GARDEN GROVE — The husband of Democratic congressional candidate Loretta Sanchez on Monday admitted to tearing down two political signs belonging to his wife's opponent, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove).
"Yes, out of sheer frustration over the mean-spirited personal attacks of Bob Dornan, I took down two of his campaign signs," said Stephen Brixey III in a statement released by the campaign.
Brixey was caught Saturday night by Mark Dornan, the congressman's son, at Katella Avenue and Brookhurst Street in Anaheim tearing down signs belonging to the Dornan campaign. Mark Dornan made a citizen's arrest of Brixey and summoned police, who cited Brixey for vandalism of private property.
The Sanchez campaign Sunday originally had dismissed the allegations. The charges are "ridiculous," Sanchez said, following a campaign event before the Vietnamese Political Action Committee. Dornan was to appear with Sanchez in a debate format, but did not attend the event until the last 15 minutes, saying he did not want to dignify his opponent by sharing a platform with her for three hours.
Sanchez took responsibility for her husband's actions.
"I did not know he was going to do this nor do I condone such tactics," she said in the same statement. "I apologize to the Dornan campaign and Stephen has offered to pay for the signs."
Campaign manager John Stallman explained Sanchez's earlier denial, saying Brixey had failed to tell his wife the truth about his involvement. "He was a little nervous and didn't give the full story," he said.
Neither Brixey nor Sanchez could be reached for comment.
The Dornan campaign was unimpressed with the apology and the admission. Campaign officials said they know Brixey tore down those signs and also saw him drive away a few minutes earlier from Ball Road and Brookhurst where he appeared to kick several more signs into a storm drain.
"I can't accept an apology on their tearing down my signs, when I know they are going to continue to tear down my name," Dornan said. "I just composed a brochure today and it says this unethical conduct is not the example we want to hold up to our children."
In addition to the brochure, Dornan said his campaign would begin using a cable television spot that "features a simple partial-birth infanticide" message. "I will score points against her and Clinton," he said.
Earlier this year, President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have barred a controversial form of late-term abortions that critics call partial-birth abortions. Sanchez is a supporter of abortion rights and makes no exception for the late-term procedure.
Dornan favors a Constitutional ban on all abortions.
The Sanchez campaign statement said that Brixey acted out of frustration, inspired by damage to their own signs and anger at a "doctored" photograph of Loretta Sanchez on Dornan campaign literature that makes her appear "like a creature from 'Night of the Living Dead.' "
"I was simply fed up with Dornan's lies," Brixey said in his statement. "He has attacked my wife, myself and my family. In an insult to all women, he refuses to call my wife by her maiden name even though she has asked him to do so."
Dornan explained that the ghoulish-looking photograph was a fax of a picture used in the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper. "We even cleaned it up a bit," he said. "They are not going out of their way to use any handsome pictures of me."
He pledged to only use pictures copied from her brochures in the future.
Mark Dornan said the campaign has lost perhaps 150 signs. "Are we going to be recompensed for all our signs that have been torn down?" he asked. "They are doing this because they are desperate. He has a major role in the campaign. This is not some lower-level hireling."
Meanwhile, the head of a local outdoor sign company admitted that he was responsible for the removal of about 10 Dornan campaign signs. Woodrow Butterfield, head of Butterfield Outdoor Advertising, said most of the Dornan signs were put up illegally on billboards Butterfield owns at 17th Street and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.
"We have been taking them down," he said.
Mark Dornan said it is possible the Dornan campaign was responsible for putting the signs up where they didn't belong.
"We had several crews go out," he said. "If someone put one up there and [Butterfield] didn't like it, he can take it down. If it is on someone's property, they have a right to take them down."