NEWPORT BEACH : Badham-Ferguson Race Sparks Interest

Phyllis Badham barely qualifies her prediction of a victory over Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) in next week's election.

"I may not win by much, but I'm definitely going to win on June 5," she told a surprised group of Republican stalwarts recently, many of them staunch Ferguson supporters.

If Badham does pull off a victory, it would rank as one of the bigger upsets in recent Orange County political history.

Badham, 30, is the daughter of former Rep. Robert Badham, who once held the Assembly seat she now seeks. She has never run for anything before, but her last name and pro-abortion rights position make the race one that is at least worth watching.

The 67-year-old Ferguson is one of the Assembly's most conservative legislators, a political maverick who runs his own campaigns and has made headlines with his anti-homosexual statements and his attempts to have Assemblyman Tom Hayden branded a traitor and thrown out of the Statehouse.

Badham, a moderate Republican, says her positions--particularly her stand on abortion rights and her pledge to be more environmentally minded than her opponent--are more in line with those of the voters in the 70th Assembly District than are Ferguson's. But if Ferguson is out of step with his constituents, it hasn't been apparent at the polls: He easily won reelection in 1986 and 1988, garnering vote percentages among the highest in the state.

"The people know who I am," said Ferguson. "If they don't like me and vote against me, I can accept that."

Ferguson, who recently spent about $100,000 in an unsuccessful bid to win a special state Senate election, had received just $32,460 in contributions as of May 19, while Badham reported $48,920 in contributions. That is far less than most political observers think Badham will need to unseat an incumbent, but it is still more than Ferguson raised, Badham says.

Ferguson said he did not raise more money because he circulated plenty of political mail during his recent campaign for the 31st State Senate District, much of which overlaps with his Assembly district.

"We'll have enough to get our message out," said Ferguson. Badham "has no following in the party. If her name wasn't Badham, I wouldn't even bother putting out a mailer."

Badham has received a $5,000 contribution from the California-National Organization for Women PAC, and $2,500 from the California Abortion Rights Action League. She has the support of the California Medical Assn., Orange County Medical Assn., the AFL-CIO and a number of city council officials from Costa Mesa to San Juan Capistrano.

Ferguson's major contributors include business interests such as Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., California Beer & Wine Wholesalers Assn., 20th Century Insurance Co., the California Real Estate PAC and Hughes Aircraft Co. He lists among his endorsements the California Republican Assembly, the Assembly and Senate Republican Caucuses and California Conservative Legislators.

70TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT REPUBLICANS

Phyllis Badham

Age: 30

Home: Newport Beach

Occupation: Public relations manager

Background: Has worked in public affairs for Ricoh Electronics Inc., the National Assn. of Manufacturers and Rockwell International. Graduated from Cal State Chico in political science and communications. This is her first campaign for public office.

Issues: Supports abortion rights and public funding for low-income women seeking abortions; favors the death penalty; opposes the Big Green initiative; opposes offshore oil drilling; supports fostering statewide recycling programs with emphasis on increasing market demand for recyclable products; supports increased rail transit; would increase teacher salaries.

Gil Ferguson

Age: 67

Home: Newport Beach

Occupation: Incumbent

Background: Former U.S. Marine officer. Fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Served as chairman of FREEPAC, a political action committee devoted to free market economics. Owns an advertising and public relations agency. Was elected to the Assembly in 1984.

Issues: Opposes abortion rights; favors the death penalty; opposes the Big Green initiative; opposes offshore oil drilling; supports limiting legislative terms and making campaign libel a crime; supports Proposition 111; opposes recent property tax increases for Orange County cable television companies.

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