News

Race for Campbell Senate seat has key O.C. element–revenge

Assemblyman Tom Harman hopes to replace John Campbell in Orange County’s
35th Senate District, but he has to beat two opponents. One is Dana Point
City Councilwoman Diane Harkey. The other is the Orange County Republican
political establishment.

Harman, a former Huntington Beach city council member, has spent six years
in the Assembly, but his political foes–led by many fellow
Republicans–believe his election was a fluke. Democratic and organized labor
support flowed to Harman in the March 2000 primary because the other
Republican in that race, Jim Righeimer, had coauthored an anti-union
“paycheck protection” measure on the statewide ballot and drew the wrath of
unions. The result is that Harman handily won the primary and coasted to a
general election victory.

“The bottom line in Orange County is that the hard-core Republicans have
never forgiven Harman for that election. They even went to court to try and
get the primary overturned,” says Allan Hoffenblum, coauthor of The Target
Book, the blue book of legislative election strategy.

‘They looked around for a candidate, any candidate, and Harkey stepped
forward. Not only did she step up, she plopped down $500,000. She was in the
right place at the right time,” he added. Although Harkey is widely perceived as the better funded candidate, the most recent financial disclosure statements on file with the secretary of state’s office show that both contenders are closely matched, with just under $300,000 each.

There’s irony in this campaign: Harman, the candidate with experience in state
government, depicts himself as an outsider, while Harkey, who has only a
year’s experience in government–and that at the local level–is seen as the
insider’s choice. Both candidates predict a tough race, and both candidates
say the campaign is likely to turn negative. For Harkey, those could include
an airing of tax liens–since resolved–and legal actions involving her
husband’s investment business. For Harman, a lawyer and businessman, it
could be his support of a tax to recycle diapers and provide in-state
tuition to illegal immigrants; immigration and taxes are hot-button issues
in Orange County.

“I would expect that this will be a pretty nasty campaign, but we are
obviously going to be pressing for a positive campaign, on my side,” Harkey
said.

In part, she sees the campaign as introducing herself to potential voters
in a district where the GOP have a 5-to-3 registration edge. “I am meeting
individuals who are key, in certain cities I introduce myself to entire
communities


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