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Orange County

Spending Limits OKd in Special Elections

Campaigns: Supervisors give preliminary approval to closing a loophole in county law.


County supervisors gave preliminary approval Tuesday to closing a loophole in a countywide campaign spending law so that it includes special elections.

The unanimous vote came at the request of Shirley Grindle, a government activist who helped write the county's campaign spending law, which up to now limited contributions to $1,000 for candidates in primary and general elections but not in special elections.

The change could come into play soon, if Supervisor Todd Spitzer wins his bid for a state Assembly seat.

Spitzer is the Republican nominee for the 71st Assembly District, which is largely Republican, and expects to be elected in November. Democrat Bea Foster, a Santa Ana teacher, is also running.

Voters last month created a county charter that calls for holding special elections to fill vacancies on the Board of Supervisors.

The charter, written by Spitzer, was promoted as a means to provide for greater representation, though Democrats believed it was a ploy by Republicans to prevent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis from appointing a replacement from his party.

The extended limits on spending would prevent candidates anticipating a special election for Spitzer's seat from collecting unlimited amounts for their campaigns.

The limit on special-elections spending will come up for a second reading at next week's meeting. It would become effective 30 days after that date.

Assemblyman Bill Campbell (R-Villa Park) is the only announced candidate for the expected vacancy, although Orange City Councilman Mike Alvarez has formed a political action committee.

In telephone interviews, both Campbell and Alvarez said they supported the campaign changes and would abide by them, before and after they become effective.

Grindle also is seeking to tackle the use of slate mailers, which surfaced as a concern in the recent elections.

Supervisors wanted to address slate mailers in Tuesday's action but dropped it because the item was not on the agenda. The board instructed county counsel to return within 60 days with recommendations.

The problem, Grindle said, is that slate mailers that highlight primarily one candidate circumvent the county's campaign laws because there are no restrictions on donations for the mailers.

She offered as an example the mailers in a recent board race, in which Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad was defeated for reelection by Fullerton Councilman Chris Norby.

Norby benefited from a dozen slate mailers that either featured him or criticized Coad and were funded in part by South County opponents of an airport at El Toro.

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