Posse of GOP hopefuls vying for chance to stalk Cranston

The Republican fight to see who will oppose Alan Cranston in this fall's run for the US Senate is remarkable even by California political standards. There are 12 candidates, ranging from former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver to former Los Angeles police chief Ed Davis.

It's odd enough that such a large and diverse field is battling for the opportunity to challenge the incumbent Democrat. What's more unusual is that no one candidate has clearly emerged as the leader so late in the campaign. With less than three weeks to go before the June 3 primary, the race has narrowed to a handful of frontrunners.

``It is a wild race,'' says Mervin Field, director of the California Poll. ``It's completely unprecedented.''

The splintered finish could affect GOP chances to unseat Sen. Cranston, who faces only token opposition in the primary. But state Republican officials are convinced they will be able to coalesce around one candidate this fall.{et

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