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Several O.C. Races, Measures Too Close to Call


With Democrats fighting hard to regain a toehold in the Republican fortress of Orange County, Republican Assemblyman Jim Morrissey was locked in a tight battle late Tuesday with challenger Lou Correa for a central county legislative seat.

Morrissey was leading Correa, an Anaheim financial consultant, in the 69th Assembly District in what could become a key race as Democrats try to wrest control of the Legislature's lower house from the Republicans.

Meanwhile, in the county's 3rd Supervisorial District, Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) was running behind Deputy Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer. Mark Leyes, a Garden Grove councilman, and Westminster Mayor Charles V. Smith were running neck and neck in the 1st District.

Measure A, which limits county supervisors to two consecutive four-year terms in office, was winning big in early returns. Similar term-limit measures for city council members were also passing in Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Orange, Laguna Niguel, La Palma and Yorba Linda by large margins.

In the presidential sweepstakes, Republican Bob Dole was running ahead of GOP party registration, but failed to capture the huge margin he needed here to make a competitive showing in the state.

Polls showed early in the campaign that Dole was facing the same problems in Orange County that dogged then-President George Bush when he lost his reelection bid against Clinton in 1992.

The county's Republican leaders have long boasted that Orange County's huge GOP registration advantage gives their candidates an important leg up to capture the state. But that edge has disappeared of late.

Bush's vote tally in 1992 ran 10 points below Republican registration in the county, lower than any GOP presidential candidate in 56 years. And, as usual, Republicans were hoping that Dole would garner the 300,000-vote edge GOP candidates need to overcome a big deficit in Democrat enclaves such as San Francisco and Los Angeles County.

Clinton made inroads in Orange County during the 1992 contest and again this year by getting well-publicized boosts from a number of Republican notables. Clinton also paid visits to the county, something Democrat candidates hadn't bothered with in many past presidential elections.

Dole tried to counteract that with appearances of his own. The GOP nominee or running mate Jack Kemp visited the county half a dozen times. But even then, the support was less than wildly enthusiastic. During one appearance at the county fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Dole drew a relatively sparse crowd of about 3,000.

Election day also saw Orange County once again become the focal point of an effort to keep immigrant voters away from the polls.

On Tuesday, a vocal group of half a dozen illegal-immigration foes demonstrated at the intersection of Springdale and Edinger streets in Huntington Beach.

They carried signs and waved American flags warning illegal immigrants not to vote. Their signs said: "U.S. citizens can vote. Violators can be prosecuted."

"I'm very frightened. There is a good possibility of thousands of noncitizens voting in this election," said Barbara Coe, a leader of Proposition 187. "Perhaps they will think twice before voting illegally."

Coe said she had been warned by the Justice Department, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and California Secretary of State Bill Jones not to scare voters away from the polls.

"I'm pretty beat up, thank you," concluded Coe, who wore a jacket that looked like an American flag.

In 1988, the county GOP hired uniformed security guards to hold signs warning away illegal immigrant voters in the race for the heavily Latino 69th Assembly District. The tactic spawned a Justice Department investigation and a civil lawsuit settled out of court for $400,000.

Irma Garcia, a Santa Ana mother of three, voted Tuesday for the first time. A registered Democrat, Garcia has lived in the U.S. for 20 years but didn't receive her citizenship until September. She registered to vote and said the most important thing was to vote against Proposition 209, the measure that would slash many government affirmative action programs in the state.

"I never realized how important it is to be counted," she said, adding that she voted because she might lose her right to vote. "More than anything, I just want to be counted."

Garcia also cast a vote for Democrat Loretta Sanchez, the upstart Democrat who was in a heated battle against nine-term Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove). Garcia said of Sanchez: "She understands us."

Greg Pierce, an electrician and Republican from Santa Ana, voted for Dornan and Dole.

"Moral issues are paramount to me," he said. "That's what I care about. Economics is second. I want people who are honest and who care about other human beings. Clinton lost my vote when signed the bill allowing late-term abortions. That was unspeakably cruel."

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