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1 of 2 GOP Hopefuls Gets Boost in O.C. State Senate Campaign

The prison guards union and an Indian group spend six figures to help Harman beat Harkey.

April 04, 2006|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Two powerful Sacramento interest groups have weighed in to help Assemblyman Tom Harman win an Orange County state Senate seat next week.

The union representing the state's prison guards kicked in nearly $90,000 in recent days toward campaign mail praising Harman over the other Republican in the April 11 race for the 35th District seat, Dana Point Councilwoman Diane Harkey.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, another past supporter of Harman, spent $75,000 on campaign brochures critical of Harkey.

Voters in coastal Orange County will decide in the special election among Harman and Harkey, both Republicans, and Democrat Larry Caballero. If no candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff between Caballero and the top Republican.

The late spending for Harman was partly answered by two groups backing Harkey: the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a GOP fund-raising group, and the Alliance of Orange County Taxpayers, based in Tustin.

The Lincoln Club spent $30,200, while the tax group pitched in $83,500 on anti-Harman mail.

The outside spending comes on top of nearly $700,000 in expenditures by Harkey -- $500,000 of her own money -- and $400,000 by Harman for literally dozens of brochures.

In addition, a law enforcement group spent $25,000 on pro-Harman mail.

"It's saturation by now," said Harkey campaign manager Scott Hart, who scrambled over the weekend to respond to the surge of pro-Harman mail.

"These groups only support Democrats and liberal Republicans," Hart said of the tribe and the California Correctional Police Officers Assn. "If he's the conservative candidate, as he claims, why are they backing him?"

This is not the first time either group has helped Harman nor been involved in an Orange County Senate race.

The groups backed Harman in past races and spent money in 2004 supporting an unsuccessful Republican challenger to state Sen. John Campbell (R-Irvine).

Campbell created the current vacancy when he was elected to Congress in December.

The flood of mail in the race has been unrelenting and often confusing as Harman and Harkey fought for the mantle of top conservative candidate in the heavily Republican district.

When Harman sent out a mailer boasting of an "A" rating by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., for example, the Alliance of Orange County Taxpayers paid for a response by Jarvis President Jon Coupal disputing the claimed rating. Harkey then sent out a mailer reminding voters that Harman had supported taxing diapers to cover landfill-disposal costs.

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