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Short of Cash in Secretary of State Bid, He Hopes Deukmejian Wins Big : Nestande Runs on Coattails, Shoestring

Times County Bureau Chief

The campaign staff in the statewide race consists of a part-time worker in a Santa Ana office where a caller is as likely as not to get a recorded message. The candidate had no campaign appearances scheduled for six of the last 10 days of the campaign.

There are no television or radio ads. Campaign spending, to reach voters from the Oregon line to the border with Mexico, has totaled less than the amount spent in the Orange County supervisor’s race for the 4th District, which stretches from Anaheim to La Palma.

How in the world does Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande expect to win this race for secretary of state?

“I always knew our election would have to rely greatly on (Gov. George) Deukmejian doing extraordinarily well,” Nestande said.

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That means he needs a large turnout to beat the Democratic incumbent, March Fong Eu. It also means that most of the voters will have to be Republicans willing to vote straight party tickets, from Deukmejian right on down the ballot to Mike Curb, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, and then--next on the list--Nestande.

To show voters he is part of the Deukmejian ticket, Nestande will be on the plane with the governor and Curb this weekend for a “fly-around” to half a dozen cities in the state to drum up enthusiasm for next Tuesday’s balloting.

During his campaign, Nestande has been meeting with newspaper editorial boards, appearing at candidates’ forums and showing up where he can to get free publicity, realizing that he does not have enough money to put his message on the airwaves.

“I made a decision some time ago that I, No. 1, was not going to grind people hard financially because the amount of money I could raise would have been, in my estimation, lost with the large amounts of money spent by other candidates--the Zschaus, the Deukmejians, the Bradleys.”

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“Some kind of media buy of three-quarters of a million dollars--it would just come and go--it would have no impact,” Nestande said.

Not to mention that three-quarters of a million dollars is nearly three times the amount he had raised in campaign contributions through Oct. 18, according to mandatory campaign finance reports--$288,959 in cash, to be exact.

By contrast, the two candidates for the 4th District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors--an area that includes Anaheim, Orange, Buena Park and La Palma--have raised $686,000 in cash between them.

Nestande said his fund-raising effort has been hindered by an Orange County law barring a supervisor from voting on an issue that will have a major impact on anyone who has contributed more than $1,622 to the supervisor in the last four years.

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He did manage to raise nearly $400,000 last year, but at the time Nestande was a declared candidate for lieutenant governor. After Curb entered the race, Nestande shifted his sights to the secretary of state’s job, held since 1974 by Eu, who is considered one of the most entrenched politicians in the state.

A state assemblyman from 1974 to 1980, Nestande has been the subject of persistent rumors recently in political circles that he planned to resign from the Board of Supervisors after Tuesday’s election and before January, win or lose. Some of the rumors contained names of potential replacements.

The rumors “are so incredible I can’t believe it,” Nestande said in an interview. “They’re out there--I hear them myself. I hear positions I’m going to accept, all the way from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento. It’s simply fiction, that’s all I can say.”

Still, “I’ll never get a retirement check. I’m not going to be a Ralph Clark.” Clark has been a supervisor for 16 years.

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Much of the publicity that Nestande has received in recent months has been less than flattering:

- In August, Nestande was on the losing end of a 4-1 vote by the supervisors that allowed more flights into John Wayne Airport for competitors of AirCal, the Newport Beach-based airline. AirCal majority shareholder George L. Argyros contributed $5,000 last December to Nestande’s campaign. Argyros filed an affidavit saying his donation was unrelated to his business interests, which allowed Nestande to cast his vote without violating campaign law.

- The same month, it was discovered that telephones in the offices of three supervisors at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana had been used to make calls to sexually explicit tape recordings between 1985 and last June that cost the county more than $200. Most were made on telephones in Nestande’s office. On Tuesday, county officials said the caller was a former student intern in Nestande’s office who had made restitution and resigned.

- In September, The Times reported that Nestande had received more than $15,000 in campaign contributions from the New York brokerage firm of Smith Barney, Harris Upham and some of its employees after voting to award the company a contract to manage a $270-million bond placement to pay for the expansion of John Wayne Airport.

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In addition to the fly-around with Deukmejian, Nestande said he will try to get his name before the public in a more positive light in the final days before Tuesday’s election by joining his name with those of other candidates on “slate mailers,” in which a group of candidates endorses a particular issue or proposition.

Despite the prospects for Tuesday, Nestande said he is not disappointed.

“I try to discipline myself and deal with the cards I’ve been dealt in life,” he said. “This is my first statewide campaign, and I think we’ve done well. We haven’t wasted money.”


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