A six-year, well-organized GOP effort and uninspiring candidates at the top of the statewide Democratic ticket led to Republican Richard E. Longshore's victory Tuesday in the 72nd Assembly District over Santa Ana Mayor Dan Griset, the candidates said Wednesday.
But county Democratic Chairman John Hanna vowed that his party would fight back. "That seat is a Democratic seat, and we're going to get it back," he said.
Complete returns show that Longshore defeated Griset by 56% to 44% in the county's hottest legislative race. The candidates spent a total of more than $800,000, much of it from their party caucuses in Sacramento.
The 72nd was the last legislative district within Orange County to be represented by a Democrat. The seat was open because Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) chose to run for Congress against Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), rather than seek reelection.
In Tuesday's other legislative races in the county, incumbents--all Republicans--won handily.
A weary Longshore, 61, returned home Wednesday from a GOP election night party--triumphant for the first time after two unsuccessful bids for the 72nd District seat. A staunch conservative, Longshore said he would need time to "analyze the issues" before discussing what he might do legislatively when he gets to Sacramento next month.
Griset, 42, said he was disappointed but proud of the campaign he waged against Longshore. He said he will attend his 20th college class reunion at UC Berkeley next week, attend the Cal-Stanford football game and "become reunited" with his family.
Asked if he will seek a rematch in 1988, Griset said:
"I plan to remain an active member of the City Council. . . . I've turned my attentions to making a success of 1987."
Griset, who will give up his post as mayor next week, has two years remaining on his four-year council term.
The 72nd District seat was one of three Assembly seats lost to the Republicans statewide Tuesday. That leaves the Democrats with a 44-36 majority in the lower house.
Referring to his own victory, Longshore said Wednesday that it resulted from "organization--and dedication of my volunteers."
He also said he believed the candidates' integrity had been an issue: "I think it was a matter of his versus mine."
Longshore said Griset was stung by negative publicity surrounding two campaign mailers that showed a house occupied by U.S. citizens coupled with text that complained of "illegal residences" and immigrants.
"I think we can solidify this seat to pose a difficult problem for the Democrats when they try to take this seat back," Longshore said.
County Republican Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes predicted that the district "is the place where Democrats will attempt their rebirth as a party in this county. It's certainly the place I would begin if I were in their shoes because it's the one place where they have a registration margin that offers them any kind of hope in an otherwise dismal countywide picture.
"I think the coattails of Gov. (George) Deukmejian, with a 3-1 victory in Orange County, and the visit by President Reagan to rally the emotions of Orange County Republicans were both very important factors in the equation. . . ."
Fuentes and Longshore also credited a major GOP registration effort for Longshore's showing.
Griset and Hanna said a lack of enthusiasm among Orange County Democrats for gubernatorial candidate Tom Bradley and other Democrats on the party's statewide ticket reduced Democratic turnout significantly.