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ORANGE COUNTY ELECTIONS

Correa Takes Lead for Supervisor; Bonds Ahead

School funding measures in Huntington Beach and Saddleback districts get support. Runoff between two Democrats could be forced in supervisor race.

March 03, 2004|Kimi Yoshino and Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writers

Democrats were headed toward their first seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in more than 17 years, based on nearly complete election results early today.

Voters in the Saddleback Valley Unified and Huntington Beach Union High School districts were supporting bond measures for campus improvements, but a similar effort in Orange was failing.

In Huntington Beach, voters were soundly rejecting a plan to decrease the City Council from seven members to five and elect council members by district, while Buena Park voters seemed determined to keep their fireworks.

In the four-candidate supervisorial race, a pair of Democrats -- Assemblyman Lou Correa and Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater -- were running first and second, respectively. Santa Ana City Councilman Brett Franklin, a Republican, was third.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," Correa said early in the evening.

Since no candidate won 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will face off in the November general election for the nonpartisan seat.

Correa had the best-financed campaign and the most name recognition because his Assembly district -- in which he has served for the last three terms -- overlaps the boundaries of the 1st Supervisorial District, which includes most of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster.

Voters in Huntington Beach, Orange and Saddleback Valley school districts were asked to approve property tax increases to pay for repairs, modernizations and expansion of schools.

District officials said the decades-old buildings are outdated, with leaking roofs, shoddy plumbing and too little space to handle the growing number of students.

In the Huntington Beach Union High School District, taxpayers were asked to approve $30 per $100,000 in assessed land value, providing the district with $238 million. A similar bond for $123 million failed in 1999.

Saddleback Valley volunteers were working down to the wire, phoning registered voters to persuade them to support Measure B, a $180-million bond.

Their work appeared to pay off.

"We're feeling optimistic," said Saddleback Valley Unified Supt. Jerry Gross. "We thought long and hard before we presented this bond measure. We looked at our needs, and it was a question of 'pay me now or pay me later.' We needed to go ahead with it."

Gross added that recent rains had exacerbated leaks in many of the district's school roofs and illustrated the pressing need for improvements.

And in Orange Unified, district officials were making their first run at a bond measure, asking property owners to pay a $39.29 tax per $100,000 in assessed value. The district's bond measure was falling short of the 55% needed to pass. .

The ballot measure in Huntington Beach sought voter approval in restructuring how members are elected to the City Council. Preliminary results showed that measure losing by a significant margin.

The council has seven at-large members. Measure E asked that the council shrink to five members and be elected by district. The measure's sponsor, Scott Baugh, a former Republican assemblyman, said he launched the initiative because the at-large system favors environmentalists and other special interests.

"There seemed to be a whole lot of angst to change the form of government," said Baugh, blaming low voter turnout for the measure's defeat.

"We just wanted the voters to have a choice on this."

The Buena Park fireworks measure pitted patriotic pyrotechnic displays against public safety concerns in one of the few remaining cities in Orange County that sells so-called "safe and sane" fireworks.

Proponents of the ban argued that police calls for service have skyrocketed 400% in the last three years and that the city becomes a "war zone" during the Fourth of July as people descend on the city to set off fireworks.

The proposed ban was being defeated.

Former Buena Park Councilman Don Griffin spent much of last year campaigning against the ban. "The fireworks are safe," he insisted. "I just hope we get to keep them."

Councilman Arthur C. Brown, who supports the ban, said the race has been lopsided, with fireworks firms bankrolling the campaign to keep them.

"If the measure does lose, it just means we have to keep expending money on more police and cleanup the next day," Brown said.

Seal Beach voters rejected candidate Kimberly Boyd for city clerk. Her opponents argued that she should not be elected because her husband is a former councilman whose conviction on conflict-of-interest charges bars him from seeking public office.

In the three-candidate race, Boyd was trailing significantly Tuesday night. Former school board member Linda Devine appeared to be edging out Seal Beach Mayor Patty Campbell.

Times staff writers Stuart Pfeifer, Jean-Paul Renaud and William Wan contributed to this report.

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