The heavy Republican registration in the 40th Congressional District makes it a political graveyard for Democratic candidates. Nearly 60% of registered voters in the district are Republicans. Only about 30% are Democrats. And the area covering south coastal Orange County has been represented by a Republican for as long as anyone can remember.
Those are tremendous odds for a candidate to overcome in one of the most Republican districts in the nation. But if anyone can overcome them, it would seem to be Bruce Sumner, the current Democratic nominee.
Rarely does anyone win a write-in campaign. Sumner did last June when he ran to keep a representative of extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. from being the Democratic Party's nominee in the district. Now, instead of being a token candidate, Sumner is waging a hard campaign to win the seat.
Sumner is an appealing candidate. He has a track record. And a good one. As a Republican state assemblyman from 1956 to 1962, he showed effectiveness, leadership and integrity in his service in Sacramento. He is a retired judge and expert on the state Constitution.
In 1971 Sumner switched political parties and is the former chairman of the county's Democratic Central Committee. He has the ability, energy and desire to represent the district well in Washington, better than it is being represented now by the incumbent, Robert E. Badham.
We suspect a lot of people, Republicans included, know that the south coast of Orange County can do a lot better than Badham. Especially those constituents who had to go to other congressmen to receive help with their federal problems.
In his campaign, Sumner has been hammering away at Badham's extensive travel, his missed votes in Congress and use of campaign contributions to pay for a Cadillac, and for silverware and clothing for Mrs. Badham.
And Sumner has been emphasizing his conservative views, some which we don't agree with, such as his support of the death penalty, opposition to Rose Elizabeth Bird's reconfirmation to the California Supreme Court and opposition to sanctions against South Africa. The point he is making for Republicans, some of whom have publicly endorsed him, is that as a Democrat, he is not an automatic vote against the President.
Sumner's major obstacle Nov. 4, however, is registration. If the election in the 40th District is decided on who would be the better representative, Sumner should be a shoo-in. But if residents just look at party designation, not who is the best candidate, then the lopsided registration, as usual, will prevail. That would be too bad. Sumner deserves a better fate. More important, so do residents of the 40th Congressional District.