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County Politicians Cross the Line

April 06, 1986

Like cats and dogs, Democrats and Republicans are natural enemies. But in civilized politics, they tolerate each other and work to keep the two-party system healthy and functioning.

They do that most everywhere--except, it seems, in Orange County, where the leaders of the two major political parties can't seem to separate personalities from partisanship.

For the past year or so, Tom Fuentes, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, and Bruce Sumner, chairman of the county Democrats, have been trading barbs, insults and generally displaying their dislike for one another. But neither knows where to draw the line.

That became evident when both refused to appear at public television station KOCE last Thursday to tape the station's annual pre-election show. It was the first time in the 14 years the show has been produced that anyone has flat-out refused to appear.

Fuentes broke that tradition when he declined the station's invitation to appear with leaders from the other parties to discuss the '86 election. Fuentes' said he had not only never appeared with Bruce Sumner, but had no intention of ever doing so.

Any county chairman should certainly have a thicker political skin than Fuentes is showing. Personal pique shouldn't keep him from appearances that he should be making to represent his party in public forums.

Sumner, who had agreed to appear on the show--until Fuentes didn't--has also withdrawn. The chairmen are sending stand-ins, both of whom happen to be black women and central committee members.

As capable as the stand-ins may be, they are not the party chairmen. Fuentes should not have refused to appear. And Sumner, having accepted, should have gone on anyhow. Both lost prestige with their political gamesmanship and snide sniping at each other. But the real losers are the public. It was a disappointing lack of leadership that we trust the candidates will be smart enough not to follow in the coming campaigns.

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