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ELECTIONS ’88 ORANGE COUNTY : Thierbach, Pringle Deny Being Under Party Thumb

Times Political Writer

The two candidates for the hottest legislative race in Orange County denied Wednesday that they were being controlled by their party leaders, despite accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from them for their campaigns.

“I am not an errand boy for anyone,” Republican Curt Pringle said.

“I am not the stooge of anyone,” echoed Democrat Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach.

The two men are in a $1-million-plus battle to represent the 72nd Assembly District. In the closing days of the campaign, both have financed a flurry of mailers with the help of legislators in Sacramento.

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Though their joint public appearances have been few, Pringle and Thierbach met for an hourlong debate sponsored by an Orange County chapter of the League of Women Voters, where they exchanged myriad charges before an audience of about 100.

Thierbach, 38, a senior deputy district attorney in Riverside County, accused Pringle, 29, of lacking the experience needed to get crime legislation passed in Sacramento.

After Pringle outlined his legislative proposals on crime, Thierbach said, “It’s nice to talk about being tough on crime, but the fact of the matter is that I have 11 1/2 years of hands-on experience being tough on crime.”

With a poke at Thierbach’s working outside Orange County, Pringle responded that he had developed his crime package with the help of the Orange County district attorney’s office. “I think these (proposed) bills have a lot of merit,” Pringle said.

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On another issue, both candidates said they oppose Proposition 102, which would, among other things, require that persons testing positive for the AIDS virus be reported to public health officials.

Pringle said that the measure, sponsored by Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton), went beyond what he felt was appropriate. “That proposition, the way it is written, isn’t one I can support.”

Thierbach said he “strongly opposed” Proposition 102 and took a swipe at Dannemeyer, a Pringle supporter, as “a man who would deny someone even the most basic civil rights simply because they’re sick.”

Pringle said, “I have supporters, and we don’t have to agree on every issue.”

The debate was expected to be the final head-to-head confrontation between the two candidates.

Democrats have long counted on the district, which includes Stanton and parts of Garden Grove, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Westminster, as their only real legislative foothold in Orange County. While Republicans outnumber them in registration by a margin of 54.9% to 34.7% in the county as a whole, Democrats have a 54.5%-to-35.3% edge in the 72nd District.

Democrats lost the seat 2 years ago when it was vacated by six-term Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), who ran unsuccessfully for Congress. When Republican Richard E. Longshore won over their own candidate, Democrats vowed to get the seat back.

They found what they felt was a perfect candidate in Thierbach--a veteran prosecutor who grew up in the district and who has been elected twice to the Anaheim high school board. With crime and education as top issues in the district, it was thought that Thierbach had a good chance of defeating the incumbent.

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But as luck would have it, Longshore died the day after he was renominated in the June 7 primary. After an internecine struggle, Republicans settled on Pringle to run in Longshore’s stead.

Both candidates have had heavy support from their parties, who want control of the seat when district lines are redrawn after the 1990 census. Democrats also have a second agenda: Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) is looking for new members to bolster his faltering speakership.


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