California Senate race: Wilson vs. Brown

California Republican voters have pushed San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson onto the national political stage to contest with Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. for US senator.

Determined to ''retire Jerry Brown from politics'' on Nov. 2, state Republicans will receive maximum support from the national party. Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan's stewardship of the White House will be a paramount issue in the fall campaign.

Governor Brown, coasting to victory over insignificant Democratic opponents in the June 8 state primary, had been running against the President since last summer. And Mayor Wilson presented himself as a conservative Republican fully behind President Reagan's economic and other programs.

As the result of other primary votes:

* California will not build a peripheral canal to divert more water from northern river systems to the dry south. Proposition 9, the canal proposal, was defeated by a surprisingly decisive margin.

* The state will have two new anticrime laws - a so-called victim's bill of rights containing some dozen tough provisions and another law restricting bail.

* The Legislature will have to go back to the drawing boards before 1984 to fashion new districts for the state senate and assembly as well as for US House seats. Primary voters resoundingly rejected reapportionment plans enacted early this year by the Democratic majority.

* The stage was set for a gubernatorial contest this fall between Democratic Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles and Republican state Attorney General George Deukmejian, who defeated Lt. Gov. Mike Curb in what had been a seesaw race.

Brown begins the senatorial contest against Wilson a definite underdog. Fifty-nine percent of voters interviewed by the California Poll after they had cast their ballots indicated they would vote for Wilson rather than Brown in a race between the two. Earlier polls showed any of the top three Republican contestants for the Senate nomination - US Rep. Barry M. Goldwater Jr., US Rep. Paul N. McCloskey, and Wilson - favored over the governor.

But the Republicans respect Brown's resiliency, his skill as a campaigner and debater, and his campaign treasury, which was little depleted in the Democratic primary. As soon as his Senate nomination became clear, the governor challenged his GOP opponent to a series of 12 debates. Wilson indicated he will meet Brown face-to-face, but there is likely to be some maneuvering before the actual debate format is set.

Crime is clearly much on the minds of Californians, and Wilson already is charging that Governor Brown has undermined efforts to curb criminal activity by appointing ''soft'' judges to the state's courts. Brown, besides running against Reagan's record and Wilson's support of it, has attached himself to the growing antinuclear-weapons movement - which is particularly strong in California. He pledges to fight for a nuclear freeze if elected to the Senate.

In the upcoming gubernatorial contest, Mayor Bradley is only a slight favorite over Mr. Deukmejian despite his easy primary victory and the bitter GOP contest between Lieutenant Governor Curb and the state attorney general. Polls show the L.A. mayor, who could become the first black ever elected governor in the United States, favored by 52 percent of voters to Deukmejian's 48 percent.

Rejection of the peripheral canal was attributed chiefly to its perceived cost, although environmental and sectional factors also contributed to the proposal's surprisingly decisive defeat. Northern Californians voted 8 to 1 against the canal project, while southern Californians supported it by only a 5 -to-3 margin. Residents in the southern part of the state appeared to have been concerned that they would see their water rates escalate sharply in order to pay for the massive project - which some opponents said would cost more than $20 billion.

But the battle over water is far from over. Those who wish to make more water from the north available to the farms and cities to the south will be proposing new legislation to accomplish their goal. Meanwhile, on the November ballot will be a proposition to inventory the state's water resources and develop a new, long-range plan.

Californians used the referendum ballot to show their strong disapproval of reapportionment of electoral districts. A two-thirds majority of the voters rejected the legislative and congressional districts drawn by the Democratic majority. A gerrymander of US House districts engineered by US Rep. Phillip Burton (D) of San Francisco particularly incensed Republicans and, apparently, a lot of Democrats, too. The rejected districts will hold for this election year. But the Legislature will have to redraw them before 1984.

In Montana's June 8 primary US Sen. John Melcher (D) was renominated over token opposition. He is expected to face a stiff challenge in November from financial analyst Larry Williams, who faced token opposition for the GOP nomination.

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