Voters in northwestern Orange County go to the polls today to determine the future of embattled former Assembly Speaker Doris Allen in a high-profile recall election and to select a possible successor.
Allen (R-Cypress) acknowledges she is a tremendous underdog, but said Monday that a large voter turnout might enable her to beat the odds and remain in office.
"It's about 50-50," said the 13-year incumbent, who represents the overwhelmingly Republican 67th Assembly district. "It's been a hard fight and a David-and-Goliath race. We've done everything we know how to do. A lot of things have turned around in the last four weeks."
But leaders of the Committee to Recall Doris Allen also believe the key to victory is a heavy turnout among voters angered by the deal Allen cut with Assembly Democratic leaders to propel her to the speaker's post in June. She resigned the job in September but joined with Democrats to secure the job for an ally, Assemblyman Brian Setencich (R-Fresno).
"The voters are very upset with what Doris Allen did and that will reflect in the vote," said recall leader Jeff Flint. "But we will not take anything for granted. When you are dealing with a low turnout election, you want to make sure that folks go out and vote."
Rosalyn Lever, the county's registrar of voters, said Monday it is difficult to predict how many people will vote today.
"It's hard to judge with these special elections, because each one is different," Lever said. "All of the elections attract different levels of interest."
More than 19,000 absentee ballots have already been cast out of about 30,000 ballots requested, Lever said.
In addition to deciding on the recall, voters will choose from among four possible successors, three Republicans and a Democrat.
The Republicans are attorney Scott Baugh; Shirley Carey, a nurse and school trustee, and Don MacAllister, a former Huntington Beach mayor. Linda Moulton-Patterson, also a former mayor of Huntington Beach, became the only Democrat in the race after a judge removed candidate Laurie Campbell from the ballot for falsifying her nominating papers.
If voters do recall Allen, Baugh is widely considered the front-runner among the would-be successors.
Baugh is backed by the Orange County congressional delegation and 25 Republican state legislators, and has far outspent his remaining rivals.
A victory by Baugh or another Republican candidate could tip the balance of power in the Assembly to the GOP, which has not been able to control the lower house for most of the past 25 years.
Another strong GOP candidate, businesswoman Haydee Tillotson, withdrew from the race two weeks ago, sharply altering the complexion of the contest, but her name remains on the ballot.
Tillotson was persuaded to quit the race by local Republican Party leaders, who feared that a divisive campaign could split the Republican vote and hand Moulton-Patterson an upset win.
Last week, it was disclosed that the Orange County district attorney's office wants to question Baugh about his campaign financing as part of its investigation into Campbell's aborted candidacy.
Baugh has declined to answer questions until after the election, according to the district attorney's office.
Voter registration in the 67th Assembly District, which includes Huntington Beach, Cypress, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach, is more than 50% Republican and about a third Democratic.