Candidates fanned across Orange County this weekend grabbing precious final hours of campaigning before Tuesday's election.
The approaching election spurred last-minute spending in several races for cable television advertisements, mailers and phone banks to encourage voters to the polls.
As with most elections, the ending hours in many campaigns were consumed with punctuating closing attacks against opponents.
On Sunday afternoon, Democratic candidates Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), state Treasurer candidate Phil Angelides and 69th assembly district candidate Lou Correa held a spirited rally in Santa Ana targeting the Latino vote.
"Two years ago we said, 'Yes we can,' " said Sanchez, who is facing Republican Robert K. Dornan in the 46th Congressional District. "And what happened? We won!"
Preceded by mariachi, the candidates urged voters to go to the polls Tuesday and said that in an off-year election battle, voter turnout is the key to victory.
"Voter turnout is critical," said Correa, who is facing incumbent Jim Morrissey (R-Santa Ana).
Wasting no time putting the Republicans on the offensive, the candidates reminded the audience of the 1988 poll guard incident that has haunted the Orange County Republican Party and Assemblyman Curt Pringle.
"That is the fundamental difference between us and Curt Pringle and Bob Dornan," Angelides said. "We are here to tell every citizen to vote. There is no need for poll watchers and poll guards here in the strongest democracy in the world."
Some in the audience, including Miguel Ortuno, seemed to reflect what could turn into the Republican's biggest nightmare among the fastest-growing minority group in the United States.
"If I could, I would vote for Loretta," said Ortuno, who is not a citizen yet, but whose son, Giovani, was born in the U.S. "I will always vote Democrat. The Republicans have set us aside. I brought my son here so he can learn."
Not to be outdone, Dornan's supporters let their presence be known at the event with a man dressed as a chicken holding a sign reading "Why won't Sanchez debate? What is she hiding?" on a busy section of Harbor Boulevard.
Dornan has also been catering to the Latino vote, even handing out buttons in Spanish advocating "Life, Liberty and Country."
"I was the fair-haired guy in the Latino community, and all of the sudden I get punished for the dumb poll guard idea that happened 10 years ago," Dornan said. "I just can't believe it has staying power. The whole thing is a big phony-baloney thing. I have done everything [to bring in the Latino community] except wear a big sombrero."
Morrissey sent out a statement angrily condemning the Democrats' attempt to smear him with the poll guard incident.
"I am disappointed but not surprised that Lou Correa would misrepresent my position on such a serious matter," read the statement, which was distributed at the rally. "I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for the rights of all Latinos to register and vote."
Pringle's campaign manager, Jeff Flint, said his opponent was resorting to "his usual tactics of running negative campaigns."
"It's a 10-year-old story. They are trying to distort Curt's record. Curt has always said he did not know about it and he would have stopped if he did," Flint said.
In the race for Anaheim mayor, phone-bank staffers in Utah called residents on behalf of the California Republican Party urging voters to cast ballot for Republican Bob Zemel in the nonpartisan seat. The callers also criticized incumbent Mayor Tom Daly, a Democrat.
Republican state party chairman Michael Schroeder said the seat is critical for the GOP because Daly is "the only liberal activist Democratic mayor of a Republican-majority city in California." He said the party will have spent $100,000 helping Zemel by election day.
Daly campaign consultant Harvey Englander called the spending unprecedented and irresponsible. Daly has strong support among Republican businesses and residents in Anaheim, including the endorsements of two former mayors.
"Responsible Republicans are fighting a lot of close congressional and legislative partisan races, so why are they taking needed money away from those races and giving it to an Anaheim council race?" Englander said.
In west Orange County, the campaign of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) mailed a complaint Saturday to the Federal Elections Commission charging that Democratic challenger Patricia W. Neal was floating the end of her campaign with an illegal $100,000 loan.
Rohrabacher campaign chairman James Righeimer said Neal didn't comply with federal campaign reporting laws and hadn't recorded a required deed for the loan as of Friday.
"I do not believe that any of this is an unintentional campaign finance reporting error," Righeimer said in the complaint. "There is strong evidence to suggest she may have conspired . . . to hide the identity of campaign contributors."