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Rogan Stays Out of Race for Cox's Post

The ex-congressman says he doesn't intend to run. Analysts say the field of candidates may increase as election day nears, but not by many.

June 19, 2005|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Call it the incredible shrinking campaign.

Over the last two weeks, more potential candidates have bowed out than jumped at the chance of succeeding Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), nominated this month by President Bush to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Just days after the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative fundraising group in Washington, launched a campaign to draft James Rogan, the former congressman from Glendale said Friday that he was flattered but wasn't in the running.

"I don't anticipate being a candidate, barring some unforeseen event," said Rogan, who also served as undersecretary of commerce during Bush's first term and is best known for being the leading prosecutor on the House Judiciary Committee that impeached President Clinton.

Rogan joked that it would take a personal call from Bush or Cox asking him to run in the national interest to change his mind. "I'm not trying to be coy," said Rogan, now an attorney living in Yorba Linda. "I don't even live in the district. You can't say I'm out [of the race] because I was never in."

The leading Republican candidates remain state Sen. John Campbell of Irvine and former Assemblywoman Marilyn C. Brewer of Newport Beach. Democrat John Graham, a UC Irvine professor who has run against Cox three times, also has announced he'll run if Cox is confirmed as head of the SEC. The U.S. Senate confirmation hearing is expected this summer.

The 48th Congressional District is one of the most Republican in the state, with GOP voters outnumbering Democrats 2 to 1. But the oddities of a special election -- in which voters choose among all candidates regardless of party -- make the outcome more difficult to predict. If no candidate receives a majority, the top vote-getters from each party will be listed on a general election ballot two months later.

The district stretches from Newport Beach to Dana Point and includes all or parts of Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Aliso Viejo and San Juan Capistrano.

Brewer has deposited $150,000 into a campaign account and has said she'll reach out to Democrats and GOP moderates. Campbell said he would be opening his account Monday with $200,000 -- one-tenth of the money he said he hoped to raise for the race. He is endorsed by Republican Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton, Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach and Darrell E. Issa of Vista.

"I'm going to run like I'm fifth in a field of five," Campbell said. "This has all happened very quickly. I don't even have a piece of mail out yet."

Campbell's prospects improved last week when state Sen. Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) announced he was dropping out of the race. Ackerman, briefly considered the front-runner, said he reevaluated the race after Campbell decided to seek the congressional seat as well.

Some GOP activists urged that one of the two drop out because the pair might have split the conservative vote and given an advantage to the more moderate Brewer.

Many political observers expect the field of candidates to increase as election day nears, but not by many.

Some GOP leaders are still encouraging Rogan to run.

"Jim Rogan would provide the same kind of energetic leadership Chris Cox has afforded the district," said former Orange County GOP chairman Thomas A. Fuentes in a statement. Fuentes said a Rogan candidacy would "excite conservatives at the grass roots." Rogan represented a district that included Glendale and Pasadena from 1997 to 2001.

Dana Point Councilman James V. Lacy this month formed the Successor Project, a coalition of conservative groups to vet Republican candidates. The group says it hopes to find a "clone for Chris Cox."

It is likely more candidates haven't emerged because of the presence of heavyweights such as Campbell and Brewer, said Anna Bryson, who chairs the state GOP's budget committee.

Replacing someone as well-regarded as Cox -- a member of House leadership and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- will be tough, she said.

"This is not an average horse race," she said. "This is the Kentucky Derby."

Nonetheless, turnout is expected to be low, which is normal for special elections. The turnout could be higher if the election for Cox's seat coincided with the Nov. 8 statewide special election that will include at least a half-dozen initiatives.

For that to happen, however, Cox would have to leave his seat between June 28 and July 19 because of election law deadlines. His confirmation hearing hasn't been scheduled yet, but isn't expected to happen by then.

That means direct-mail absentee ballot campaigns will be key, since many voters don't want to go to the polls for only one race, said David Ellis, a public affairs consultant in Tustin.

In the 2003 special election won by Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell, 68% of the 36,000 votes cast were mailed in.

"This is going to happen so fast," Ellis said, "that if you don't have your absentee ballots in the mail right now, you're going to lose."

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