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Voter Guide 2000

Confident Candidates Share the Wealth

Finances: Republicans in relatively safe O.C. seats share their campaign funds with those facing tougher competition.

November 05, 2000|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Republicans throughout California are sweating the outcome of races for a half-dozen congressional seats, four Assembly seats and three Senate seats in Tuesday's election. But in Orange County, the GOP is poised to retain its majority within the county's legislative ranks.

So sure of victory are the county's Republican incumbents--and two GOP legislators who haven't even been elected yet--that they've spent the past two weeks exporting chunks of their campaign cash to other races throughout California.

The most generous as of Nov. 2: Assemblyman Bill Campbell (R-Villa Park), elected in 1996 and facing his final reelection, thanks to term limits. Campbell, whose main challenger is veteran Democratic candidate Bea Foster, has funneled $75,000 to two Republican Assembly candidates and the California Republican Party.

Other county exporters: $33,000 to three Assembly candidates from nominee John Campbell, running in the 70th Assembly District to replace retiring Assemblywoman Marilyn C. Brewer (R-Newport Beach). Assemblywoman Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has given $20,000 in late contributions to two Assembly candidates, while GOP nominee Lynn Daucher in the 72nd Assembly District has exported $15,000 to two other candidates. Sen. Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), who is not running for reelection, gave $10,000 to a Senate candidate.

The reason for the largess is simple: Republican candidates typically benefit from a steady flow of contributions from GOP donors in Orange County. Most are blessed with seats where Republican voters greatly outnumber Democrats. So in the closing weeks of the election, they are prevailed upon by party leaders to share the wealth in other areas where the races are closer.

Though voter focus has rested primarily on the presidential race, the House races and legislative contests are critical this cycle. On the national front, Republicans are within six seats of losing their majority in the House. Closer to home, Democrats are within four seats in the Assembly and three in the state Senate of having a veto-proof majority. That means they wouldn't need Republican help to override vetoes by Gov. Gray Davis, also a Democrat, but one with whom they have disagreements on some issues.

Though the county's still a Republican stronghold, there are two Democratic-majority districts--one congressional and one Assembly--where incumbents face reelection. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) is seeking a third term but the Republicans are putting up a formidable opponent--Santa Ana school teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman. Still, Sanchez held a commanding lead in a recent poll done for the Los Angeles Times. Like Sanchez, Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) was in a comfortable position, with enough cash and a voter-registration cushion to anticipate beating challenger Lou Lopez.

In what is considered the most competitive race, Democratic challenger Tina Laine, a disability attorney, was boosted last month by money from Assembly Democrats hoping to help her take the seat from Ken Maddox, a one-term Republican incumbent. The Democratic spending spurred GOP gifts to Maddox, resulting in a flurry of campaign mail as both candidates fight for the district, where GOP voters hold a thin edge.

In the past two weeks, Republicans and GOP-leaning organizations have poured $55,000 into Maddox's campaign. Laine got a single $1,000 from a doctors' medical defense fund.

Incumbents seem to have the upper hand in most of the congressional races, including an open seat in the 48th District where Republican candidate Darrell Issa is seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Ron Packard, 68, of Oceanside, who is stepping down in January after 18 years in Congress.

Democrat Peter Kouvelis, a 33-year-old Marine, has dropped out of the race after winning the primary, saying national Democrats weren't giving him enough money to mount a campaign. His name will still appear on the ballot.

In the 41st District, which sprawls over parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties, Democrat Rodolfo G. Favila, a retired police officer from Ontario, has raised the most money of anyone challenging an incumbent in an Orange County district: $56,214.

Democrats have hit the district hard this year during voter-registration drives, but it's unknown if they can beat incumbent Gary G. Miller (R-Diamond Bar).

In other Congressional races, office holders seem nearly bullet-proof. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) enjoy huge GOP registration advantages over their challengers and Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) should benefit from having a district with the largest GOP voter margin in the county.

The county's two state Senate races also seem tilted toward the Republicans. In the 35th District, which stretches along the coastline from Seal Beach to Laguna, Ross Johnson is seeking to push into his third decade of elected political service. He is being challenged by Steve Ray. To the north, where the mammoth 33rd District cuts from one end of the county to the other, Assemblyman Dick Ackerman is seeking his first term in the Senate. He is being challenged by Jack Roberts, a union representative.

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Also contributing to this article was Times Staff Writer David Reyes

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