The Orange County Republican Party’s executive committee declared Thursday that state Senate candidate Dana Reed violated the party’s campaign code of conduct in a letter he mailed to voters last week attacking one of his opponents, Assemblyman John R. Lewis of Orange.
A brief statement issued by the executive committee did not give any details about how the party’s rules were violated by the letter from Reed’s campaign.
Ethics Committee Chairman Roy LeQuire said that while the committee could have recommended a range of actions, including an official reprimand or censure of Reed, the executive committee’s finding was simply a “way to recognize that is not a way to run a campaign.” Reed was not ordered to take any corrective steps, he added.
The committee’s action followed a day of wrangling between the two candidates and Orange County’s Republican Party leadership which, at one point, saw an angry Reed stalk out of a meeting and call for the resignation of GOP County Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes.
Thursday morning, the GOP’s ethics committee considered the complaint filed by Lewis, despite Reed’s complaint that the committee was biased because at least two of its participating members had donated to Lewis, including its chairman, Jim Morrissey.
“I think Tom Fuentes should resign as (party) chairman for allowing this to happen,” Reed said as he left the meeting. “This is a very dark day for Orange County Republicans.”
Thursday night, however, the decision to find Reed in violation of the party rules was made by the executive committee, which is composed of different members.
The statement also noted that the executive committee “excused from the consideration and voting all members found to have an interest, such as personal financial contribution or public endorsement in the campaigns, which were parties to the action.”
Reed was not available for comment after the executive committee’s decision.
Before the decision, Fuentes said he did not believe that the contributions to Lewis had compromised the objectivity of the ethics committee members and he refused to comment on Reed’s call for his resignation. “The committee is very broadly based and reflective of the composition of the central committee members,” he said.
Lewis’ complaint stems from a letter Reed mailed to voters in the 35th Senate District last weekend raising several controversies that have surrounded Lewis’ political career.
It highlighted Lewis’ indictment in 1989 for allegedly forging former President Ronald Reagan’s signature on campaign literature, a reprimand he received in 1980 from the county’s Republican Party and his alleged role in a controversial decision in 1988 to hire uniformed guards at polling places in largely Latino precincts in Santa Ana.
Lewis’ forgery indictment was later overturned by an appeals court, and he denies that he ever played a role in the so-called poll guard case. Lewis’ campaign acknowledged that he was reprimanded by the county Republican Party, but it took issue with Reed’s use of the term censure .
Lewis complained to the committee that Reed’s letter violated a code of conduct that both candidates signed before the race in an attempt by the party to prevent such divisive battles.
Tuesday’s election to fill the 35th District seat formerly held by U.S. Sen. John Seymour is expected to be close, with at least four of the Republican candidates still considered front-runners--Reed, Lewis and Assembly members Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and Nolan Frizzelle (R-Fountain Valley). The other candidates are Republicans William A. Dougherty, John S. Parise, Charles V. Smith and Jim Wronski, Democrat Francis X. Hoffman and Libertarian Eric Sprik.
If none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the vote--as is expected--a runoff between the top vote-getters of each party will be held May 14.