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He Plans $1-Million Race Against Eu : Nestande Seeks to Boost Statewide Image

Times County Bureau Chief

More important than a mere thousand words, the picture on television screens and in newspapers last week meant thousands of dollars to Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande in what looks like a political “mission impossible.”

There was Nestande flashing the “thumbs up” sign, sandwiched between the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general and only one body removed from Gov. George Deukmejian.

Ed Zschau, the GOP standard-bearer in November against U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston, was there too. And Nestande is counting on Deukmejian and Zschau to help him become California’s secretary of state.

Nestande’s main foe will be March Fong Eu, Democrat, veteran of the state Legislature, secretary of state since 1974 and the person who became the top vote-getter in state history in 1982, rolling up 4.5 million votes as she trounced Republican Gordon Duffy, who polled 2.6 million.

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Eu “is a known commodity,” Nestande acknowledged Friday. “She has a strong name ID.” By contrast, he said, “it’s clear in my mind . . . that we are not known in many parts of the state.”

To get known, Nestande needs many more pictures in the newspaper and on the television screen. The ones he got after Tuesday’s primary win, in which he got 50% of the vote in a three-man Republican race, were free. But he’s prepared to pay for the publicity to come.

“To get known you’ve got to make your media buys,” said Nestande, a 48-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I’ve done a lot of traveling, but you meet handfuls of people. So you must supplement that.”

In the past year, Nestande estimates he raised half a million dollars, pouring much of it into running for lieutenant governor before his change of heart only days before the filing deadline, when he opted to run for secretary of state.

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Nestande estimated it will cost him a million dollars to be “a viable candidate.” Eu said her political consultants are talking about spending $1.8 million on the race.

As he gazes toward Sacramento, Nestande said he sees “a very vulnerable incumbent,” despite Eu’s landslide vote tallies of the past.

“She has not taken the position of secretary of state and focused on the responsibilities and caused things to happen,” Nestande said. “She’s simply been a quiet bureaucrat running an operation.”

At another point, he said that with the job Eu has done, “we might as well abolish the office of secretary of state as an elective office and just hire somebody to do the job. I don’t favor that because I think you can lead in this area and get things done.”

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Eu sees things a bit differently.

She said that she has almost completely automated the corporate filing division, has cracked down on abuses by notary publics, has begun the process of renovating the state archives building or getting a new one, and in the office’s main job, chief election officer, has “had fair and efficient, fraud-free elections.”

“I just think he (Nestande) needs to examine my record and he will have no criticism left to campaign on,” Eu said.

Eu, 59, also rebutted Nestande’s contentions that she has not worked hard enough for campaign reform and redrawing the boundary lines of districts represented by state legislators.

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Eu’s citation of accomplishments are much the same as they were four years ago. Duffy’s criticism then, that “she’s just done nothing,” was much the same as Nestande’s is now.

Different Political Climate

Nestande pins his hopes to oust Eu on a “lot different” climate than confronted Republican seekers of the office during the past three elections.

He expects Deukmejian to run a “very substantial” campaign against Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and to “beat him decisively.” He looks to Zschau’s candidacy to provide still more Republican votes, which he hopes will continue down the ballot until the voters reach the name “Nestande.”

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Besides the coattails of Deukmejian and Zschau, Nestande has a base in heavily Republican Orange County, where he won 75% of the primary vote, and an ability to raise money.

“There would be no chance of securing this position if there was a strong Democratic trend right now or a strong Democratic governor,” Nestande said. But the Republican party is “in good times right now . . . so you take advantage of what is positive on your behalf. But you still have to establish your own presence. You don’t escape that. I don’t want to escape that. I love establishing my own presence.”

Love of the Limelight

Indeed, no one who has watched Nestande since he became a supervisor six years ago has doubted his love of the limelight and the give and take of politics.

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Like Eu, Nestande was once a member of the state Assembly, serving there from 1974 until his successful 1980 run for supervisor. Colleagues on the board said he brought a more political tone to the job, calling friends in Sacramento on various issues and winning appointments to state and presidential commissions. He once ran then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s mail room in Sacramento. All the other supervisors expected him to try for higher office.

“I feel I’ve contributed a lot (to the Board of Supervisors) and I feel prepared to move on,” Nestande said. “Six years in the Assembly, six years here now. . . . “

Although he says he finds the job of supervisor challenging--and keeps the seat if he loses his bid for secretary of state--"I happen to be a believer in moving on in life and I happen to be a believer that people ought not to stay in (the same) elected positions too long.”


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