A Texas-based activist in Latino politics is the leading candidate to oversee next year's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, a slot the party has been seeking to fill for months.

Lydia Camarillo, executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, could be named as early as this week as chief executive officer of the convention to be held Aug. 14-17, party sources said. Both parties are battling vigorously over the nation's Hispanic voters, and recruiting Latinos for high-profile jobs is part of their strategy.

Officials at the Democratic National Committee said no offer had been made, but Camarillo confirmed that negotiations were far along. "It's looking good, but I don't have concrete information," she said yesterday. Now based in San Antonio, she spent more than five years in Los Angeles as national director of leadership programs for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

At this point four years ago, the chief executive officer of the 1996 Democratic convention had been on the job for several months. Some prominent Democrats have been complaining privately that the DNC is lagging in both fund-raising and convention planning for the 2000 elections. Party insiders said the DNC has tried in vain to recruit big-name fund-raisers to beef up its operations, including Terry McAuliffe, who recently put up $1.3 million to help the Clintons buy a house in New York state.

Although the DNC recently pulled itself out of debt, the Republican National Committee continues to outpace its Democratic counterpart in raising money.

DNC spokeswoman Jenny Backus defends her organization. "The DNC is enjoying a very successful year in terms of fund-raising," she said. As for hiring key players to manage the convention, she said, "We're right where we want to be. We know how to do conventions."

Candidates Getting Less Help From the Little Guy

Invariably, when presidential campaigns release their finance reports little time is wasted before the hosannas are sounded on the number of small contributors.

While the sheer number of such donors may indeed be high, most presidential campaigns wind up relying heavily on $1,000 contributors to fill their coffers.

A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a liberal organization that lobbies on environmental and consumer protection issues, suggests that this is particularly true of the current crop of candidates.

Overall, Democrat Bill Bradley raised the largest percentage of his total for the first six months of the year from $1,000 donors, a whopping 82 percent. Vice President Gore received 66 percent of his total from top givers, according to the report.

On the GOP side, Texas Gov. George W. Bush tops the list with 74 percent of his total through June 30 of this year coming from donors giving the legal limit. Following Bush were Lamar Alexander (now out of the race) at 67 percent and Elizabeth Dole at 66 percent. Patrick J. Buchanan raised the least from $1,000 donors at 3 percent.

Leading the way in percentage of money raised in the smallest amounts (less than $200) was Gary Bauer at 25 percent followed by Dan Quayle at 15 percent and Dole and John McCain at 13 percent. Bradley finished last in this category at 3 percent.

Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.