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O.C. CONGRESSIONAL RACES : Dornan and Farber Slug It Out; Other Districts Are Calmer


With just four days remaining before Tuesday's election, a political slugfest marked by name-calling, finger-pointing and lawsuits is grabbing most of the attention in Orange County's congressional races, overshadowing the more subdued contests being waged in most other districts.

The heated, highly personal campaign between Rep. Robert K. Dornan and Democratic challenger Mike Farber in the 46th Congressional District showed no sign of abating at week's end.

Dornan (R-Garden Grove) has belittled his Democratic opponent, calling him a "twit" and a political carpetbagger who moved to the district from San Diego. The Democrat, in turn, has accused Dornan of lying about Farber's statements in recent mailers sent to voters in the district, which takes in parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.

"Bob Dornan's competence and character are on trial here," said Farber, a businessman who defeated six other Democrats in June for the right to take on the combative conservative.

Dornan scoffed, predicting that central Orange County voters who have remained faithful to him for eight terms will return him to Congress for a ninth.

In contrast, most of the county's five other congressional races have been fairly tame affairs this election season, with incumbent Republican congressmen appearing unlikely to face serious challenges from their Democratic and third-party rivals.

A possible exception is the 45th Congressional District, where a relatively spirited contest is underway for the seat held by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach.)

Democratic candidate Brett Williamson, a Costa Mesa attorney, has attacked Rohrabacher's record of support for Proposition 187, the ballot measure that would deny public education, social services and all but emergency health care to illegal immigrants. Williamson has also criticized the incumbent's voting record on such issues as crime and the environment.

In addition to the 45th District, which takes in northwest Orange County, including many of the coastal cities, other congressional races on the local ballots include:

* The 39th District, where Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) faces a challenge from Democratic opponent R.O. (Bob) Davis, a Buena Park businessman, and Libertarian Jack Dean, a Fullerton business owner. The district straddles northern Orange County and southern Los Angeles County.

* The 41st District, which touches northern Orange County and sections of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. First-term incumbent Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar) faces Democrat Ed Tessier, an urban redeveloper from Pomona.

* The 46th District in central Orange County, where Dornan has opposition from Farber and Libertarian Richard G. Newhouse, a college professor from Garden Grove.

* The 47th District in central and coastal Orange County. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), faces Democratic opposition from Gary Kingsbury, an Irvine educational training consultant, and Libertarian Victor A. Wagner Jr., a computer programmer from Mission Viejo.

* The 48th District, which includes parts of southern Orange County and sections of Riverside and San Diego counties. Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) is on the ballot with Democrat Andrei Leschick, a defense conversion director from Valley Center, and Peace and Freedom candidate Donna White of San Diego.

Of all six congressional contests in Orange County this year, the race in the 48th could probably be considered the most congenial.

In a debate scheduled to air tonight on KOCE-TV, Packard and Leschick took pains not to criticize one another, with Leschick even stressing the importance of nonpartisan solutions to government problems. But the two men differed on several issues, most markedly on Proposition 187, which Packard favors and Leschick opposes.

White, the Peace and Freedom Party candidate, did not attend the forum.

Cox and Royce, the incumbents in the 47th and 39th districts, respectively, also appear to face relatively minor opposition in Tuesday's election and are expected to retain their seats fairly easily.

Kingsbury, Cox's Democratic rival, has centered his campaign on strong opposition to the development of a commercial airport at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. But Cox says he also opposes Measure A, the ballot initiative that would zone El Toro exclusively for an airport.

In the 41st District, which takes in a sliver of Orange County, incumbent Kim has run a relatively low-key campaign against Tessier and apparently can afford to do so, according to political observers.

Even though Kim, the first Korean American elected to Congress, is still under investigation for possible violations of federal election, tax and labor laws in connection with his 1992 campaign, he faced his most serious electoral challenge in the June primary, not in Tuesday's election, said UC Irvine political scientist Mark Petracca.

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