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Calif. Governor Hopeful Low in Poll

May 22, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Al Checchi took two hits Friday in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor: A new poll showed him falling far behind his rivals, and some of his former household employees complained they were treated shabbily.

The developments came a day after Checchi’s campaign reported he has spent an astonishing $29 million on the primary race, one of the most expensive ever in California with $50 million spent so far by all candidates.

A Los Angeles Times poll of likely voters found Lt. Gov. Gray Davis surging ahead of his fellow Democrats with 28 percent of likely voters, followed by Rep. Jane Harman at 16 percent and Checchi at 10 percent. Attorney General Dan Lungren, the presumptive GOP nominee, led all candidates with 37 percent.

The numbers marked a plunge in support for Checchi, who in the Times poll last month drew support from 22 percent of the people polled.

The survey also showed that nearly half of all likely voters believe Checchi has run the most negative campaign of the four major candidates.

Despite his stand in favor of better conditions and pay for workers and his advocacy of improved health care for the poor, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle raised questions about his commitment to such principles in his own home.

Sandra Ferrier, a former housekeeper, said she accrued $21,000 in unpaid overtime and got medical benefits only after repeatedly asking for them.

``Mrs. Checchi asked if there was any way I could get them through my husband’s job,″ she said. ``I said, `But Mrs. Checchi, I work for you.‴

A former gardener from Guatemala said he was fired when Checchi decided to run for governor in 1996, because of questions over his immigration status.

The gardener, who was not identified in the story, worked for two years before he was dismissed, and told the paper he had a valid work permit. Checchi’s wife, Kathryn, said she regularly asked for his green card, but he did not produce it.

A former cook, Edna Nousa Grover, said she worked 60-hour weeks for the Checchis and received compensatory time off but ``never overtime.″ The ex-cook said she was dismissed after being disabled in a car wreck during a family errand, and she never had health benefits.

Mrs. Checchi denied that Grover worked overtime, and said the family and Grover parted ways amicably.

The three former workers are all Hispanic, and their complaints came on the eve of a debate in Los Angeles aimed at Hispanic voters _ a bloc Checchi has aggressively courted with Spanish-language commercials.

Mrs. Checchi, who speaks Spanish in those commercials, told The Associated Press on Friday that the article was ``an old story″ and was politically motivated.

``In good faith I traveled to San Francisco and sat down with (reporters), and they chose to ignore the facts I presented to them,″ Mrs. Checchi said Friday as she registered new citizens outside the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The Times Poll interviewed 1,097 registered voters in California from May 16 to 20, including 506 voters considered likely to cast ballots. The margin of error for likely voters was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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