for Feinstein in a follow-up interview. "But I think she has a very good environmental record, and I think we could do a lot worse."

For some, their vote in the Senate contest is a chance to send a message. Lowell Norling, a lifelong Republican from Oakland, said he was voting for Feinstein because the GOP "is taking the country the wrong way right now."

"The senators are supposed to have some brains of their own, but they're just voting party line no matter what," said the 65-year-old retired sheet metal worker.

In the attorney general's race, former presidential candidate and Gov. Brown was leading state Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) 51% to 34% among likely voters in the most recent survey. Among registered voters, the figures were 50% to 30%. In April, Brown was ahead 49% to 24% among registered voters.

Lately, the two candidates have pummeled each other in a series of TV and radio spots. Brown portrays Poochigian as a conservative extremist who will not support legal abortion and opposes a ban on cop-killer bullets. Poochigian depicts Brown as a liberal extremist who would coddle criminals and fail to enforce the death penalty.

Josephine Cranston, a 77-year-old retiree in Irvine, is a Republican but won't rule out a vote for Brown.

"He's done some good things, done some bad. He's a very intelligent person. He's just not fit the conventional mold," she said of Brown, whose 30-year political career was broken up by sojourns in Japan and India.

Cranston knows nothing about Poochigian, she said, and wants to familiarize herself with him before figuring out how to vote.

"I'm open to whoever is more qualified," she said. "I'll find out more between now and the election and make it my business to know that."

In other down-ballot contests, there were substantial percentages of voters undecided:

* In the race for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) was virtually tied with Democratic state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, 42% to 41%.

* In the contest for secretary of state, state Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) was also in a virtual tie with Republican incumbent Bruce McPherson, 35% to 33%.

* In the race for treasurer, Democrat Lockyer was leading Republican State Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish 50% to 26%.

* In the campaign for insurance commissioner, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was ahead of businessman Steve Poizner 43% to 38%. The five-point gap falls within the survey's margin of error.

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