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Veteran Lawmakers on Track to Be Back on November Ballot

Republicans Ross Johnson, preparing his last Senate campaign, and Dick Ackerman, hoping to move up from the Assembly, will be opposed by Democrats who face an uphill battle.


State Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) and outgoing Assemblyman Dick Ackerman (R-Fullerton) were poised on Tuesday to return to Sacramento, as the veteran legislators won the GOP primaries in their state Senate races.

Each ran as the GOP establishment candidate and was unopposed.

Johnson is the incumbent in the 35th State Senate District, but the November election will be the last for him. Johnson, who is Senate minority leader, will be forced by term limits to retire in 2004.

Ackerman gave up his 72nd Assembly District seat to run in the 33rd State Senate District when term limits forced Sen. John Lewis (R-Orange) to step down. Lewis has endorsed Ackerman.

Despite running a better financed campaign and having higher name recognition than his Democratic challenger, Ackerman did not want to appear overconfident. He spent a lot of time campaigning in south Orange County and acquainting himself with Republican voters.

"You can never assume that you're going to have an easy race, even in Orange County," Ackerman said Tuesday. "I will prepare for a general campaign. I'm not taking anything for granted."

Johnson said he will focus on getting GOP state Senate candidates elected in California. He is not expected to spend a lot of time campaigning in his district and spent election night in Sacramento.

The Democratic challengers in each district also were unopposed. Huntington Beach business owner Steve Ray, 51, won in the 35th District, while union official Jack Roberts, 60, of Orange coasted in the 33rd District.

But with limited campaign war chests and little name recognition, both men have a daunting task ahead in their efforts to overcome their Republican opponents.

Still, both Ray and Roberts said they will campaign to win.

"I'm not just Democratic fodder. I'm going out to beat [Ackerman]," Roberts said.

Ray said he plans to begin "campaigning to unseat" Johnson today.

"Our general campaign begins in earnest [Wednesday]. Tonight, we're celebrating with other Democrats," said Ray.

Ray and Roberts were at the noisy International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 441 hall in Orange, which served as election-night headquarters for Orange County Democrats.

Libertarian candidate Michael Chacon and Natural Law Party candidate William "Bill" Verkamp also ran unopposed in the 33rd District and will appear on the November ballot with Ackerman and Roberts.

In the 35th District, Libertarian Paul L. Studier and Natural Law Party candidate Cindy Katz will face off against Johnson and Ray.

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