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Democrats Put Pringle Recall on Back Burner

Times Political Writer

A move to recall Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) has been put on hold by Orange County Democrats in the wake of a recent advisory opinion that appears to exempt recall elections from campaign spending limits.

The opinion, issued by the state Fair Political Practices Commission in March, said recall elections are not restricted by spending ceilings imposed by Proposition 73, which was passed by voters last November.

Local Democrats said they fear now that Pringle, as an incumbent Republican, could raise whatever money he needs to defend himself against the recall effort, which Democrats had expected would be run on a shoestring.

The recall is “not dead,” said Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Michael J. Balmages. But in light of the advisory, “we had to reconsider and still are reconsidering what we need to do,” he said.

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Less Than 900 Votes

Pringle won the 72nd Assembly District seat last November by less than 900 votes after a bitter $1.9-million battle. The election is still mired in legal controversy over the Orange County Republican Party’s hiring of uniformed security guards for 20 Santa Ana precincts in the district.

The guards were hired at the suggestion of Pringle’s campaign manager, who has said he was motivated by rumors that Democrats would try to bus in voters from other areas to tip the election in their favor. Democrats and Latino groups have charged that the guards intimidated voters, especially Latinos who may have been casting ballots for the first time since becoming citizens.

The incident is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Also pending is a civil lawsuit filed by several Latinos who say they were confronted by the guards as they tried to vote.

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FPPC spokeswoman Sandra Michioku said Monday that the commission believes that recalls would be defined as ballot measure elections rather than elections involving candidacies. Only candidates come under the Proposition 73 contribution limits, which are $1,000 for individuals, $2,500 for political committees and $5,000 for so-called “broad-based” political committees, under the commission’s interpretation.

Michioku said the commission’s advice is that candidates must establish specific campaign committees for recall elections. Money contributed to those committees could not be used for other purposes, she said.

In light of the FPPC advisory, Balmages said local Democrats will wait to see what happens in the investigation and the lawsuit. He said he and other Democratic leaders agreed “not to initiate a recall until we get something very solid” out of either the court or the investigative agencies regarding the use of the guards.

Balmages said he and other local Democrats met with Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) in Orange County about 10 days ago to talk about the recall and other matters, and agreed that a recall of Pringle would be “very, very difficult” to accomplish.

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