Democrat Wins Senate Seat in Key Election
Democrat Cecil N. Green, a folksy, former muffler-shop owner who had entered the race as an underdog, swept to victory Tuesday against Republican Wayne Grisham in a heavily bankrolled special state Senate election.
Final but unofficial returns showed Green with 53.8% of the vote, compared to Grisham’s 44.9%.
With both sides looking toward the reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts after the 1990 election, Green’s victory in the suburban Los Angeles County-Orange County district gave a major boost to the Democrats’ chances of retaining a Senate majority and assuring them of a stronger hand in the highly partisan redistricting process.
A buoyant state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), Green’s chief financial supporter, said, “We’ve broken the backs of the Republicans. . . . It’s going to be very hard for the Republicans to take control now.”
At his Norwalk victory celebration, Green told cheering supporters: “This is the greatest thing that has happened in my life. We went house-by-house, street-by-street, precinct-by-precinct, the way Democrats used to do it 30 years ago. We’re back.”
When Green is sworn in, Democrats will outnumber Republicans 24 to 15 in the Legislature’s upper house, with one seat held by an independent.
At his headquarters in Cypress, a dejected Grisham conceded the election and told supporters: “I wanted to win it for you people. . . . I couldn’t do it.” Grisham cited his opponent’s larger campaign budget and his own failure to attract Democratic cross-over voters.
Both sides viewed the contest as winnable and mounted major efforts to get voters to the polls in the 33rd Senate District, which includes such cities as Norwalk, Cerritos, Downey, Cypress and Los Alamitos.
As part of the large get-out-the-vote effort, the Green and Grisham camps each chartered planes to bring volunteers from Sacramento. Many of the campaign workers took the day off from jobs in the Capitol, where the Assembly canceled most hearings. Both campaigns also mobilized fleets of vans to shuttle voters to the polls.
The effort proved effective. Turnout was about 30%, compared to just 20% in the district’s primary election March 17.
The big Election Day push was yet another sign of the importance attached to the contest, which both parties were treating as the opening round in the fight over reapportionment, which takes place every 10 years.
Democrats pinned their hopes on Green, 63, a former Republican who is a veteran of the Norwalk City Council and who campaigned as a friend of labor and an opponent of Gov. George Deukmejian. Republicans counted on Grisham, 64, a former congressman who is now an assemblyman. Grisham portrayed himself as a supporter of Deukmejian, but in recent weeks he opposed the governor on such issues as the governor’s plan to abolish Cal/OSHA, the state worker-safety program, and the Administration’s proposed $300-million budget cut in the Medi-Cal program.
When the final accounts are tallied, the campaign will rank as one of the state’s costliest legislative elections ever. The record is the $3.3 million spent in 1982 by Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and his Republican opponent.
On the eve of the election, Grisham and Green reported raising a total of nearly $2.5 million in campaign contributions, most of it spent on direct-mail campaign literature. Green reported raising more than Grisham, who said that last week he was forced to dip into his own pocket for $5,500 to pay the postage for his final mailer.
Seeking Senate Control
Senate Republicans hoped to pick up the 33rd District seat as a first step toward taking control of the Senate in 1990 and ensuring themselves a say in the reapportionment for the 1990s.
After Grisham failed to win the March 17 primary, disgruntled GOP senators threatened to replace Senate Republican Leader James W. Nielsen of Rohnert Park. The revolt was put on hold after Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim), the GOP’s No. 2 leader and caucus chairman, announced plans to step down.
On Tuesday, well before the polls closed, dissidents said that regardless of the outcome, they would seek to replace Nielsen with Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) and Seymour with Sen. John Doolittle (R-Citrus Heights). Nielsen insisted that “the votes are not there” to oust him.
Governor Gets Active
With such high stakes, Deukmejian, in a rare display of campaign enthusiasm, turned into Grisham’s No. 1 booster. The governor made four appearances on Grisham’s behalf, raised money for the GOP candidate and promoted his candidacy in several mailers. Meanwhile, such Democratic heavyweights as U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) stumped on Green’s behalf.
In the 33rd District, Democrats outnumber Republicans 54% to 38%, but voters have been increasingly willing to support GOP candidates. Until last January, the district was represented by Cypress Democrat Paul Carpenter, who was elected to the State Board of Equalization.
In an eight-candidate March 17 primary to succeed Carpenter, Grisham was considered the front-runner, but he finished second to Green, who took 48% of the vote to Grisham’s 43.6%. A runoff was required because neither candidate received a majority of the votes.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot were Peace and Freedom Party candidate Ed Evans and Libertarian Lee Connelly, neither of whom had the money to mount more than a minimal campaign.
Lucille Roybal Allard wins Eastside Assembly race. Page 3. THE VOTE
100% Precincts Reporting Votes % *Cecil N. Green (D) 44,138 53.8 Wayne Grisham (R) 36,823 44.9 Ed Evans (P&F;) 575 0.7 Lee Connelly (L) 538 0.7
Elected candidate is marked with an asterisk (*).