In what could be the Republicans' toughest challenge this year in Orange County, Democrat Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach of Anaheim announced Wednesday that he intends to run against incumbent Richard E. (Dick) Longshore (R-Santa Ana) in the 72nd Assembly District.
"The overriding issue in this campaign is quality, or absence of quality, and leadership he (Longshore) is providing to the district," Thierbach said.
Thierbach, 38, a Riverside County senior deputy district attorney, took out declaration of intention papers at the county registrar of voters office Wednesday, the deadline for candidates for the Legislature and judicial office. The papers are due back at the registrar's office by March 11.
Thierbach is also a member of the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees.
Signal From Democrats
If he files for office next month, his candidacy would signal that Democrats are serious about wresting the 72nd District back from the Republicans, who were outnumbered by Democrats by a margin of 50.1% to 39.7% margin as of Feb. 5, according to the registrar's office.
The district fell to the GOP in 1986 after 12 years of representation by Democrat Richard Robinson of Garden Grove, who gave up his Assembly seat to run unsuccessfully for Congress against Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove).
"It's the most Democratic Assembly district in the county," said Chris Townsend, chairman of the Democratic Associates. "We should have it back."
Townsend said the district will be the "the No. 1 targeted race in the county" for Democrats.
Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) said Democrats are looking at what impact the presidential campaigns might have on the 72nd District and other local races, in particular the curve thrown by Republican Pat Robertson's unexpectedly good showing in Monday's Iowa caucuses.
"There's a lot of scrambling and recalculating," Roos said. "(Improvisation) always has ripples. It just depends on how deep and lasting they are."
He declined to speculate on how much campaign money Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) might funnel into the Thierbach-Longshore race.
John Hanna, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, said that while the race in the 72nd District is "clearly uphill," he believes that it is winnable.
"We're going to give it our best shot," Hanna said.
To run, Thierbach re-registered at a residence at 640 W. Broadway in Anaheim in the 72nd District, from his previous residence on West Chanticleer Road in Anaheim in the 64th District. This prompted Longshore to label him "a carpetbagger."
Longshore, 61, has lived in what is now the 72nd District about four years.
In another part of the county, Republicans are facing a potentially divisive election if Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Hart, a Republican, follows through with her intention to run against Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach).
Such a race would force Ferguson to spend money and resources to defend himself in the heavily GOP district, where the Republican nomination is tantamount to winning the general election.
Also Taking Out Papers
In state Senate and Assembly districts that fall entirely or partly within the county, the following people took out declaration of intention papers before the deadline Wednesday:
31st Senate District--Incumbent William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights); Democrat Janice Lynn Graham of Laguna Hills.
32nd Senate District--Incumbent Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim).
33rd Senate District--Incumbent Cecil Green (D-Norwalk).
35th Senate District--Incumbent John Seymour (R-Anaheim); Democrat Michael G. Balmages, a lawyer from Santa Ana; Peace and Freedom Party member Maxine Bell Quirk of Orange.
37th Senate District--Incumbent Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach); Democrat Patricia M. McCabe of Huntington Beach, an accountant; Libertarian J. Mark Sugars of Irvine, a teaching assistant.
58th Assembly District--Incumbent Dennis Brown (R-Long Beach); Democrat Andrew Kinkaid, of Long Beach.
64th Assembly District--Incumbent Ross Johnson (R-Fullerton); Democrat Donald F. Heuer of Fullerton, a Democratic activist.
67th Assembly District--Incumbent John R. Lewis (R-Orange); Democrat Bruce R. Fink, a Santa Ana attorney.
69th Assembly District--Incumbent Nolan Frizzelle (R-Huntington Beach); Democrat David K. Warfield, of Westminster, president of Huntington Beach Union High School District board of trustees; Democrat Mary H. Fennell of Huntington Beach, a psychiatric social worker.
70th Assembly District--Ferguson; Democrat Mike Gallups, an El Toro High School teacher from San Juan Capistrano; Hart; Republican Mike Mang of Laguna Beach, conservationist-historian; Republican Ronald D. Newton of Fullerton, a purchasing administrator.
71st Assembly District--Incumbent Doris Allen (R-Cypress); Democrat Arthur C. Brown of Buena Park, member of Anaheim's Savanna School District board of trustees and a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.
72nd Assembly District--Longshore and Thierbach.
74th Assembly District--Incumbent Robert C. Frazee (R-Carlsbad); Democrat James S. Melville of San Clemente, a teacher.
15 of 26 Judges Unopposed
In county judicial races, 15 of 16 incumbent Superior Court judges will be running unopposed.
The only Superior Court incumbent with opposition is Robert A. Knox, who will have to face Newport Beach attorney James E. Wilkoski. Wilkoski ran two years ago against incumbent Superior Court Judge William F. McDonald.
In North Orange County Municipal Court, attorney Michael A. Leversen of Anaheim is running against incumbent Sidney Maleck. In West Orange County Municipal Court, a deputy district attorney, Brett George London, is running against a Juvenile Court referee, Gerald L. Klein, for the seat being vacated by Judge Kenneth M. Smith.
Thirteen other Municipal Court judges in the county are running unopposed.
Times staff writer Jerry Hicks contributed to this story.