Republican legislative leaders, still reeling from their failure to capture the 33rd state Senate District in the March 17 special election, vowed Saturday to turn admittedly superior Democratic get-out-the-vote techniques against them in the May 12 runoff.
"We can beat them at their own game," Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale told the California Republican Assembly, a GOP support group holding its convention this weekend at the Irvine Marriott. He said the Democrats in the election conducted "a very sophisticated, very effective effort at locating their vote and turning it out."
Republican Assemblyman Wayne Grisham of Norwalk had expected to easily win a state Senate seat vacated by Democrat Paul Carpenter, who was elected to the State Board of Equalization, without a runoff. Although there is a Democratic registration edge in the district, Republicans counted on the fact that GOP voters are more likely to vote, especially in a special election, where voter turnout usually is low.
They also counted on Orange County Republicans to offset Los Angeles County Democrats. About one-quarter of the district is in Orange County, covering the cities of Cypress, Los Alamitos, Buena Park and La Palma. The rest is in southeast Los Angeles County.
GOP Candidate Trailed
But Cecil N. Green, a Norwalk city councilman, captured 48% to Grisham's 44% in a field of eight candidates, forcing the runoff. Any candidate would have won the seat with a simple majority.
"We were out-campaigned," Grisham told the CRA.
Since then, two Republican political heavyweights have been brought in as volunteer consultants to Grisham. They are Stuart K. Spencer, a longtime campaign consultant and personal adviser to President Reagan, and Kenneth L. Khachigian, President Reagan's favorite speech writer and a key adviser to Gov. George Deukmejian's reelection campaign.
Nolan said that while there were plenty of GOP volunteers working the 33rd District in the election, Democrats made better use of their volunteers. He said Democratic volunteers roamed the district in vehicles equipped with cellular phones from which they called prospective Democratic voters with a message targeted to their particular concerns. Then they offered to pick up the voters at their homes, take them to the polls and have them back home within 15 minutes.
"The Democrats used Space Age technology and we were still in the horse-and-buggy days," Nolan said. "We learned from what they were doing."
The 33rd District seat is considered of primary importance to both parties because of upcoming reapportionment in 1990. Democrats controlled the drawing of new district lines in 1980.