Orange County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton got a little impatient recently when he was asked once again when he would decide whether to run for the 40th District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach).
"It's more important for me to take my time to make up my mind on that," he said, "than (to worry about) the political people out there in the bushes saying, 'Why don't you make up your mind?' I'm certainly going to be more concerned about, number one, my family, number two, my constituents, and, lastly, the pseudo-political experts out in the brush."
But time is wasting, and some of the political experts, pseudo and otherwise, in Orange County say that putting off his decision may be an indication that Stanton has serious doubts about whether this year is the right time for him.
The longer he waits, the greater the chance his potential supporters will stray away to other candidates. The filing deadline for the June 7 primary is March 11.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 28, 1988 Orange County Edition Metro Part 2 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
A caption under a photograph of Tustin Councilman John Francis Kelly in the Jan. 26 edition of The Times indicated that he was elected to that office in 1987. The correct year was 1986.
It is true, as several of those close to Stanton have pointed out, that many of the supervisor's potential supporters are either waiting for the field of candidates to solidify or for Stanton to decide before they make their choice. Others will support more than one candidate.
"I know that a lot of people are laying in the weeds to see what Roger Stanton is going to do," said attorney and businessman Paul Hegness, a member of the $1,000-a-year GOP support group known as the Lincoln Club.
But it is also true that the competition for endorsements and money in this race is extreme and that it can be difficult to raise large sums of money for a congressional race because of the $1,000 limit under federal law on personal campaign contributions.
"Every day he waits, someone else commits to someone else," said one political observer who asked not to be identified.
Tantamount to Winning
Like all the other candidates who have announced so far, Stanton is a Republican. Getting the GOP nomination in the 40th District, one of the most heavily Republican areas in the nation, is tantamount to winning the seat.
The two strongest contenders in the race so far are Irvine City Councilman C. David Baker, 34, and Badham's opponent in the 1986 primary, Newport Beach businessman Nathan Rosenberg, 35.
Rosenberg announced his candidacy on Jan. 4, the same day Badham officially announced he would not seek a seventh term.
Although Rosenberg is unpopular with much of the GOP Establishment in the county because he dared to challenge the safe--if much criticized--incumbent two years ago, he has been preparing for the race since his loss to Badham. Already he has raised more than $300,000 and has signed on 315 volunteers.
For this he has tapped, in part, participants in the Forum, which was started by his brother, est founder Werner Erhard. The Forum connection was a liability for Rosenberg in 1986 and is expected to be an issue again this year.
In Rosenberg's corner are developers William Lyon and Kathryn Thompson, both members of the Lincoln Club.
As for Baker, he earned points in the GOP Establishment for graciousness--and for recognizing political realities--by deferring to state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) and staying out of the race until she decided not to run. Nearly everyone agrees that had Bergeson wanted to go to Congress she would have easily won the seat.
Baker is viewed in the Republican Party as a likable, moderate up-and-comer who is energetic and young enough to be able to get the all-important seniority in Congress that is needed to accomplish political goals.
He is acceptable to the party regulars, even those who are more conservative than he is. Now he is seeking endorsements--Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle (R-Huntington Beach) and several local city council members already have signed up--and is fattening his campaign fund. Baker pulled off something of a coup when Orange County industrialist Arnold Beckman, 87, a respected GOP stalwart, wrote a letter to 2,000 Republicans asking their support for Baker.
On Friday, Costa Mesa City Councilman Peter Buffa, 39, announced his candidacy. Buffa said he has "solid commitments" for $150,000--about a third of the amount he said he needs.
Among the other candidates is senior assistant White House counsel C. Christopher Cox, 35. Cox was in Orange County and Sacramento all last week trying to garner support for a run.
There is a conservative wing of the party that would love it if Cox--a USC, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School graduate with impressive conservative credentials--could come up with the wherewithal to mount a credible campaign.
"If Republican elected officials could select him without the formality of elections, conservatives would say, 'This guy is fabulous. He should go (to Washington),' " one GOP leader said enthusiastically.