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Orange County

Special Election Caps Are Pushed

Politics: Spitzer wants the $1,000 limit on contributions that's in effect for primary and general campaigns to cover all races.

April 11, 2002|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Supervisor Todd Spitzer is asking his colleagues to amend Orange County's campaign finance law so that if a special election is held next year for his seat, it would be conducted with a $1,000 limit on contributions.

County law now limits contributions to $1,000 for candidates in primary and general elections but doesn't mention special elections. Voters last month created a new county charter, however, which calls for special elections for supervisor. Vacancies in other county offices are filled by the board.

The charter, written by Spitzer, replaced the old method of filling supervisorial vacancies: appointment by the governor. Spitzer is the Republican nominee for the 71st Assembly District, which is mostly Republican, and expects to be elected in November. He faces Democrat Bea Foster, a Santa Ana teacher.

Spitzer said he wants the contribution changes approved this month; they would take effect 30 days after adoption. In the interim, he said, it would be unfair for candidates anticipating a special election to collect unlimited amounts.

"All of the potential candidates would be hard-pressed to raise money outside of it and not expect a public backlash," he said of the county law, known as TINCUP, for Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics.

Government activist Shirley Grindle, who helped write the county law, said she included restrictions for special elections in the original law, approved in 1978, but they were removed by the county counsel's office.

An amendment establishing the $1,000 limit was passed by voters in 1992.

Supervisors could adopt the proposed restriction on special elections without voter approval because the board can limit campaign activity on its own. Anything that would weaken the law, however, would have to go before voters.

Grindle said she is working with state officials to resolve another campaign issue that cropped up during recent elections: the use of slate mailers that feature mostly one candidate.

Fullerton Councilman Chris Norby, who defeated incumbent Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad in March and takes office in January, benefited from a dozen slate mailers that either featured him or criticized Coad and were funded in part by South County forces opposed to an airport at El Toro.

Grindle said she is working on an amendment to state law that would limit the amount of space on a slate mailer that could be devoted to a single candidate and would require payments to reflect the amount of space provided.

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