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A behind-the-scenes look at Orange County’s political life : After Two Called Strikes, Pringle Aide Denny Out of Green for the Holidays

Even aside from the central roles he allegedly played in two recent campaign escapades, Assembly staffer Mark Denny might have wanted a little time off, it being the holidays and all.

But two weeks off, unpaid and previously unscheduled? Those holiday bills must be mounting about now for Denny, an aide to GOP Assembly Leader Curt Pringle of Garden Grove.

Jeff Flint, Pringle’s chief of staff, declined to comment on Denny’s sudden leave without pay, scheduled to run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4. “We don’t talk about personnel matters,” Flint said.

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Denny also declined comment Friday.

Both Flint and Denny have been accused by another GOP campaign worker of helping short-lived Democratic candidate Laurie Campbell with her nomination papers. Campbell, described by the Democratic leadership as a GOP “stealth candidate” in the recall race to replace Cypress Assemblywoman Doris Allen in November, was removed from the ballot the month before by a judge who found she had falsified the required papers.

Flint has denied that he played any role in the matter, but Pringle has acknowledged that Denny recently told him he had helped collect signatures to qualify Campbell for the ballot.

The two aides’ names surfaced again recently in connection with another controversy.

A Republican hopeful for Orange County’s 70th Assembly District seat has accused Denny and Flint of trying to muscle him aside in next March’s GOP Assembly race against incumbent Marilyn C. Brewer of Irvine.

Jacob “Jim” Rems said the two men tried to persuade him not to challenge Brewer when he attempted to pick up paperwork for the race in late November. Both have denied they tried to pressure Rems.

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Surfing the Net for voters: Looking to become the first computer-friendly, interactive politician in Orange County, 3rd Supervisorial District candidate Susan Withrow has created her own World Wide Web site and e-mail address.

Voters interested in Withrow’s platform can send her e-mail and even receive a copy of her candidate’s statement before it is printed on the sample ballot.

“This is a way I can get one-on-one contact with constituents in the 3rd District without having to knock on every door,” said Withrow, a Mission Viejo council member who hopes to represent the district that includes Yorba Linda, Lake Forest, Fullerton, Villa Park, Mission Viejo, Brea, La Habra and portions of Orange, Santa Ana and Tustin. “I think telecommunicating is the wave of the future for political races.”

For those interested in contacting Withrow, her e-mail address is swithrow@imagine-net.com and her Web address is www:https://www.imagine-net.com/swithrow.

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Of brains and roses: The transcripts released by the Orange County Grand Jury contained this nugget of advice from a county lobbyist to then-County Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron a few months before the bankruptcy: Adopt a “Rose Garden strategy” in handling attacks from campaign opponent John M.W. Moorlach.

Lobbyist Lyle A. Overby, hired by Citron to assist his reelection effort, told the grand jury he advised his client to use the campaign strategy presidents have frequently adopted in times of trouble, staying in the White House Rose Garden and waving--but not speaking--to the press. Said Overby: “It is not brain surgery to say, ‘Don’t go out and talk, [or] get in a debate with the guy. You’re going to look like a fool.’ ”

Moorlach, who was defeated handily by Citron before the bankruptcy, was named to replace him in its wake.

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Excellence, conservatively speaking: The name should probably have been a giveaway when the Orange County Republican Party announced recently it was establishing a prize to be given each year to an Orange County journalist. The William A. Rusher Award for excellence in professional journalism will be given annually to the local member of the Fourth Estate who has “shown outstanding, balanced and unbiased reporting of the conservative cause,” county GOP Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes said in a statement announcing the award. Rusher, former publisher of the National Review and now a nationally syndicated conservative columnist, was honored at a reception this month in Newport Beach. The first award will be presented early in the new year.

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Another two bite the dust: In separate announcements, two Republican candidates said this week they were dropping their bids for office.

Phil Yarbrough, an economics professor at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, said he was halting his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 46th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove). Yarbrough said his decision was based on the combative congressman’s announcement that he will seek reelection to his longtime seat and the fact that Democrats have targeted the seat.

And Frank L. Ury, a Saddleback Valley Unified School District trustee, says he is abandoning his effort to win the Republican nomination for the 71st Assembly District seat, to be vacated next year by Mickey Conroy (R-Orange). The reasons? Ury said conservative school boards throughout the state had asked him to serve as director-at-large for a caucus they have formed. But Ury also noted in his news release that a number of “well-financed conservatives” have entered the race, no doubt making his chances a tad slimmer and his decision a mite easier.

UPCOMING EVENTS

* Jan. 10: The California Republican Party and the Golden Circle of California present the 1996 Winter Dinner, featuring Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, 6:30 p.m. Hyatt Regency Irvine. Information: Jan Larsen at (818) 841-521.

* Jan. 13: A birthday reception for Rep. Ron Packard, featuring House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 6:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Irvine. Information: (714) 540-0461.

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Compiled by Times staff writer Rebecca Trounson, with contributions from staff writers Peter M. Warren and Michael G. Wagner and correspondent Frank Messina.

Politics ’95 appears every Sunday. Items can be mailed to Politics ’95, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or faxed to (714) 966-7711.


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