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Absentee Ballots Favor Hoffmann Over Sumner in 40th : LaRouche Candidate Quietly Enjoys Early Lead

Times Staff Writer

For a congressional candidate leading in the early returns, the entourage surrounding Art Hoffmann in the dark outside the registrar of voters offices was modest: four other candidates aligned with political extremist Lyndon LaRouche and two supporters.

“We have the support,” said Hoffmann, who is the only Democrat on the ballot in the 40th Congressional District. “We don’t have to have a crowd to prove it.”

Absentee ballot returns had Hoffmann with a 2-1 lead over write-in candidate Bruce Sumner, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party.

“It looks like I might win,” said Hoffmann of the early tally.

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Hoffmann pointed to the absentee ballots as proof that a candidate affiliated with the fringe group could win in Orange County. “People have been scared to endorse us,” he said. “They say we’re extremists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, that we’re followers and disciples.”

“But anyone who talks to us knows that’s ridiculous,” added Maureen G. Pike, a LaRouche candidate who was trailing in her contest for the nomination in the 39th Congressional District.

Before the voting, Hoffmann, 30, a technical writer from Santa Ana who is also running for a seat on the Democratic Central Committee, said he had “a better than 50-50 chance to win” in the overwhelmingly Republican district.

Says He’ll Run Again

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LaRouche campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980 and 1984 and has said he will run again in 1988. Last March in the Illinois primary, two LaRouche candidates were nominated for lieutenant governor and state treasurer, the first such to win contested state races.

In November, 1983, LaRouche fielded 28 candidates for local posts in Orange County and they trailed badly in all contests.

In an effort to forestall a Hoffmann victory, party leaders drafted Sumner, 61, a retired judge and former assemblyman, for a $50,000 write-in effort.

At one pre-election gathering, Sumner told supporters: “My whole theory--and if it’s wrong, we lose--is, if people know that Hoffmann is the LaRouche candidate, they won’t vote for him.”

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One indication of the importance LaRouche himself placed on the 40th Congressional District race came when the 64-year-old former Marxist agreed to debate Sumner by satellite Monday. During the acrimonious, half-hour exchange, Sumner charged that LaRouche is anti-Semitic and quoted claims by LaRouche’s publications that Queen Elizabeth of England is involved in the drug trade.

Other Orange County candidates affiliated with LaRouche include:

Peter Dimopoulos, a restaurant manager, in the 64th Assembly District and for the Democratic Central Committee; Marion E. Hundley, a retired electrical engineer, in the 67th Assembly District; Kathleen Arguello, Central Committee, 58th District; George A. Hanna, a tool and die maker, Central Committee, 58th District; Dina C. Bakshoian, Central Committee, 58th District; Roberta Hundley, Central Committee, 67th District; Joyce M. Char, Central Committee, 69th District; Elizabeth J. Meredith, Central Committee, 72nd District; Peter Wase, Central Committee, 72nd District.

Liked His Chances

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LaRouche candidate Hanna, who lives in Huntington Beach, said his chances for a spot on the Democratic Central Committee were “pretty good.” Rather than await his victory with supporters and cocktails, however, Hanna spent part of his evening shopping

Not all of the LaRouche followers were as confident.

Roberta Hundley, 55, also vying for a Democratic Central Committee spot, said as early as 6 p.m. Tuesday that “we haven’t got a chance.”

Times staff writer Roxana Kopetman contributed to this story.

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