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Sanchez-Dornan Race Becomes Official Today

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Final results in the nationally watched congressional race between Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) and Democrat Loretta Sanchez, along with those of other election contests in Orange County, will be announced today by the registrar of voters.

When the vote count was interrupted last week so the registrar’s office could rule on the validity of some 13,000 uncounted provisional ballots, Sanchez was leading Dornan by 665 votes. Registrar Rosalyn Lever has said that roughly 1,300 of those provisional ballots were cast in Dornan’s 46th Congressional District.

To overcome Sanchez’s lead and move ahead of her in the total count, Dornan would have to take more than 75% of the uncounted votes.

In another closely watched race, Democrat Lou Correa would need more than 70% of the approximately 900 provisional ballots still uncounted in the 69th Assembly District to oust incumbent Jim Morrissey (R-Santa Ana).

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Of the 13,000 provisional ballots cast in precincts countywide, about 4,500 were invalidated over the past 10 days while employees of the registrar’s office verified whether those who cast them were entitled to vote or might have already voted by absentee ballot. Election officials will begin counting the remaining 8,500 ballots at 9 a.m. and final tabulation is expected by 3 p.m., Lever said.

Sanchez continued to predict victory on the eve of the final tally, while a spokesman for Dornan said his office has submitted new details of alleged voter fraud to the California secretary of state’s office, and were about to send a similar packet of information to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Paul Mero, chief of staff for Dornan in Washington, declined to discuss the packet’s specific contents, but said the information includes names and other details.

Secretary of State Bill Jones, who had said information Dornan filed last week was too general, wrote Dornan on Wednesday that the “updated information” would go to his investigations unit to determine whether it merits an official investigation.

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In Washington, where Sanchez has been interviewing prospective staffers, she said “it’s impossible” for Dornan to win. “The odds are in our favor,” she said. “Statistically speaking, we have won.”

Mero said that Dornan expects Sanchez to come out ahead because the provisional ballots came from precincts “where the [voting] fraud is rampant. But this is not the end of the struggle. Unfortunately, it is going to be a protracted struggle.”

Under House rules, Dornan has 60 days to challenge the results after they are certified by officials in California, Mero said.

The registrar’s office expects to do that next Tuesday, Lever said.

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On Capitol Hill, Dornan’s office staff were preparing to leave their quarters in the Longworth Office Building, but not because they were conceding defeat. Rather, Dornan does not want to run the risk that by staying on, his much sought-after office suite with a view of the Capitol might go to Sanchez.

Dornan decided to vacate it while four-term members were making their office picks. Had he held on to it and then been certified the loser in the race, House officials said it would have become available to freshmen, including Sanchez.

“There is no way in hell we would let that happen,” Mero said. “There is no spite involved in any of this though. It is just a matter of principle in the congressman’s mind. We had calls from senior members saying you can’t let Sanchez have that plum office.”

Because of its location and history, there had been talk for days on Capitol Hill about who would get Dornan’s corner suite. The office once belonged Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, who was defeated in the 1994 Republican landslide.

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When Dornan took over the space from Foley, he and his staff joked that they would have to “exorcise” the Democratic spirits from the suite.

On Thursday, the staff of Rep. Calvin Dooley (D-Visalia) was gleeful that their move to grab the suite prevailed.

“We think that the spirit of Tom Foley lives,” said Lisa Quigley, Dooley’s chief of staff. “Those offices are great offices. They served Mr. Dornan well, and they will serve Mr. Dooley well.”

Sanchez, meanwhile, was beginning to learn on Thursday which House committee assignments might be available to her.

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Though business and labor issues are among her top priorities, she did not get a seat on the prized Commerce Committee, which includes Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach).

“I really was not going for exclusive committees,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t think freshmen would be on [the Commerce Committee].”

Other panels that interest Sanchez are Economic and Educational Opportunities, Small Business and Transportation.


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