Tom Reinecke, who says he "was raised under the principles of Ronald Reagan," won an important endorsement Saturday from a staunchly conservative Republican group in the hotly contested June 7 primary race for the 70th Assembly District seat.
During an all-day convention at the Sheraton Newport Beach Hotel, the Orange County Coordinating Republican Assembly, considered the most conservative wing of the party and a key factor in county politics, also voted to endorse Republicans Virgel L. Nickell in the 69th Assembly District and Tony Nottke in the 67th Assembly District.
But the convention's most fervent battle came in the struggle for an endorsement in the 70th District, being vacated by Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) after five terms. Ferguson is stepping down to seek the seat of state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach).
Reinecke, 34, an attorney and Ferguson's own choice to be his successor, won the endorsement on the second ballot over Irvine City Councilman Barry J. Hammond and Marilyn Brewer, a former aide to Supervisor Thomas F. Riley.
With Brewer considered a more moderate candidate and not in attendance Saturday, it came down to a faceoff between Reinecke and Hammond for the endorsement to represent the district, which generally runs along the coastline from Newport Beach to Laguna Beach, includes all of Costa Mesa and runs inland to Tustin.
Reinecke wound up winning handily because of his grass-roots efforts, he said. He strongly believes in the conservative principles of the CRA, he said, including less government, lower taxes, individual freedoms and property rights and school choice "because parents know what's best for their children."
Before the vote, Reinecke, the son of former Lt. Gov. Ed Reinecke, told assembly's delegates, "We don't need any warmed-over liberals in Sacramento." Afterward, he said he was "proud to have the endorsement. Our race is a grass-roots campaign of the people who believe in the principles of Ronald Reagan."
Although she attended the convention and sought the group's support, six-term Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) lost out on an endorsement to Nottke in the 67th Assembly District, a sprawling district which includes Cypress, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and parts of Anaheim, Buena Park, Garden Grove and Westminster.
Nottke, a partner in an environmental consulting firm who has lived his entire life in the district, says the most important issues "are the issues of personal freedom." And rather than regulating guns or weapons, "the only way you will stop crime is by taking criminals off the streets," Nottke said.
Allen, who many believe may also be eyeing a future battle with Ferguson for Bergeson's vacated Senate seat, said the outcome was "not surprising."
"Basically, this was Gil Ferguson's party. This was his scenario, but I wanted to be here," Allen said after the vote.
In the 69th Assembly District, a heavily minority area of the central county where the Republicans hope to grab the only Orange County legislative seat now held by a Democrat, businessman Nickell eked out a slim victory over Jim Morrissey, the president of a manufacturing firm.
Nickell, whose said his mother is "half Spanish," called himself "the people's candidate" who "can't be controlled by politics."
In the county supervisorial races, the group endorsed Huntington Beach Councilman Jim Silva in the 2nd District. The CRA chose not to endorse Bergeson, the only candidate in the 5th District, nor any candidate in the 4th District.
Among other Republican candidates who failed to win an endorsement was the embattled Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), who is under federal investigation for alleged campaign spending irregularities during his 1992 election campaign. After a lengthy discussion, the group chose not to endorse any of his four challengers either.
Nor would the group endorse Sheriff Brad Gates, who is seeking his sixth term as the county sheriff-coroner, despite the fact Gates spoke to the convention. Gates is a proponent of the forfeiture of the assets of suspected criminals, even though they have not been convicted, a position the CRA adamantly opposes.
"The issue there is due process of law, which needs to be protected very carefully," said Doug Thomson of Orange, the group's chairman.
As expected, the county CRA also endorsed incumbent Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) in the 68th Assembly District, incumbent Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) in the 73rd Assembly District, incumbent state Sen. Rob Hurtt (R-Garden Grove) and a slate of conservative congressional incumbents, including Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) and Ron Packard (R-Oceanside).