In an effort to remove a contender from the ballot, the Orange County Democratic Party has asked the registrar of voters to investigate the validity of nomination petitions submitted by a Huntington Beach Democrat seeking to represent northwest Orange County in the Assembly.
The Democrats have filed a complaint with the registrar alleging that Laurie Campbell violated the Election Code and committed perjury on her nomination papers in the 67th Assembly District.
Jim Toledano, county Democratic chair, also contended that "one or more Republican legislators and their operatives engineered" her candidacy to "dupe" Democratic voters and "sabotage" Linda Moulton-Patterson, the only other Democrat on the ballot in the Nov. 28 election.
Campbell, who describes herself as a conservative and has said she is running to keep a liberal from winning, declined to comment on the charges. She has refused to identify who asked her to run.
"What is it about democracy and elections that Mr. Toledano doesn't like?" he said. "The voters are smart enough to make their decision on their own. How about debating issues instead of filing complaints?"
The challenge to Campbell's candidacy comes in the Nov. 28 recall election of former Assembly Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress). Voters in the northwest Orange County district are being asked to recall Allen and to simultaneously decide who should replace her. There are four Republicans and the two Democrats on the winner-take-all ballot, which will help decide who controls the Assembly.
Toledano's allegations were based on stories in The Times, which reported on the strategy of Orange County Republican leaders and other conservatives who wanted to limit the election field to three or fewer Republicans and also recruit Democrats to dilute the vote for Moulton-Patterson. Republican leaders and others said the tactic is common statewide.
In his complaint to the registrar, Toledano cited requirements under state law that the circulator of nomination petitions--whether the candidate or someone else--must sign the document and declare under penalty of perjury that she or he is a registered voter in the political district.
Campbell declared she was the circulator of her petitions. However, 12 of the 43 registered Democrats who signed them told The Times that the petitioners were men.
In addition to filing a complaint with the registrar, Toledano sent letters calling for an inquiry to state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi.
Teresa Pomeroy, 35, of Garden Grove, who signed the petition, called it "highly unethical" to run for office as a Democrat if your purpose is to help elect a Republican. "If she is a wolf in sheep's clothing, that is wrong," she said. "I feel like I have been duped."
Maury Evans, chief assistant district attorney, said that his office would review the letter.
Registrar of Voters Rosalyn Lever said her office had forwarded the complaint and copies of Campbell's nominating documents to the district attorney's office, which would deal with any criminal issues. Copies were also sent to the secretary of state's office, which has jurisdiction over the Assembly race and electoral issues.
"I don't have any jurisdiction to pull an Assembly candidate's name off the ballot," Lever said, adding that "nothing like this has happened in recent [memory]."
The other candidates in the race responded with a variety of views.
"I think it is outrageous that the Republicans say this is business as usual," said Moulton-Patterson. "I think they are trying to perpetrate a fraud on the people."
Allen, whose joining with Democrats to elect herself Speaker in June precipitated the recall battle, said that an investigation would help determine "whether these men who circulated these petitions" were Republicans trying to disrupt the electoral process.
"The manipulation of candidates is shocking," she said, referring to efforts to recruit Democrats and persuade Republicans to quit the race. "The idea that [legislators] would admit to manipulating candidates is shocking. It is the reason I ran for Speaker. The people are the ones who are supposed to pick the candidates."
Dave Gilliard, a consultant to Republican candidate Scott Baugh, said he does not believe that Campbell is a Republican Party plant. He criticized Democrats for attacking her candidacy.
"The Democratic Party has never been hospitable to any conservative, especially a pro-life candidate," he said. Baugh and Campbell are the only challengers who are anti-abortion.
Campbell, who attends Baugh's church, described Baugh as the only other conservative in the race and said that Republicans should vote for him.
"If their philosophy is to elect a conservative, then that is legitimate to go on the ballot to give the Democrats another choice even if she knows she can't win," Gilliard said.
Republican candidate Shirley Carey said the apparent violation of the law "is an example that the political process is really sick, and I am appalled, particularly if there is any connection with the Republican leadership or if it is somehow connected to Baugh. The dirty tricks and the lies and the deception must stop."
Republican candidate Haydee Tillotson said: "If the Democratic Party feels strongly that she is not what she is supposed to be, then it is free to challenge it."
GOP candidate Don MacAllister declined to comment.