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Only 59 Days 'Til Elections

January 06, 2002

It may not have registered yet with residents, but when all the bells, horns and whistles went off at midnight Monday it not only ushered in the new year, it also signaled the start of the election season in the county.

This is not a presidential year, but with California's March 5 primary now just ahead, political candidates seeking local, state and federal office have just 59 more days to make their case with voters.

On the Orange County ballot, there will be 380 candidates competing in 172 election contests ranging from the primary race for governor to seats on the Seal Beach City Council. There will also be 26 local measures in addition to the statewide initiatives.

In county government, voters will have to decide whether to reelect first-term Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad in the 4th District. Supervisor Todd Spitzer is unopposed in a primary for the State Assembly seat being vacated by termed-out Republican Assemblyman Bill Campbell. Spitzer's supervisorial seat would be filled by the governor if he wins in November, as expected. Spitzer, a Republican, doesn't want to leave the decision of who fills his unexpired term on the county board to the Democratic governor, so he has promoted Measure V on March's ballot. It would create a charter provision requiring special elections to fill vacant supervisorial seats.

Coad is the only incumbent supervisor facing ballot opposition. Supervisors Jim Silva and Tom Wilson have no challengers. Also unchallenged for reelection are the county's sheriff-coroner, schools superintendent, auditor and treasurer-tax collector.

One other major local race pits Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas against Wally Wade, one of his office deputies. And there are races for open seats for the county clerk-recorder and public administrator posts, the superior court bench and two contested seats on the county school board.

An interesting race from the local perspective finds former Assemblyman Tom Umberg seeking the Democratic nomination for state insurance commissioner. If Umberg wins in the statewide primary, he would face Wes Bannister, another county resident, in November.

The main and most controversial ballot issue is Measure W, which is asking voters--for the fourth time in recent years--to decide whether to locate a new commercial airport at the former El Toro Marine Air Station. There are also seven local school bond measures facing residents as districts try to take advantage of the new law that requires the approval of only 55% of voters instead of the former two-thirds.

Because Election Day is so close, some campaigns are sure to be more intense and some candidates and measure proponents may be tempted to take a short cut--on the low road with late hit pieces and personal attacks. We urge them to resist any such dirty tactics. If any don't, voters must be quick to reject the mudslinging and send candidates a strong message that it will not be tolerated.

In the coming weeks, we will be watching candidates on the campaign trail, listening to their speeches and promises, talking to them and studying ballot issues and arguments. We urge residents to do the same. Closer to Election Day, we will make some recommendations that we hope will help voters decide who and what will be best for Orange County.

Candidates have kept their campaign engines on idle during the holiday season. But with the new year, they're raring to go. So let the races begin.

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