Four members of the state Assembly and three of five Orange County supervisors said Wednesday that they will consider running for the state Senate seat being vacated by John Seymour, Gov.-elect Pete Wilson’s appointee to the United States Senate.
Assembly members Doris Allen, Nolan Frizzelle, John R. Lewis and Ross Johnson all indicated that they would at least give careful thought to the opportunity to move to the Legislature’s upper chamber. County supervisors Gaddi H. Vasquez, Roger R. Stanton and Don R. Roth said they would do the same.
Costa Mesa City Councilman Peter F. Buffa, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1988, said he, too, was a possible candidate, and there almost certainly will be more names emerging in the coming weeks.
“They’re going to come out of the woodwork,” said political consultant Eileen Padberg, who ran Seymour’s campaigns for 16 years. “Every one of the cities in the district has someone aspiring to a higher position.”
The 35th Senate District, shaped like a backwards “C,” is composed of parts of or all of the cities of Anaheim, Orange, Villa Park, Tustin, Santa Ana, Irvine, Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley. The GOP holds a huge advantage. Of the district’s 323,000 registered voters, 56.8% are Republican, while just 32.3% are Democrats.
State law requires the governor to announce a special election for the seat no more than 14 days after the seat becomes vacant. The election itself must be held between 112 and 119 days from the date of the announcement, with the primary coming eight weeks before that.
If Seymour takes office next week, as expected, the primary election would probably be in late March, with the special election in May.
Assemblywoman Allen (R-Cypress), whose district overlaps with the north part of Seymour’s district, and Frizzelle (R-Fountain Valley), who represents the southern portion of the district, gave the strongest indication that they would run for the seat.
“I’d have to be crazy not to do it,” Frizzelle said. “We have all of Costa Mesa, Irvine and Fountain Valley. That’s a large voting bloc, and they tend to turn out well.”
Allen, who would have to move to run for the seat, said she would probably make a formal announcement of her candidacy in a day or two. “I feel I’d have a good chance,” Allen said. “I’m a pretty aggressive campaigner . . . and I’m pretty well-known in North County.”
Lewis (R-Orange), who represents the central portion of Seymour’s district, said he was “strongly considering” taking a shot at it. “I haven’t talked to as many of my friends and supporters as I need to do,” Lewis said. “Obviously, my wife will have a major say in the decision.”
Assembly minority leader Johnson (R-La Habra) was unavailable for comment, but he said through a spokesman that he was also a possible candidate. “Ross is considering the options,” said staff aide Otis Turner.
Not to be left behind by their counterparts in Sacramento, supervisors Stanton, Vasquez and Roth let their interest in the seat be known as well.
“I am giving serious consideration to the possibility of running and hope to make a decision shortly,” said Vasquez, who lives in Orange.
“My ultimate goal after the Board of Supervisors is a congressional seat, but one has to be flexible when an opportunity like this arises,” said Stanton of Fountain Valley.
Roth, like Seymour a former Anaheim mayor, sounded less eager about the prospect but said that he too would ponder his political future.
Former Democratic Party chairman John Hanna said the Democrats would definitely produce a candidate, even though the Republican Party’s 80,000-vote edge in registration makes a Democratic victory highly unlikely.
“People want to see what Republicans are interested, and they might be more interested in the Assembly seats they’re leaving” than in the state Senate seat, Hanna said. “But there definitely will be a Democrat running.”
Current Democratic Party chairman Michael Balmages ran for the seat against Seymour in 1988, but Hanna said he did not know if he would consider running for it again. “Balmages would be a prime candidate,” Hanna said. Balmages was unavailable for comment.
Hanna also mentioned as possible candidates Anaheim Councilman Irv Pickler, Santa Ana gay-rights activist John Duran, Irvine Councilwoman Paula Werner and former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran.