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A New Pragmatism Toward Sacramento : O.C. Delegation Finally Opposing Less, Doing More

October 23, 1994

With the exception of the 69th Assembly District, the Orange County legislative delegation in Sacramento is made up entirely of Republicans. In a heavily Republican county, there is little suspense in a number of these contests, and The Times chooses not to endorse in most of them. However, the fall campaign again provides occasion to take stock of Orange County's representation.

In the past, this group of legislators too often has relished the moniker of "cavemen," opposing instead of doing. When we delivered a "report card" two years ago, we lamented the mediocrity. We praised state Sen. Marian Bergeson, but she is leaving her post in Sacramento for the Board of Supervisors.

While a special election for Bergeson's seat will have to wait until next year, there is some discernible shift in attitude in the delegation. It has shown itself to be a bit more willing to engage in the art of political negotiation and compromise. It seems to have recognized in part that there is more to life in Sacramento than saying "no."

Perhaps the most noteworthy change has been the political maturation of Curt Pringle of Garden Grove, who is being challenged in what is generally considered a "safe" 68th District for Republicans by Anaheim City Councilman Irv Pickler, a Democrat. Pringle is still extremely conservative, and will be remembered as the candidate of the GOP when the party had to pay damages to Latinos for posting poll guards outside polling places in his old district. But this time, representing a new 68th District after sitting out a term, Pringle began to show evidence of a more pragmatic style. As Assembly assistant minority leader, he is now in line to be minority leader and typifies a subtle shift toward a more engaged style of representation in the delegation.

Incumbent Doris Allen of Huntington Beach, challenged by Democrat Jonathan Woolf-Willis, works reasonably hard. In the past year, she focused on school safety to curb violence by establishing a 1,000-foot "gun-free zone" around campuses. She is said to have her eye on the Bergeson Senate seat.

Another likely candidate in that future Senate race is incumbent Ross Johnson of Placentia in the 72nd Assembly District, which is a safe Republican seat. Johnson is being challenged by Democrat Allan Dollison. Johnson has been active on trying to revive Proposition 73, a successful state ballot measure to limit campaign contributions that was struck down by federal courts.

Freshman Bill Morrow of Oceanside, who represents some of South County, co-authored a bill that would invalidate bequests to attorneys who made themselves beneficiaries of client estates. He is still learning the ropes in Sacramento, running in a safe Republican district.

Perhaps the most controversial member of the delegation has been incumbent Mickey Conroy of Orange, in the 71st District. He was the author of the controversial paddle bill, which failed. He wanted to have volunteer poll watchers in another Assembly district, the 69th. He is challenged by Democrat Jeanne Costales in one of the most Republican districts, but faces his sternest test ahead in a lawsuit filed by a former aide in a sexual harassment case.

On the Senate side, the free-spending Rob Hurtt of Garden Grove has the money to spend to retain his seat in the 34th District, and got a lot of attention for testing tradition as a newcomer, but has not established much of a legislative record.

All in all, the delegation is evidencing a new pragmatism that, even if short on legislative accomplishment, is some improvement on the negativism of the past.

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