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With little money to spend, Chuck DeVore puts his faith in his message

Running third in a three-way race for the GOP's U.S. Senate nomination, he is a strict "tea party" conservative.

April 26, 2010|By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times

DeVore has also been an enthusiastic campaigner since he joined the race in November 2008 and has vastly outpaced his rivals on the campaign trail, holding 330 events across the state.

DeVore's Tax Day schedule showed the type of coalition he is trying to build among social conservatives, voters enraged by the Obama administration and long-time committed Republican activists. After hitting the Family Action PAC in Newport Beach, he spoke at tea parties in Irvine and Oceanside and capped the day off with a speech to a Republican women's club in Fallbrook.

By stitching together supporters in these various groups, all of which are vital in a GOP primary, DeVore sees a path to victory.

Polls show that many of Campbell's supporters are conservative Republicans, which DeVore said doesn't square with some of the law professor's positions. At least two independent expenditure groups are already spending as much as $2 million on television ads, mailers and robo-calls to tell voters about Campbell's liberal social stances — he favors abortion rights and same-sex marriage — and about his support for temporary state tax increases.

Once these positions become better known, some Campbell supporters will desert him and find a natural home in the DeVore camp, the candidate believes.

"I'm liking everything where it is and I'm going to press on forward and be the happy warrior because I think I am going to win this," DeVore said.

DeVore's supporters recognize the challenges he faces and say it's up to them to push him across the finish line.

After seeing DeVore speak at the Irvine event, Pete Tagni of Laguna Niguel said supporters had to go beyond attending rallies and channel their enthusiasm into talking to friends and neighbors about DeVore and volunteer for his campaign.

"This is how we're going to take the country back," he said. "I have some work ahead of me."

The primary is in early June, but absentee ballots go out the second week in May. To date, the political narrative is that the Senate primary is a three-person race, in part because DeVore's nimble campaign staff has been adept at generating news coverage. But Gerston said that unless DeVore starts showing some momentum soon, that will no longer be the case.

"Before people totally discount someone like Chuck DeVore, you have to give it another three weeks," he said. "At that point, if it hasn't kicked in yet, I think you can start issuing a post-mortem."

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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