Citing the killing of a 23-year-old Huntington Beach woman as an example of "one innocent victim of urban war," Insurance Commissioner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Garamendi on Monday reiterated his pledge to support the death penalty.
Using as a backdrop the Australian Beach Club, across the street from where Leanora Annette Wong was found beaten to death, Garamendi criticized his opponents as not being tough enough on crime and re-emphasized that he is the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who publicly supports capital punishment.
"Her alleged assailant is a barbaric multiple sex offender, a parole violator who should never have been free to stalk the innocent and to prey upon people like Miss Wong," Garamendi said at a news conference on the last leg of his weekend campaign through the Southland. "The person who is ultimately convicted of this hideous sexual assault, mutilation and murder deserves to pay the ultimate price for committing the ultimate crime."
Garamendi is the second state political candidate to stop at the Australian Beach Club and use the circumstances of Wong's death as a sub-theme in their campaigns. At a news conference also held in the parking lot of the nightclub Friday, Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove)--who is a Democratic candidate for state attorney general--attacked Gov. Pete Wilson for a "relaxed parole policy" he said allowed parolees convicted of drug charges back onto the street.
Edward Patrick Morgan Jr., 28, who apparently left with Wong from the bar, was arrested in the small Northern California town of Quincy in connection with the May 19 slaying following a statewide search. A parolee with three rape convictions, Morgan tested positive for drug use several days before Wong was killed, but the results were not known by authorities until after her death.
With eight days until the June 7 Democratic primary, Garamendi said he chose the site near where Wong was found dead to send the message that, without compromise, he supports the death penalty. He also said he supports a life sentence without parole for convicted violent sex offenders.
Without going into the particulars Monday, the candidate also promised that he would strengthen the state's "very lax, underfunded" parole program if elected.
The 30-minute news conference was attended by about 15 volunteers from Garamendi's Orange County campaign supporters.