Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Bruce Sumner has won the 40th Congressional District's Democratic primary, a ballot recount showed Friday.
The results remain unofficial. Orange County Registrar of Voters A.E. Olson said that a recheck and certification of the recount would not take place until Monday at the earliest.
But the final recount figures showed Sumner defeating LaRouche Democrat Art Hoffmann by 1,228 votes. Sumner polled 16,401 votes to Hoffmann's 15,173.
The end of the recount in the bitterly fought battle to challenge five-term incumbent Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach) in the Orange County coastal district set the stage for a legal challenge, which Hoffmann said would come Monday.
Sumner called Hoffmann's threatened action "just another LaRouche-type tactic. As far as I'm concerned, I've won the recount and done so by figures that are very impressive."
Hoffmann and a Los Angeles spokesman for political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee said that there had been "election fraud." They said they would be suing the registrar on Monday, seeking a court order to prevent certification of the election.
Safest GOP District
"Morally, I've won," Hoffmann said. "I'm still the certified candidate. I'm still in the race against Bob Badham."
Either candidate will be an underdog in the contest against Badham, who represents what is regarded as one of the safest Republican districts in the nation.
Hoffmann said he wanted Orange County to begin "a real criminal investigation" into the election.
"Security's pretty low key over there (at the registrar's office)," Hoffmann said in a telephone interview from his Santa Ana home. He declined to give examples of any fraudulent votes cast during the election or of fraud during the recount, saying only that his lawyers had evidence.
County Registrar Olson declared: "We don't have any history of fraudulent elections in Orange County."
Sumner watched wearily Friday as the last ballots were counted by hand. He said he had already begun raising funds and laying the groundwork for the congressional race against Badham. "Now I'm in the position where I can do so with confidence and say the primary is over," he declared. A victory celebration for Sumner is planned for Monday night at Tiny's Restaurant in Santa Ana.
Sumner attorney Frank P. Barbaro said that he was notified Friday morning by Hoffmann attorney Robert Levy that a legal challenge would be filed Monday. Levy could not be reached for comment, but Barbaro said he believed that the registrar's office, the County of Orange and the State of California would be named as defendants.
Barbaro also said he was told that the suit would claim violations of the federal Civil Rights Act. Asked how civil rights could be involved in the Hoffmann-Sumner race, Barbaro replied, "I can't imagine."
The threat of a suit has added a new twist to a congressional race that has been a roller-coaster ride most of the way. Sumner was declared the winner election night, Hoffmann was named the winner several days later and now Sumner is the recount's unofficial winner. The recount took three weeks and ended more than a month after the June 3 primary election.
Sumner, 61, a retired judge and former state assemblyman, began his longshot write-in campaign against Hoffmann, 30, a technical writer, in late March after Democratic leaders discovered to their embarrassment that the LaRouche follower was the only Democrat to have filed against Badham.
In some years, county Democrats would not have worried about a LaRouche candidate, but last spring in Illinois, LaRouche followers caused a furor when two of their candidates won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
LaRouche, a Leesburg, Va., writer and an announced 1988 presidential candidate, claims to have fielded thousands of candidates for public office around the country this year in an effort to bolster his chances at becoming President. As part of his platform--which such mainstream Democrats as Sumner claim is "bizarre"--LaRouche advocates identification and quarantine of AIDS victims, increased steel production, a laser-beam defense system and eradicating an international drug conspiracy that he says involves Britain's Queen Elizabeth.
After discovering that Hoffmann had become the party's standard-bearer by default, Sumner launched a $53,000 write-in effort that many local and state party leaders claimed would be a waste of money and a failure.
Armed with phone banks, mailers and 200 volunteers, Sumner set about to educate Democrats in the three-part write-in process--remembering his name, writing it in correctly on the ballot and then using a punch device to vote for him.