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Campbell Tops Field in House Race

The Irvine Republican state senator, failing to win 50% in the 48th District's election to succeed Cox, faces four others in a Dec. 6 vote.

October 05, 2005|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Republican state Sen. John Campbell of Irvine finished atop a field of 17 candidates to succeed former Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), but failed to win outright.

In this coastal Orange County district, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 2-to-1, Campbell is all but assured a victory in the Dec. 6 general election. He will appear on the ballot along with the top vote-getters from four other parties: Democrat Steve Young, Libertarian Bruce Cohen, American Independent Jim Gilchrist, and Bea Tiritilli of the Green Party.

"Obviously, we knew this was going to be close on whether we'd get a majority [outright]," Campbell said, celebrating with supporters in Tustin. "We knew it was a tall order."

Cox resigned Aug. 2 to become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He represented the area for 17 years but declined to endorse a successor, saying he would leave that to voters. His predecessor, Robert E. Badham, served in Congress for 12 years.

Among the candidates to succeed Cox, 10 were Republicans and four were Democrats.

The 48th Congressional District, stretching from Newport Beach to San Juan Capistrano, has 400,000 voters, though only a small fraction turned out for Tuesday's election.

With the district's heavy partisan advantage, it is nearly inevitable that a Republican will succeed Cox, maintaining the party's lead in the House. Campbell's camp had hoped he would win a majority of Tuesday's vote outright, allowing him to take office immediately and cast votes in the House on Thursday.

According to early numbers Tuesday, absentee ballots accounted for about 60% of all of the votes cast, and left him with a slight majority. But his lead dipped to 46% as votes in more precincts were tallied. About 1,500 ballots remain to be counted, including provisional ballots and absentee ballots received Tuesday. Registrar officials said the final count would be finished by Friday.

About 150 Campbell volunteers canvassed the district in the past two days to encourage voters to cast ballots, but fewer than 1 in 5 voters were expected to make the effort.

Republican Marilyn C. Brewer's crew was also out in force to rally voters. She said she wasn't surprised by Campbell's strength among absentee voters, but remained hopeful early in the evening.

By 10:30 p.m., though, she conceded the race after she failed to gain much traction among election-day voters.

"John Campbell is the Republican nominee," Brewer campaign manager Harvey Englander said from her Costa Mesa headquarters. "Marilyn is a pragmatist. We always knew this was an uphill fight. We were the underdogs."

Since he entered the race, Campbell has been considered the favorite.

And regardless of when he arrives on Capitol Hill, Republicans are ready to welcome him, said John J. Pitney Jr., a former Republican National Committee staff member who teaches government at Claremont McKenna College.

"They need every seat they can get," he said. "One thing working in his favor is that, at least for the next year, he'll be in the majority. It's very likely his voting record will be very much like Chris Cox's. At least on roll call, things emerging from district will be pretty much the same."

Campbell's emergence as the GOP winner shut out Brewer's hopes that Tuesday's rare open primary would draw enough crossover support from Democrats and voters who aren't affiliated with a party to give her the edge.

Brewer distanced herself from Campbell on issues of abortion and expanding stem-cell research, which she supports and he opposes.

She claimed just 17% of the vote.

Young emerged the strongest among four Democrats, after buying cable-television ads that were broadcast in Leisure World Laguna Woods.

Gilchrist trailed both Campbell and Brewer. He had hoped for a stronger showing based on his visibility as the founder of the Minuteman Project, a group of volunteers patrolling the Mexican border.

None of the candidates -- including Campbell, who was endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- was seen as having the political heft of Cox, who rose to become the fifth-ranking Republican in House leadership. He chaired the Policy and Homeland Security committees.

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