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Issa and Morrow Locked in Tight Race to Succeed Packard

Tuchman is winning opportunity to face Sanchez in November. Other O.C. incumbents on their way to victory.


There was no election day cease-fire in the back-biting Republican brawl to replace retiring Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), a race that remained too close to call early this morning.

In a high-stakes primary expected to decide the ultimate successor in the conservative district surrounding Camp Pendleton, charges of slander and illegal politicking ricocheted between the two front-runners, car alarm mogul Darrell Issa of Vista and state Sen. Bill Morrow of Oceanside.

Early returns failed to show a clear winner, although Issa--who plopped more than $1.5 million of his own fortune into the race--and Morrow dominated the crowded race. Mark Dornan of San Juan Capistrano, son of former Rep. Robert K. Dornan, was far behind the pack.

Issa held a thin lead in the early returns, enough for him to declare victory and remain unapologetic about the harsh campaign tactics used to land a win.

"It's not going to be a landslide. We never expected that," said Issa, a failed candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1998. "This is a tough business I've chosen to enter. We've certainly made it clear what we thought of Mr. Morrow."

Morrow also remained confident, expecting a late-night surge in Orange County. "He outspent us 10-to-1, and it's still a close race," Morrow said.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Orange County's only Democrat in Congress, ran unopposed for her party's nomination but expects to face another bruising reelection battle in November.

Conservative teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman appeared on the way of taking the GOP nomination for Sanchez's 46th District, based on early returns.

Tuchman, who carried the torch for California's 1998 anti-bilingual education initiative, said she offers voters in the Latino-dominated district a rational conservative alternative.

Tuchman, a Santa Ana schoolteacher, ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent of public instruction in 1998 and, that same year, was challenged for the GOP nomination by retired Anaheim Hills optometrist Howard Garber.

Civil engineer Larry Engwall, the Natural Law Party nominee, and Libertarian Richard B. Boddie, a teacher, will also be on the November ballot.

In Orange County's other five congressional races, incumbents appeared headed for a sweep.

By far, the race capturing the most attention was the one for Packard's seat, the 48th District, made up of portions of southern Orange County, northern San Diego County and a small chunk of southwestern Riverside County.

The GOP nominee will likely take on Democrat Peter Kouvelis of Dana Point, a former U.S. Marine officer, who in early returns had a comfortable lead over challenger Richard K. Maguire of Dana Point.

Because the district is dominated by GOP voters, Kouvelis acknowledged the odds were slim for a Democratic victory in November.

The only steeper hill for a Democrat to climb will be the 47th District, represented by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), which has the greatest percentage of GOP voters in California.

Cox, who has represented the district since 1988, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

UC Irvine economics professor John L. Graham of Irvine topped the Democratic field, clinging to a slim lead late Tuesday night.

The other Democrats vying to challenge Cox in November were attorney Maziar Mafi of Laguna Beach; retired police lieutenant Don Irvine; and businessman Jim Keysor of Laguna Woods.

Others candidates facing Cox in November will be the Natural Law Party's Iris Adam, a business manager, and Libertarian David F. Nolan, an author and inventor.

Here are other congressional races in Orange County:

* 39th District: In a district with no contested primary races, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) took the GOP nomination and Democrat Gill G. Kanel, an Anaheim machine shop owner, nabbed his party's nomination. Other uncontested primary winners were Libertarian Keith D. Gann, an engineer, and Ron Jevning, a researcher and teacher.

* 41st District: Freshman Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-Diamond Bar) was winning handily over Anthony "Tony" Ma of Yorba Linda for the GOP nomination. Former Ontario City Councilman Rodolfo G. "Rudy" Favila won the uncontested Democratic nomination, and David Kramer won the uncontested nomination for the Natural Law Party.

* 45th District: Incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) was far ahead of challenger Long K. Pham for the GOP nomination. Ted Crisell of Costa Mesa, a property management consultant, ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Other uncontested winners were businessman Don Hull for the Libertarian Party, and real estate agent Constance Betton for the Natural Law Party.

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