Calling his significant lead a "repudiation" of the felony charges brought against him, Assemblyman Scott Baugh said his supporters had seen through the last-minute attempt by Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi to influence the election.
"The voters have repudiated Mr. Capizzi tonight," a defiant Baugh exclaimed before family and friends Tuesday night.
Capizzi, who ventured into the post-election Republican gathering at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa, said, "People have been supportive and encouraging us for our doing our job.
"The overwhelming number of Republicans are supportive of the laws," Capizzi continued.
In one of the most closely watched legislative races in the state, it appeared that voters would return Baugh to Sacramento.
With about half of the precincts counted, one of Baugh's challengers, Cypress Councilwoman Cecilia L. Age, said the incumbent had an almost insurmountable edge. "It's just disheartening that after an indictment people would still vote him back in," said Age, who early Tuesday evening also trailed the other Republican challenger, Barbara A. Coe, an activist for the passage of Proposition 187.
For more than a decade, the 67th Assembly District, a predominantly white, affluent and solidly Republican area covering the north coastal portion of Orange County, was home to a sleepy legislative seat.
That changed last June when Republican Doris Allen (R-Cypress), the district's incumbent for 13 years, ignited a firestorm after former Speaker Willie Brown arranged for the Assembly's 39 Democrats to support Allen as Brown's successor, thus denying the GOP control of the lower house.
Outraged Republicans immediately launched a recall campaign. Allen was ousted last Nov. 28, and replaced by Baugh, a 33-year-old railroad lawyer. In the winner-take-all special election, Baugh, the handpicked choice of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), easily defeated Democrat Linda Moulton-Patterson, the former mayor of Huntington Beach.
But a controversy over that special election was touched off when The Times reported that Laurie Campbell, a Democrat with ties to Baugh, had been put on the ballot to dilute support for Moulton-Patterson.
Orange County Democratic Chairman Jim Toledano complained to the Capizzi that the election had been tainted. A lawsuit was filed in Sacramento and a judge there ordered Campbell stricken from the ballot.
Investigators later discovered that Republican aides for Rohrabacher and Pringle had hurriedly arranged for Campbell, a legal secretary who once worked with Baugh at a Sacramento law firm, to file nomination papers.
Three of the aides involved recently pleaded guilty to election fraud.
Last Thursday, Baugh, Carmony and Baugh's chief of staff were indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury. Baugh was charged with four felonies for allegedly filing false campaign reports and convincing his former treasurer to commit perjury. He also was charged with 18 misdemeanors. He faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted.
Another key legislative race in Orange County, the state Senate's 35th District, was also touched by the Willie Brown-Doris Allen episode.
Incumbent Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), who filled the seat after Marian Bergeson was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, was challenged again by fellow Republican Gil Ferguson, a former assemblyman for 10 years from Balboa Island. The two waged a nasty battle by mail in the March 1995 primary.
In this year's race, Ferguson, a friend and ally of Allen's, was accused by Johnson of being part of a cabal to prevent Republicans from controlling the speakership.
Ferguson vehemently denied Johnson's assertion.
After early returns showed Johnson leading by a substantial margin, Ferguson conceded defeat and said he will not run for office again. "It doesn't make any difference what message you have if you don't have the money to deliver the message," he said.
"I said in the past I took Gil very seriously, and I did," Johnson said.
Term limits led to a five-way Republican scramble in the 71st Assembly District, for the seat being vacated by Mickey Conroy, the flamboyant lawmaker who tried unsuccessfully to legalize the paddling of youths caught defacing property with graffiti.
Conroy, who is stepping down because of term limits, is seeking to become the member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors from the 3rd District.
The race was close between Republicans Jim Beam and Bill Campbell with about half the votes counted.
In early returns in the Assembly's 70th District, incumbent Marilyn C. Brewer (R-Newport Beach) was significantly ahead of Jacob F. "Jim" Rems, of Irvine, a land surveyor and member of the Lincoln Club.
Finally, in the 73rd Assembly District, an area split almost evenly between south Orange County and northern San Diego County, incumbent Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), led early against Bart Garry, a 28-year-old Dana Point attorney.