Rep. Ed Zschau and political commentator Bruce Herschensohn were locked in a close race in the Republican U.S. Senate primary early today.
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Curb meanwhile appeared headed for victory in his bid to win back his old job, moving strongly ahead of state Sen. H.L. Richardson of Glendora, according to preliminary results. The winner will face Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy.
In the Republican primary for state controller, state Sen. William Campbell of Hacienda Heights appeared victorious over two rivals, Assemblyman Don Sebastiani and former chairman of the State Fair Political Practices Commission Dan Stanford.
In the Democratic primary election for the open seat of state controller, Assemblyman Gray Davis of Los Angeles opened a lead over state Sen. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove in the early counting. Assemblyman Alister McAlister (D-San Jose) was third.
Throughout the day, election officials measured an unusually low voter turnout, perhaps a record low for a statewide primary in a gubernatorial election year.
In the GOP Senate primary, Zschau, whose beginnings were in the high-tech so-called Silicon Valley of Northern California, made a statewide showing while Herschensohn, whose political base was rooted in his Southland television audience, registered hardly any significant support outside Southern California. The two far oudistanced a tightly bunched group of other candidates, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, state Sen. Ed Davis of Valencia and Rep. Bobbi Fiedler of Northridge.
The winner will be matched against three-term Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston in November.
With 57% of precincts reporting, the vote among leading Republican Senate contenders was:
Results Vote % Ed Zschau 384,871 36 Bruce Herschensohn 307,271 29 Michael D. Antonovich 97,778 9 Bobbi Fiedler 81,276 8 Ed Davis 74,940 7 Robert W. Naylor 31,649 3 Arthur B. Laffer 26,225 3
Some experts said part of the reason for the low turnout was the lack of competition in the race for governor. Neither Republican Gov. George Deukmejian nor Democratic challenger Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, faced any significant primary opposition. They will meet in a Nov. 4 general election rematch of their 1982 contest.
With 57% of precincts reporting, the vote among the Republican lieutenent governor candidates was:
Results Vote % Mike Curb 609,928 57 H.L. Richardson 464,436 43
With 57% of precincts reporting, the vote among candidates for controller:
Results Vote % Gray Davis 616,450 51 John Garamendi 450,471 37 Alister McAlister 145,168 12
Results Vote % William Campbell 471,983 48 Don A. Sebastiani 268,805 27 Dan Stanford 171,360 17
State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig was reelected handily to his nonpartisan office. He appeared to reach the 60% margin of victory that he wanted over two hardly known opponents to validate his school reform efforts.
In local elections, Los Angeles County voters trounced a ballot proposition to make the assessor's office appointive rather than elective.
State Sen. Paul Carpenter of Norwalk led a field of candidates for the Democratic nomination for a vacant seat on the state Board of Equalization; and John J. Lynch, a deputy county assessor, was leading in the race for county assessor.
Election results were not even final before Democrats Cranston and Bradley issued debate challenges.
Cranston, who spent election night in Washington, sent a telegram to the chairmen of the California Republican Party and several minor parties proposing to debate "the important national issues and especially on topics of concern in our state, including the toxic waste, the needs of our children and international trade."
Bradley challenged Deukmejian to a series of 14 debates starting Sept. 4 in San Francisco and ending Nov. 1 in Monterey or Salinas.
"The people of California want candidates to discuss the issues, and a series of debates between the gubernatorial candidates on everything from taxes to toxics is the best way to do that," the mayor said.
Soul of the GOP
The GOP Senate primary was not only a regional contest but also a $10-million battle for the soul of the California Republican Party.
Zschau presented himself as tomorrow's kind of Republican, a free-enterpriser with a light hand on the old-fashioned social and moral issues that have dominated the GOP here for years. He reached out to the baby-boomers and those under 45 in particular with his pragmatic message of economic opportunity, mixed with moderate environmental themes.
Zschau argued that times are changing and that if President Reagan's dream of voter realignment and GOP dominance is to be achieved, the party would have to broaden its appeal.