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Oregonians prefer GOP tickets, but Ferraro appeals to their feminist tradition

Geraldine Ferraro's brief stop here yesterday highlighted what will be a contest of dueling traditions in this maverick Western state: * Oregon historically votes Republican for president.

* Rich in feminist tradition, the state is partial to women candidates and has the most women per capita holding elected office.

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Ronald Reagan carried the state by a wide margin in 1980. By contrast, Walter Mondale had so little support here he didn't even mount an Oregon primary campaign last spring.

An Oregon poll released here Sunday illustrates the contradiction: Ms. Ferraro, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is stronger than her running mate here, says Roy Bardsley, who conducted the poll for the Oregonian. Oregonians preferred Ferraro over Vice-President George Bush by 46 percent to 42 percent. Walter Mondale trailed Ronald Reagan by seven points, 42 percent preferring or leaning toward Mondale compared with 49 percent for President Reagan.

Mr. Mondale moved closer to Reagan from last April's poll, which placed the Democrats 17 points behind.

The so-called gender gap is evident in Ferraro's strength, which clearly comes from among women who work outside the home, Mr. Bardsley says. In that category she is preferred over Bush 56 percent to 32 percent. (Homemakers preferred Bush, though, 50 percent to 42 percent.)

Ferraro appears to be successfully drawing support for the Democratic ticket here, says Diane Luther, president of the Oregon Women's Political Caucus.

She gauges that support in part by the rush of enthusiasm to buy $100 fund-raising tickets in the mere 48 hours between Ferraro's announcement she'd be here and her arrival this week. The event never came off, but ''a couple hundred (commitments) came in for $50 to $100 tickets,'' she says.

Further, Ms. Luther explains, the large Gary Hart constituency here is more likely to go for Mondale because a woman running mate gives the ticket a progressive, rather than traditional, appearance.

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Ferraro drew several hundred mostly white, middle-class supporters at brief appearances outside her hotel and at Portland's waterfront park that faces a snowcapped Mt. Hood to the east.

After a tugboat ride on the Willamette River - a showpiece of the environmental movement that cleared the water of heavy pollution - Ferraro's speech played to the fierce environmentalism of Oregonians.

She told a crowd of more than 1,000 that the nuclear threat is the biggest environmental issue in the world today, but toxic chemicals and pollutants, she added, are the biggest ''cloud'' over our country today.

''I want to see an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that takes care of our kids instead of taking polluters to lunch,'' she jabbed at the Reagan administration. ''Our laws are not being enforced,'' she said, promising that she and Mondale would reduce by one-half the air pollutants that cause acid rain ''by the end of our second term.''

Fred Caldwell, a retired berry man from across the Columbia River in Washington, came to catch a glimpse of Ferraro. He says he supports her simply because he wants to vote for the first woman vice-presidential candidate.

Don Bushnell, a stock broker inclined toward voting a straight Republican ticket, marveled at the hoopla over Ferraro's arrival. ''The key issue is that we're voting for Reagan or Mondale; you have to vote for the first person on the ticket - not the vice-president.''

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