Orange County's conservative and religious forces said Wednesday that their Election Day victory over Irvine's legal protections for gays has energized their movement and demonstrated that they have enough political muscle to make a difference in next year's races.
Even the fundamentalists who lost in a separate county school district race Tuesday saw strength for their movement in the election results. "It will bring pro-life people out of the closet," said Robert Simonds, a Costa Mesa founder of Citizens for Excellence in Education, a group of Christian parents. "The pendulum is swinging back toward pro-life in Orange County."
However, several state and local political experts said Wednesday that the political impact of Irvine's vote on Measure N may end at the city's borders.
"I think this is a peculiarly Irvine phenomenon," said Howard Klein, chairman of the conservative Orange County Coordinating Republican Assembly. "I can't read into it any trend--statewide or countywide--other than the narrow issue of this ordinance."
County political consultant Harvey Englander said: "I don't think this has anything to do with the pro-life movement. (Thinking) that is the most illogical step I can think of anyone making."
Measure N, which passed by 53% to 47%, removed a reference to sexual orientation from the city's 15-month-old Human Rights Ordinance. The ordinance prevented bias against gays and others over housing, employment and city services.
The measure's proponents also said they had another victory in Tuesday's election with the recall in Fountain Valley of Councilman Fred Voss. They said the recall is evidence that voters support their "traditional values." Voss was arrested earlier this year and charged with soliciting sex from a plainclothes police officer in Santa Ana.
But in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, the same political and religious forces lost by wide margins against incumbents. The challengers had called for an overhaul of sexual education programs and accused the board of blatantly ignoring parents.
Sherry Loofbourrow defeated Jo Ellen Allen, 13,979 votes to 7,405 votes. Longtime school board member Rod MacMillian with 13,448 votes, won handily over district unknown Wendy Leece, who received 7,796. In the third race, incumbent Judith A. Franco beat heavily financed candidate Karen M. Evarts, 12,862 to 8,278 votes.
The defeated candidates and the group supporting them said the election was still a victory, which whetted their ambitions to push their agenda in the school district.
"We consider this Round 1," said Shannon Gustafson, a founder of the Committee to Restore Ethical and Traditional Education. "At least a third of the people who voted are concerned about the sex education curriculum, and that is a significant number.
"The board will now have to meet its obligations to them, and board members now know a lot of people will be watching them and what kind of moral decisions they make."
"I am certain that hundreds of us will be participating" on board decisions, Allen said. "When the challengers get between 7,000 and 8,000 votes, it shows there is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there. I don't think the community will be the same. More people will be involved, and this board has to reckon with it."
County legislators preparing for tough races next year said they think that the political credibility of Measure N sponsors will improve with their victory Tuesday, but they did not see any obvious effect on their campaigns.
Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove), a pro-life freshman who has been targeted for defeat by national pro-choice leaders, said: "If they think it's going to benefit pro-life candidates, then I appreciate their help. But generally . . . I don't see anything significant."
Some of the measure's sponsors said, however, that they expect to see an impact on races such as Pringle's. "I would hope that this would mean that pro-life legislators in Orange County will retain their seats in the 1990 elections," said Beverly Cienicky of Fountain Valley, national president of the Crusade for Life.
"It definitely is a sign that the traditional values that the majority of Orange County families believe in will continue," she said.
At Corona del Mar High School, one of the teachers targeted by the fundamentalist candidates was cheered by his students when he came to school Wednesday.
The campaign "was like a Frankenstein monster," said Mike Marino, who sparked a Newport-Mesa sex education controversy earlier this year when he invited a panel of gays to speak to his psychology class.
"Now that the election is over, I hope it dies a natural death. I have said all along that they represented a minority view in the community. It became apparent how extreme they were, and that was their undoing."
Staff writers Mark I. Pinsky and Dan Weikel contributed to this story.