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DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION '96

Speech Said It All for O.C. Democratic Partyers

August 30, 1996|LISA RICHARDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MISSION VIEJO — Rarely, very rarely do Democrats in Orange County have the opportunity to root for an incumbent candidate who is ahead of a Republican in the polls.

So Thursday night as the South County Democratic Club gathered to watch President Bill Clinton's acceptance speech, their euphoria was palpable.

Meeting at the headquarters in Heritage Square shopping plaza, about 60 Democrats paraded a short distance along Marguerite Parkway with red, white and blue flags, balloons and Clinton/Gore signs, to the Booster's Sports Grill, chanting "Four more years!" and attracting many honks of support and some thumbs-down from passing drivers.

"It takes some fortitude to be a Democrat here," said club Chairman Aurnie Sutliffe of Dana Point. "But we're going to show them the Democrats are alive here."

Retired educators Mont and Patsy Whitson have lived in Orange County for only three years, moving to San Juan Capistrano after spending 25 years teaching in Appalachian communities that were largely Democratic.

"We just feel overwhelmed by the number of Republicans here--frankly I wonder why so many people in Orange County are Republican," Mont Whitson, 71, said. "I just don't understand it."

At the restaurant, the euphoria continued. After planting a flag on the outdoor deck, the group sat down to pizza and beer, pasta and diet Cokes, waiting for the president's address.

They applauded the video that preceded Clinton's speech. They applauded and stood when the president walked on the stage. They clapped when Clinton said he would not attack Dole. They cheered education initiatives, murmured approval for eliminating capital gains taxes on home sales, they cheered the mention of the Brady bill gun controls, and at the end, many jumped to their feet to join the Democrats televised in Chicago chanting "Four more years!"

In this corner of Orange County, the speech was universally approved of, tone, tenor and theme.

"It values family instead of talking about family values," said Jean Costales of Lake Forest, 59. The initiatives Clinton mentioned create "an opportunity to support infrastructures for the family," she said.

"He was wonderful," said Kathleen Gibney, 29, of San Clemente, a political science student at Cal State Fullerton. "Listening to him, it really gave me hope for the future."

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