Less than half of Orange County's 1,030,213 registered voters are expected to go to the polls Tuesday despite hotly contested congressional primaries, spirited contests for several county offices and two major city elections.
Registrar of Voters Al Olson attributed his prediction of a near record-low turnout of only 48% to apathy, the large number of unopposed candidates and a lack of excitement about statewide ballot measures and the gubernatorial primaries.
The lowest Orange County turnout for a post-World War II election was 46% in 1982.
Amid these predictions, voters in the 38th and 40th congressional districts are witnessing two of the county's hardest-fought primaries in the last 10 years.
In the 40th district, former Young Republicans Chairman Nathan Rosenberg has mounted a well-financed Republican primary challenge to five-term Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach).
It is unusual for an incumbent to be challenged seriously by someone in his own party, but Badham is under intense criticism for globe-trotting at taxpayers' expense, alleged inattention to his district and use of campaign funds for his wife's wardrobe.
In turn, Badham has charged that Rosenberg can't be trusted because of ties to his brother, Werner Erhard, founder of est, which conducts motivational, self-improvement seminars. Badham alleges that est once used brainwashing techniques.
The incumbent has also stressed his congressional seniority and status as a ranking GOP member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Typically, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to election in November because of heavy GOP registration in the district, which extends from the central coast inland to the mountains behind El Toro.
Nevertheless, the Democrats are having an unusual primary contest of their own in the same district. County Democratic Chairman Bruce Sumner is waging a difficult write-in campaign against Art Hoffmann, a follower of controversial socialist-turned-conservative Lyndon H. LaRouche.
After two LaRouche candidates won primaries in Illinois, party regulars in Orange County became alarmed when they realized the party had not entered a candidate against Hoffmann.
Meanwhile, the Peace and Freedom Party has fielded accountant Steve Sears as a candidate.
In the neighboring 38th Congressional District, a judge and a six-term assemblyman are battling in the Democratic primary for the chance to face Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) in the November election. The central county district is marginally Democratic in registration but has voted conservatively in recent elections.
Superior Court Judge David O. Carter, unable to raise as much money as his opponent, has walked precincts, stressed his law-and-order background and argued that only he can beat Dornan.
Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), who is giving up his seat to run for Congress, has ignored Carter and instead emphasized his service in Sacramento, where he has often been the point man on legislation sought by local officials and businesses.
Party officials tried to avoid the kind of bloodletting in the primary that might cripple their nominee's chances in November. But all hopes of that were dashed last week when Carter unleashed a barrage of last-minute campaign mail that erroneously implied Robinson had been charged with a crime.
Plans $1-Million War Chest
Dornan, one of several incumbent Republicans targeted for defeat by the Democratic Party nationally, is unopposed in the GOP primary but plans to raise a campaign war chest in excess of $1 million for the fall election.
In the contest, the Libertarian Party has fielded photo journalist Lee Connelly.
Overlapping much of the same territory, the 4th Supervisorial District is a battleground for four candidates seeking the seat on the five-member board that is being vacated by the retiring Ralph Clark.
Former Rep. Jerry M. Patterson, defeated by Dornan in 1984, is running against Anaheim Mayor Don Roth, Orange Mayor Jim Beam, and architect Manuel P. Mendez in a contest dominated by controversial campaign mail and complaints that some of the mail has been inaccurate.
The county's Fair Campaign Practices Commission has ruled that some Roth and Beam mailers contained false and misleading statements.
All but Roth, a former Marine, support joint civilian-military use of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which lies in an adjacent district. All four candidates oppose the Anaheim site selected recently by the Board of Supervisors for a new county jail.
Meanwhile, the man in charge of the county's crowded jail facilities, Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates, finds himself in a bitter reelection fight with Municipal Court Judge Bobby D. Youngblood and sheriff's patrol Sgt. Linda Lea Calligan.
Neither Youngblood or Calligan has raised much money, but Calligan has forced Gates, first elected in 1974, to spend a significant amount of his campaign funds on legal fees.
Successful Court Challenge