Republican Richard Ackerman, a Fullerton attorney, and Democrat Shirley Hafner, an administrator at UC Irvine Medical Center, are headed for a September runoff for the vacant Assembly seat in the 72nd District in North County.
With all 154 precincts counted, Ackerman and Hafner, who also lives in Fullerton, were the winners in their respective political parties to replace Ross Johnson, now a state senator.
Because no candidate received 50% of the vote in the primary, the leader from each party must compete in a runoff Sept. 12.
Republican Chris Norby, a history teacher at Brea Olinda High School, came in second, Hafner third, and Republican Barbara Kiley, a political consultant and city councilwoman from Yorba Linda, trailed the field.
Ackerman, a Fullerton resident for 25 years, said his endorsements and his consistency on the issues helped convince voters he was the right choice.
"I think I had a much broader base of support than the others," Ackerman said during a break from his victory party with about 200 supporters in the ballroom of the Fullerton Marriott. "We had very strong endorsements, and we did a good job of getting the message out."
The turnout was a low 14%, despite the race's statewide implications. The eventual winner will go to an Assembly embroiled over the Republicans' attempted recall of Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who is accused of conspiring with the Democrats.
The unusual July election was a result of recent term-limit legislation that forced Johnson, the incumbent from the 72nd District for the past 16 years, to step down or seek another office. Last fall, Johnson moved his home from Placentia to Irvine and in May was elected to the state Senate in the 35th District, causing the vacancy in the North County.
For Assembly races, this one was unusually low cost. The leading fund-raisers were Ackerman and Norby, who spent about $125,000 each, according to their consultants.
All three Republicans are veteran city council members who describe themselves as fiscal conservatives. Hafner, 56, the only Democrat, was guaranteed a spot in the runoff if none of the candidates won more than 50% of the vote.
Ackerman, 52, was considered the favorite because he won the endorsement of Johnson as well as U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), conservative television commentator Bruce Herschenson and Orange County District Attorney Michael R. Capizzi.
Ackerman said his campaign was based on the backing of those powerful political figures and the public recognition he gained from his 12 years on the Fullerton City Council.
Norby, 45, a current Fullerton City Council member, won backing from banking magnate Howard Ahmanson, who finances conservative campaigns and causes and who served as Norby's treasurer.
Kiley's chances were based largely on the recognition she gained from her success with last fall's campaign for Proposition 187, an immigration reform initiative that she co-authored.
The 72nd District has 180,000 registered voters in an area including La Habra, Fullerton, Brea, Placentia, Yorba Linda and parts of Anaheim Hills and Buena Park.
72nd Assembly District Primary
Vote totals % Richard Ackerman (R) 9,036 48.3 Shirley Hafner (D) 2,541 13.6 Barbara Kiley (R) 2,403 12.8 Chris Norby (R) 4,743 25.3
108 of 154 precincts reporting