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Smith Takes Strong Lead in Push for Second Term


Charles V. Smith, who campaigned on his experience and record as chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, was leading in his bid for a second term in early returns late Tuesday.

Smith was running substantially ahead of challenger Eleazar G. Elizondo, a political newcomer who ran a grass-roots campaign with help from friends and family members.

"I feel very optimistic," Smith said. "I would say it looks very good for us."

Despite Smith's early surge, Elizondo was optimistic late Tuesday.

"Hey, I'm excited. We accomplished a lot, despite the fact that [Smith] outspent me by quite a lot," Elizondo said.

The early results suggested that Smith and colleague Todd Spitzer, who ran unopposed in Tuesday's race, will be returned to office.

Smith was figured to best Elizondo, to win his second four-year term on the board. Smith, who lives in Westminster, where he served as mayor, conducted a low profile campaign compared to his opponent, who ran an aggressive sign campaign.

Smith, 67, stumped for votes by attending speaking engagements in his district and sending four mailers to constituents highlighting his accomplishments and goals. Smith spent an estimated $50,000 on the election, said his campaign manager, Eileen Padberg.

"We would have spent that even if he had no opponents," Padberg said. "Our feeling was that regardless of whether he had any opposition he owed his constituents enough to update them on what he was doing."

Smith is one of three supervisors who make up a 3-2 board majority that has favored a proposed El Toro airport. But he said that's not the most pressing issue he faces in his second term. The biggest challenge, he said, is improving health care for district residents.

Smith dedicated himself last year to helping several low-cost health clinics serving Santa Ana's Latino population. In addition, he helped a Latino health clinic survive after it had lost funding, and also spearheaded an effort to get another health clinic at the Delhi Center in Santa Ana.

The election marked Elizondo's first attempt in a political race.

The 28-year-old Santa Ana elementary schoolteacher has been an aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Anaheim). With few endorsements, Elizondo took a leave of absence from his job to walk precincts and enlist help.

He said his campaign raised about $12,000 and relied heavily on friends and relatives who called voters from his mother's Santa Ana home, which served as Elizondo's campaign headquarters.

Elizondo had believed that district voters were angered by the board's decision to use $900 million in tobacco settlement funds to build jails and pay down the county's debt instead of on health care.

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