alifornia Democrats, who meet this weekend in their annual state convention, apparently are going to embarrass their leadership by polling the convention delegates on their presidential preferences.
Sen. Alan Cranston, one of the party's 1984 presidential candidates, is pushing for the straw vote, which would be the first of the 1984 presidential campaign.
Incoming state party Chairman Peter Kelly said a straw poll would be "embarrassing to the party leadership," because party leaders had promised the candidates a convenient showcase without the tensions of an actual vote.
Several party leaders said they expected the convention to go ahead with the vote, however, partly because Cranston believes he needs an early show of strength and that he could win a straw poll in his home state.
In any event, The Los Angeles Times is conducting its own poll of the delegates and plans to publish it Monday.
Some delegates here said that the straw poll could backfire, however, because Cranston's margin over former vice president Walter F. Mondale, a popular figure, might not be as large as he hopes.
Cranston has made a major effort to persuade the delegates to vote for him. He set up a phone bank and lobbied assembly caucuses that were choosing convention delegates. He met with about 25 groups of delegates and lined up as many as 50 to 60 commitments a day, according to his campaign manager, Sergio Bendixen.
The convention delegates are also expected to debate an effort--attributed to Cranston supporters--to have presidential delegate selection caucuses in March of 1984. Because this is much earlier than the June primary date it could boost Cranston's candidacy.
Under the new state election law, California will weaken the impact of its statewide primary by choosing 37.5 percent of its 345 delegates in assembly district caucuses, 37.5 percent in assembly district primary elections, and distributing 25 percent among the candidates in proportion to their showing in the statewide primary.
Little other significant business is expected at the convention, other than a proposal to raise $1.5 million to $2 million to finance a party registration and get-out-the vote drive for 1984.
The 1984 presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak to the convention--Mondale, Sens. John Glenn of Ohio, Gary Hart of Colorado, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Rep. Morris K. Udall of Arizona--accepted invitations with the assurance that there would be no straw vote.
But a move for such a vote, led by Orange County Democratic Chairman Howard Adler, a Cranston supporter, and former state chairman Richard O'Neill, who is uncommitted, is gaining support among delegates and is expected to take place.
Adler said he is pushing for the vote because, with the primary held in June, "It's the one shot that Democratic Party activists in California have to express their views and still have it mean something."
Adler said he doubts that current efforts to move the primary to an earlier date will be successful because it would be too expensive, especially with the state already in serious fiscal difficulties.
Kelly, a law partner of Charles Manatt, national chairman of the Democratic Party, responded that Adler's "argument is a good one, but my problem is we promised all the other candidates it a vote wouldn't happen. The leadership of the party will be embarrassed."
Kelly said he expected to be telling the other candidates: "Well, this is the guy's Cranston's home state. What did you expect?"
Maxine Isaacs, an aide to Mondale, said she thought the original plan to hold no poll "made intellectual sense, but it's their convention, and their right to do what they want with it."
Susan Matthews, who speaks for Glenn, said his purpose for coming here "is to meet as many people as he can, and we'll take whatever happens with the straw poll." Kathy Bushkin, Hart's press secretary, said, "It's too early for straw polls, but it will not affect our plans."
Cranston, who spent this week in California meeting convention delegates and state party leaders, obviously is counting heavily on California in his presidential plans. One state party leader said that Cranston was considering an attempt to move the proposed delegate selection caucuses to up to March, instead of May as they are under the new law.
Among state party leaders endorsing Cranston are Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr., Senate President Pro Tempore David A. Roberti, Assembly Majority Leader Michael Roos, former governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Secretary of State March Fong Ew.