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Parties Pour Money Into Key Races for Statehouse

Times Staff Writer

State Republican and Democratic leaders are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of their parties’ candidates in both the 72nd Assembly District and the 33rd State Senate District, according to campaign finance statements filed Wednesday.

Both races have been targeted by party strategists in Sacramento, who are looking ahead to the question of who will control the Legislature when reapportionment begins in 1990, because the races are considered to be winnable by either side on Nov. 8.

In the 72nd Assembly District, Republican Curt Pringle had raised $395,543 in cash and non-monetary contributions as of the end of last month, with more than two-thirds of it coming from GOP lawmakers and political action committees, records show. The campaign disclosure statements, which cover all contributions and expenditures for legislative candidates through Sept. 30, had to be filed by midnight Wednesday with the secretary of state’s office.

Pringle, a Garden Grove businessman who was picked by Orange County party activists to run for the seat vacated when Assemblyman Richard E. Longshore (R-Santa Ana) died June 8, has received $187,000 in cash from key GOP leaders and groups, the statements show. That includes $50,000 from the Lincoln Club of Orange County and $35,000 from political action committees controlled by Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale).

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Pringle, 29, also reported non-monetary contributions totaling $77,817, for consulting services and mail sent on his behalf, from the California Republican Party and Assembly Republicans.

Pringle’s opponent, Democrat Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach of Anaheim, has received $286,283 in money and in-kind contributions. About half the total came from elected Democratic officeholders or political groups, including $96,352 from organizations controlled by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco).

Throughout the campaign, Pringle has attempted to paint Thierbach, a 38-year-old prosecutor with the district attorney’s office in Riverside County, as the Assembly speaker’s puppet.

On Wednesday, a Thierbach political consultant labeled that strategy “ridiculous.”

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“The fact is both parties have a significant interest in this race, and they will both spend heavily here,” said Rich Lichtenstein of Los Angeles-based Marathon Communications. “That means Willie Brown, (Gov.) George Deukmejian and Pat Nolan all have a stake in this. Pringle is trying to run vicariously against Brown through Thierbach. It just won’t work.”

Pringle reported $118,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, while Thierbach showed only $8,728.

Lichtenstein said fund raising for Thierbach is “on schedule. . . . We’re simply spending it as fast as we get it.”

Pringle’s Sacramento-based consultant, Carlos Rodriguez, said much of his client’s money will continue to be spent on direct mail, which has been the main vehicle of his campaign so far.

Spending has become the hallmark of recent races in the 33rd Senate District, where Democrat Cecil N. Green won the seat in a special election in May, 1987, over Republican Assemblyman Wayne Grisham of Norwalk. The two candidates spent a total of nearly $3 million in that race.

This time around, Green’s GOP opponent in the 33rd District, which cuts across suburban southeast Los Angeles County and northwest Orange County, is former Cerritos City Councilman Don Knabe, Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana’s chief aide.

Green, a former Norwalk City Councilman who surprised many observers with his victory last year, had raised $601,441 in cash and non-monetary contributions as of Sept. 30. That includes $106,000 from nine fellow Democrats in the State Senate and $20,000 from a political action committee controlled by Senate Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).

Green, 63, had $59,798 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period, contrasted with $101,283 for Knabe.

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About $150,000 went toward paying off debts from last year’s special election. The balance of the money he has spent has gone toward building the type of “ground campaign” successfully waged on Green’s behalf last May, said Larry Morse, a Green spokesman.

“We relied on precinct walkers, phone banks and some direct mail to spread the senator’s message,” Morse said. “It takes money to gear up such an operation. But we think it’s the most effective way to reach voters in this district.”

Knabe, 45, has received $481,563 in money and in-kind contributions, including $134,000 in cash from the a political action committee controlled by GOP state senators. The state Republican Party has spent about $110,865 to produce, print and send literature on his behalf, his campaign statements show.

“In races like this you have to rely on outside support,” Knabe said. “Historically, not a lot of money has been raised in this district, so to be viable we have to go outside the district.”


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