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No Surprise: Ackerman, Johnson Lead

Republican candidates with more experience, money easily outpace others in 33rd, 35th district elections.


Republicans were cruising to commanding victories in the 33rd and 35th state Senate districts, reaping all the benefits of Orange County politics--high Republican registration, sizable campaign coffers and incumbency.

In the 35th district, the county's most veteran lawmaker, Sen. Ross Johnson, appeared easily headed for reelection. The 61-year-old Irvine Republican was first elected to the Assembly more than 20 years ago and was voted into the Senate in 1995. This will be his last election under term limits.

In the 33rd District, Dick Ackerman will take over the seat held by Republican John Lewis of Orange, who is stepping down because of term limits. Ackerman of Fullerton served three Assembly terms. Before his 1995 election to state office, he served on the Fullerton City Council for 12 years.

"I am happy to be representing Orange County in the Senate," said Ackerman, with early results giving him the overwhelming lead.

"The main goal of the entire delegation this year is to get our fair share of tax money back to Orange County," Ackerman said. From the starting gate, Democrats were facing a nearly insurmountable challenge in districts with Republican voter registration that outnumbers Democrats nearly 2 to 1.

Democratic challengers were also limited by money, looking like paupers compared to their opponents. By Oct. 31, Steve Ray in the 35th district had raised just under $12,000, while Johnson's war chest totaled close to $591,000. Jack Roberts in the 33rd said he had raised close to $20,000 by Tuesday; Ackerman had more than $217,000.

Despite the Democrats' uphill battles, Ray and Roberts fought hard while their competitors mounted minimal campaigns. Ray and Roberts walked door to door.

"We've got to rest all we can and get started again next week, building toward 2002," Roberts said.

Ray, who said he wore out two pairs of shoes campaigning, said: "We Democrats in [Orange County] have this idea that we are out there in the wilderness by ourselves, but we're not. We need to get out there and let people know that we're here, and we need to get people involved."

Others on the ballot for the 33rd District were Michael Chacon, a Tustin Libertarian, and Anaheim resident William "Bill" Verkamp, the Natural Law candidate. The 33rd encompasses Brea, Fullerton, La Habra, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Orange, Placentia, and parts of Anaheim, Buena Park and Irvine.

In the 35th District, the Natural Law candidate was Cindy Katz, a Tustin chiropractor. Paul L. Studier of Lake Forest was the Libertarian Party candidate. The district includes Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Seal Beach, and most of Irvine and parts of Anaheim, Santa Ana, Tustin, Westminster and several other inland cities.

Meg James and Jean Pasco contributed to this report.

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