Write-in Republican siphons votes from Daucher in 34th Senate District

A close election campaign for the state Senate in Orange County has been scrambled by the emergence of a write-in candidate who could siphon votes away from the anointed Republican contender. Until last week, Republican Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher and Democrat Lou Correa were locked in an intense race to succeed termed-out Democrat Joe Dunn in District 34.

But that was before Republican Otto Bade gathered enough signatures to qualify as a write-in, and before a pair of mailers on his behalf touted him as the “more conservative” GOP candidate.

More intriguing than the GOP write-in is the source of support for Bade and his mailers. It comes in the form of an independent expenditure from “Californians United,” a group that spent $200,000 this past spring to help fuel Correa’s successful Democratic primary campaign against Assemblyman Tom Umberg.

Last week, Californians United spent more than $90,000 on Bade’s behalf between October 27 and November 3, not including a November 2 expenditure of $30,750 in support of Correa.

According to records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, Californians United is controlled by Democrats. Its treasurer is Bruce Young, a lobbyist and former Democratic assemblyman. Calls to Californians United were referred to attorney Lance Olson, who is general counsel to the California Democratic Party. Funding for Californians United includes key Democratic allies such as the California Latino Leadership Fund and various political action committees financed by labor organizations.

Bade’s last-minute candidacy and its funding by Democrats was characterized as “a cheap, dirty trick by special-interest groups,” according to Bryan Lanza, Daucher’s campaign manager.

Bade is no newcomer to elective politics. In 2002 he lost an Assembly race to Umberg by nearly two-to-one. In that contest, Daucher backed another candidate in the Republican primary, and some speculate that Bade’s entry into this contest is meant as an act of revenge.

“I believe Otto Bade has a vendetta against Lynn Daucher because she didn’t support him when he ran for Assembly [against Umberg],” said Sal Tinajero, a Democrat and member of the Santa Ana Unified School District board who is running for the Santa Ana City Council.

Despite repeated efforts, Bade, Young and Olson could not be reached for comment.

The battle in District 34 has been regarded as the state’s only “toss-up” Senate race, with voter registration between the two major parties favoring Democrats by only 2 percent. With voter loyalty so evenly divided, the district — which includes parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana — has been represented by both parties over the past decade. Dunn, considered a moderate Democrat, won the seat in 1998 by defeating the GOP incumbent – Rob Hurtt, the Senate’s former Republican leader.

Daucher is termed out in 2006 after serving six years in the Assembly. Correa, termed out of the Assembly in 2004, is now an Orange County supervisor. Each survived a contested primary in June, although Correa’s was the more heated and expensive. In that primary, he defeated Umberg, the termed-out incumbent from Assembly District 69, 60 percent to 40 percent. Daucher had an easier time with Republican Lupe Moreno, capturing 75 percent of the primary vote.

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