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California Dems Open Convention

February 16, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The state Democratic convention opened Friday amid promises from party leaders and loyalists that Democratic Gov. Gray Davis will cruise to re-election, even as some worried the governor hasn’t done enough to solidify support.

``He’s got to get out among the working people more, because that’s who put Gray in the first place,″ said delegate Linda E. Love, 49, of Sacramento.

Davis’ approval ratings are sagging and he narrowly trails the leading contender for the Republican nomination, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

But state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres predicted Riordan won’t be a problem come November _ he told a press conference he expects wealthy Los Angeles businessman Bill Simon to stage a surprise victory in the March 5 Republican primary.

Torres likened Simon to Davis, who four years ago was not expected to survive the primary. The 1998 Democratic convention gave him momentum that carried him to victory.

As a traditional conservative who opposes abortion, Simon could be easier for Davis to beat than the socially moderate Riordan.

``It doesn’t matter who their opponent is. It’s the fact that where they stand on the issues of California, they’re not consistent with voters,″ Torres said of Republicans, citing abortion, gun rights the environment and other matters.

The third major GOP candidate is Secretary of State Bill Jones.

With the Democrats looking at an uncontested gubernatorial primary, their convention at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles has attracted less attention than the Republicans’ convention last weekend in San Jose.

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