Some Republicans See Tax Issue as Deciding Factor in Vote

From a Times Staff Writer

Some Republican Assembly members Wednesday credited voter distaste of higher taxes for Tuesday's upset special election victory of Stockton businessman Dean Andal over Democrat Patti Garamendi, the wife of the state insurance commissioner.

They also suggested that GOP Gov. Pete Wilson keep that fact in mind while trying to solve the state's $12.6-billion budget deficit with a combination of program cuts and higher levies.

Democratic sources, however, said the voters were upset over last fall's elections when John Garamendi resigned from the Senate to run for the insurance commissioner's job in a move timed to make it easier for his wife to replace him.

She lost to former Assemblyman Pat Johnston (D-Stockton) and then decided to run against Andal to replace Johnston in the lower house.

"Andal clearly positioned himself as a conservative who wants to get a handle on state spending," said a GOP insider who asked not to be identified. "Garamendi came over as wanting to raise taxes. And that was the main issue of the campaign. The governor might want to take note."

Meanwhile, the press secretary to Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), Michael Reese, said, "The Republicans were successful in their efforts to portray her as a tax increaser and a carpetbagger.

"There also clearly was some uneasiness left over about the unsuccessful effort to hand her the Senate seat when John resigned. It seems our voters just stayed home."

Andal won the Assembly seat by a 56% vote margin to 41.5% for Garamendi. The election voter turnout was a low 30.7%.

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