COMMENTARY ON POLITICS : County Democrats United, Eager and Committed to Winning : Revitalized by energetic leaders and fresh ideas, the party enjoys renewed popularity among change-minded voters.

Howard Adler is chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party

Ross Perot said it right: The Democratic Party has revitalized itself--especially in Orange County. The process has been going on all year, culminating in a historic convention and unprecedented momentum.

Our party has moved to the center of American politics. More important, with Bill Clinton and Al Gore, we have young, energetic leaders with new and specific ideas who are committed to change. They have already changed the Democratic Party. We are united, enthusiastic, and will work our fannies off to win in November.

So what does all this mean to Orange County? Quite a lot. People are upset. Even many Orange County Republicans are frustrated with the lack of leadership in Sacramento and Washington. Orange County voters want change. That is why Perot was so attractive to so many people in this county.

Whoever is perceived to be the political Establishment is in trouble. In Orange County, the Republican Party is the Establishment, and since the beginning of the year, we have seen it challenged like never before. Even Bush's support has eroded. First Perot was running ahead of him among Orange County voters. Now Clinton (yes, Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton) is in the lead.

The early polls in Orange County for the two U.S. Senate races have also been encouraging, to say the least. The last poll I saw actually showed Barbara Boxer leading Bruce Herschensohn among Orange County voters, and Dianne Feinstein was less than 7% behind John Seymour right here in his home county.

Robert K. Dornan, Gil Ferguson and some of the other old men of the Old Guard county Republican hierarchy had to put down serious primary challenges. Now energetic and enthusiastic Democratic candidates like Jim Toledano, Molly McClanahan, Robert Banuelos, Ken LeBlanc, Linda Rigney, Lee Walker, and Patricia McCabe, among others, intend to run hard against their incumbent Republican opponents on the real issues, like jobs, the economy, education, protecting a woman's right to choose, crime, and saving the environment.

After more than a decade of managing the state and federal government, and controlling the entire political life of Orange County, the Republicans can't run away from their failure to deal with the depressing and growing list of problems we face. In 1992, Orange County Democratic leaders won't let them get away with their usual divisive, negative campaigns that more often substitute fear and distrust for policy and ideas.

Keeping an active and interested Democratic Party alive and nourished in Orange County has, even in the best of times, been a formidable challenge. Yet we are still here, still working for what we value, and like Bill Clinton, no matter how tough it's been, we haven't quit.

In 1990, Tom Umberg, a young and energetic federal prosecutor, opened the door again to the Democratic Party's participation in the political life of Orange County. Umberg defeated a Republican incumbent assemblyman and has shown the voters of Orange County what a leader with new ideas, real family and patriotic values, and the courage to make government work can do in a short time.

Tom Umberg's leadership has invigorated not only the people of his assembly district but his county party. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have revitalized the Democratic Party nationally. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer represent fundamental change, both symbolically and substantively.

With Tom Umberg leading our local ticket, and with Clinton and Gore, Boxer and Feinstein representing new leadership, a new generation and new ideas, is it any wonder that even in Orange County so many people are now excited and prepared to commit themselves to the campaign?

During the week of our national convention, 624 people signed up at our local headquarters and at our party's booth at the Orange County Fair to volunteer their help to elect Bill Clinton. More than 300 of these folks had been volunteers for Ross Perot. Dozens more are calling each day. We can barely keep up with the phones. During that same week, more than 1,000 people registered to vote as Democrats at our County Fair booth alone. More than 30% of them were Republicans re-registering as Democrats.

Orange County is important to our entire ticket. Bill Clinton and Al Gore will be campaigning here often. Clinton may be in the county today and will be here again later this summer. Gore, Boxer and Feinstein will campaign here as well.

We are all committed to being competitive in Orange County in 1992. And although Democrats lead in the polls here now, we know it is going to be a tough campaign. But we are up for it.

We have an experienced full-time staff, dedicated volunteers, an effective field program, headquarters opening around the county and committed leadership. We raised more than $100,000 during the first six months of 1992 and have an aggressive fund-raising apparatus in place.

We are united, eager and ready. We are back, and we intend to win.

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