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Since June, four polls have shown incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan and third-time candidate Bill Fazio swapping the lead in the DA race, with newcomer Kamala Harris consistently in third place but gaining ground. Heading into the home stretch before the general election Tuesday, the candidates are feverishly campaigning to capture a share of the roughly one-quarter to one-third of likely voters who remain undecided, according to two October polls. The most recent poll shared with The Recorderhas Hallinan leading with 31 percent, followed by Fazio at 27 percent and Harris at 19 percent. Fazio’s campaign reported the numbers, from a poll conducted by Virginia-based Cooper & Secrest Associates. Though she still trails her two opponents, Harris said she’s encouraged by the polls. “We see a steady and consistent growth as voters become aware of my candidacy,” she said. And despite two familiar faces in the race, a number of voters remain undecided, she said. “That we still have so many undecideds says to me that voters want another alternative.” “She’s the biggest unknown. She had the most room to move,” acknowledged Fazio campaign spokesman Duane Baughman. Undecided voters have ranged from 23 percent to 34 percent in four polls from June to October. The results were from polls by Fazio’s campaign; SFSOS, a group that says it’s focused on quality-of-life issues in the city; and David Binder, a San Francisco pollster. Binder has done some work for the Harris campaign, but the mid-October poll was commissioned by San Francisco political consulting firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners. Polls divulged by campaigns or interest groups don’t always reveal the whole story, cautions Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll in Princeton, N.J., and David Tabb, a political science professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in local and national elections. There could be various explanations for voter indecision, they said. “I’ve learned to be quite skeptical of what campaign pollsters say publicly,” Newport said. They usually conduct high-quality surveys, but “what they release to reporters or the public [can be] spun.” Conventional wisdom says undecided voters eventually favor a challenger, Newport said. “A well-known incumbent who’s not getting 50 percent � could be in trouble,” but that’s not an ironclad rule, he said. A lack of information about a race could also explain the indecision, Newport and Tabb said. There are usually fewer undecided voters during a high-profile campaign season, such as a presidential race, California’s recent gubernatorial recall election, or even a mayoral election, they said. “Where there’s a relatively low level of information, obviously you’re going to have a relatively high number of undecided voters,” Tabb said. “Your undecided vote goes down with increased advertising at the end of the campaign.” All three campaigns are making a final push to get their messages out and capture a share of undecided voters. This weekend, volunteers will be walking precincts, manning phone banks and waving signs at street intersections, campaign spokesmen said. And the candidates are busy shaking hands at bus stops, meeting with press, and appearing at events big and small — even, at least in Fazio’s case, at church bingo games. Among their 11th-hour strategies, Harris is honing in on women under age 50, Hallinan is working to bring strayed supporters back into the fold, and Fazio is targeting groups that his previous campaigns missed, the candidates’ spokesmen said. “The way that we see the race is that there’s a huge block of undecided voters,” and females under age 50 make up the biggest portion of that group, said Jim Stearns, Harris’ campaign strategist. “We believe our issues will resonate with them.” “I’ve been making an effort to that group throughout, as I have to many groups,” Harris said. In the last two weeks, women who support Harris have held two press conferences on her behalf, one to voice concerns over domestic violence prosecutions, a cornerstone issue of Harris’ campaign, and the other to “call for change” in the DA’s office. Saturday night, her campaign plans a fund-raiser featuring playwright Eve Ensler, who wrote “The Vagina Monologues.” Stearns called the fund-raiser a “women’s” event, but quickly added, “You don’t have to be a woman to go.” Fazio is working to expand support within demographic groups his past campaigns haven’t focused on, such as African-American and Latino voters, campaign spokesman Baughman said. Fazio has been emphasizing his multicultural family this campaign season. “I’ve been [to Bayview Hunters Point] for dinners and parties way before I even ran for DA,” Fazio said, adding that, like his wife, many of that neighborhood’s residents are Samoan. Hallinan is focusing on historically progressive districts such as the Western Addition and Haight-Ashbury. “I concentrate in areas in which I know I’m strongest,” he said. Hallinan’s team isn’t surprised his opponents have successfully planted doubts in the minds of some of the incumbent’s past supporters, said spokesman Bob Henderson. “You don’t spend half a million dollars and not have some effect.” Harris is the campaign-spending leader, posting $424,993 from July 2002 through Oct. 18, while Fazio spent $182,737 and Hallinan $137,002 in the same period. “Our objective right now is to have them come back home to Terence,” Henderson said. “You need to gently remind them that he’s the same guy you always voted for, he’s still the champion of working people.” It’s in the mail The incumbent is also taking swipes at his challengers in a new piece of mail sent out Monday. The literature tells voters, for instance, that the Ethics Commission fined Harris for breaking the city’s campaign finance law, and that Fazio was apprehended in a massage parlor raid. “All they’re doing is attacking me on the same things they brought up four to eight years ago,” Fazio said. Voicing a lawyerly phrase, he added, “Asked and answered.” He was found in a massage parlor during a police raid in 1998, but said he was there interviewing a witness for a case, fully clothed and with a briefcase, according to newspaper reports. Hallinan’s mail also endeavors to counter criticisms about his conviction rate. Fazio and Harris have repeatedly criticized Hallinan’s conviction rate, particularly for domestic violence cases. The incumbent’s new mailer says the city has seen a 52.4 percent drop in overall crime since he took office, and that violent crime has dropped 60.4 percent under his tenure. He arrived at those numbers by comparing state Department of Justice data from 1995, the year before he took office, to 2001, his campaign said. But a comparison with 2002 data — recently published by the state DOJ — shows that crime did not fall as dramatically between 1995 and last year. That data shows a 33.8 percent drop in the overall crime rate and a 47.2 percent drop in the violent crime rate. The violent crime rate counts reported homicides, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 people; the overall crime rate also includes reported burglaries and car thefts, but not all crimes. “I’m trying to emphasize that I’ve done a good job, that I’ve made the streets safer in San Francisco,” Hallinan said. “The conviction rate isn’t what counts. What counts is a crime rate.” Fazio’s campaign sent out its own literature Monday, one-quarter of which displays unflattering excerpts from local papers that target both of his opponents. But another piece of mail he plans to send out today zeroes in on Harris, targeting her connections with Mayor Willie Brown. The Harris campaign, which sent out the most mail early in the campaign, added another this week that includes jabs at Hallinan’s conviction rate, staff turnover, and relationship with the police department, and at Fazio’s changed position on the death penalty. Harris said she may send out one more piece of mail by Tuesday. The winds of public opinion can change even in the last weekend before an election, said Gallup’s Newport. “Polls that are done two, three, four weeks out sometimes have no relationship to what actually happens.”

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