Republican Assembly candidate Curt Pringle, in a stinging political mailer sent this week to thousands of voters, portrays his Democratic opponent, Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach, as a political opportunist whose primary residence is outside the district.
The mailer, featuring a caricature of Thierbach toting a suitcase and a headline that reads, “Outsider Rick Thierbach is shopping again for elective office,” was sent to 78,500 voters in the 72nd Assembly District and began arriving Thursday.
Thierbach owns a condominium in the 72nd District, but Pringle and his campaign consultants maintain that the Democratic candidate and his family continue to reside in their Anaheim home, which is outside the central Orange County district.
“Political opportunism certainly crosses a lot of people’s minds when Rick Thierbach runs for office,” said Pringle consultant Carlos Rodriguez, who designed the mailer. “Since 1980, Thierbach has moved repeatedly to run for elective office. Once again, he’s looking for a job.”
Thierbach, a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office in Riverside County, sternly denied that he is living outside the district and labeled the matter “a non-issue floated by a desperate candidate.”
For weeks, Pringle has been expected to attack on the residency issue in the spirited race to succeed Assemblyman Richard E. Longshore (R-Santa Ana), who died June 8, the day after winning the GOP nomination in the 72nd District.
Thierbach, 38, has owned a home about a mile outside the district, in the 2100 block of Chanticleer Road in Anaheim, since August, 1980. After deciding to run for Longshore’s seat, Thierbach moved into the district in February, renting a house in the 600 block of West Broadway in Anaheim. Two months later, Thierbach said, he purchased a condominium in the 2000 block of South June Place in Anaheim.
Thierbach said in an interview this week that his Chanticleer home has been for sale since early last month, that he accepted an offer two weeks ago and the property is now in escrow.
“How much more committed can I be to voters in the 72nd?” Thierbach asked. “I bought a home in this district, and I’m selling my old one.”
Rodriguez, however, contends that Thierbach still receives mail and newspapers at the Chanticleer residence and that the condominium on June Place is rarely used.
The four-page mailer contends that this is the third time Thierbach has moved to qualify as a candidate in an Assembly race.
In 1980, Thierbach moved to Anaheim into the old 69th Assembly District to run against Republican Ross Johnson of Fullerton, a race Thierbach lost. Two years later, Thierbach moved from Anaheim to Riverside to run in the 68th Assembly District. Thierbach said he lived there less than a week before opting not to seek the seat.
Thierbach bristles at the notion that he is being typecast as an outsider. He said he has lived in Anaheim for 28 years and has been a trustee with the Anaheim Union High School District since 1983.
“Pringle brags that he is the local hometown hero,” Thierbach said. “But he’s only lived in the district six years. I’ve lived in the district a total of 20 years and nearly three decades in the area. . . . The Pringle campaign has not found one positive thing to talk about in terms of the candidates. They are waging a hate campaign.”
In anticipation of a hit on the residency issue, Thierbach sent a mailer two weeks ago chronicling his past in the district, including photos of him in his Little League uniform, his wife standing outside the Westminster hospital where the couple’s two children were born and Thierbach’s 1977 wedding in Anaheim.
That mailer, however, ruffled some feathers. The cover photo of the color brochure shows Thierbach and his family standing in front of St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Garden Grove. Thierbach was confirmed in 1963 at the church, which is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks with its distinctive A-frame roof. But the church dropped Thierbach from its active attendance rolls in 1970, and parish officials say he has not attended services there since the early 1970s.
“We were surprised to see his picture with our church,” Pastor Murray Finck said. “Some members of our congregation didn’t think it reflected well on the church to appear so prominently in a political flyer. . . . I think it was a mistake.”
After a phone call from Finck, Thierbach sent a letter of apology to the church, explaining that his motive for using the photograph was “to deliver a message that I have longstanding roots in the district.”