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Sanchez Officially the Winner; Dornan Goes Down Swinging

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TIMES STAFF WRITERS

With final votes counted Friday, Democrat Loretta Sanchez narrowly but decisively defeated veteran conservative Rep. Robert K. Dornan, widening her margin of victory to 984 votes in what has become the nation’s most closely watched congressional election.

The tally of provisional ballots, released by the registrar of voters to a crowd of reporters and partisan observers Friday afternoon, was almost anticlimactic, coming two weeks after Sanchez moved ahead of Dornan as absentee ballots were counted.

Nevertheless, there were shrieks of joy from some Sanchez supporters, including local Democratic Party volunteer coordinator Marti Schrank, who then broke into an impromptu rendition of “Goodbye, Dornan. We’re glad to see you go.”

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Dornan said he would ask for a recount and reiterated his charges of voter fraud.

With all votes counted, Sanchez had 47,964 votes to Dornan’s 46,980. She had held a 665-vote edge earlier this week.

Wylie A. Aitken, Sanchez’s campaign chairman, quickly called the congresswoman-elect in Washington with the news from a pay phone at the registrar’s office. “Congratulations, again and again and again and again,” he said. “I apologize that we fell 16 votes short of 1,000. Guess that means we’re fired, right?”

Sanchez, who has been in Washington this week for the orientation of new members of Congress, said she hoped Dornan would now help her office with the transition. “It’s not his seat, it’s not my seat. It’s the district’s seat, and that’s what he needs to realize,” she said.

Sanchez said her aides attempted to reach Dornan’s congressional office all week to discuss the transition, but the calls have not been returned.

Dornan, however, was not in a conciliatory mood. In contrast to the resigned countenance of his staff members, who already are looking for other jobs, he appeared ebullient and prepared to do battle.

The nine-term congressman got the news of the final vote count in a call from Pat Fanelli, district office chief of staff. At the time, Dornan was doing a local call-in radio show from his home.

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Rather than dimming his enthusiasm, the results appeared to provoke him to press ahead with allegations of voter fraud.

“This is a shock to me and another indication of something fishy,” he said, noting that Sanchez took 58.5% of the provisional ballots. “It emboldens me to press on and go on raising money. I am going to go to a recount.”

Dornan said he would ask the House of Representatives “to question every single provisional ballot voter” and everyone who turned in an absentee ballot on election day.

Dornan later met with several civil attorneys at the Santa Ana law office of Michael Schroeder, the vice chairman of the state Republican Party. They were to discuss civil options, he said, should state or local agencies not act on complaints he has sent them.

As he left his house for the meeting, Dornan declared, “I am loaded for bear. I am going to come back and begin fighting right away.”

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For two weeks, since Sanchez first took the lead in the race, Dornan has made various charges of voter fraud, including complaints that noncitizens voted and that ballot boxes were not properly sealed when the polls closed.

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Friday, he added to the charges by releasing a copy of a voter registration list that showed 26 persons registered from a single address in Anaheim. Dornan said an address check found “an abandoned and boarded up former general relief office” for the county.

“These are 26 phantom voters who don’t exist on planet Earth,” he said. “The next step is to see if they voted.”

Dornan sent the list to the secretary of state’s office and the district attorney’s office. Assistant Dist. Atty. Wallace J. Wade said he had not reviewed the charges. “All we’re going to do at this point is evaluate it and see what course, if any, we would take.”

Wade also confirmed that his office had received a request from the registrar of voters to investigate an incident of “a possible noncitizen who was urged to vote.” Wade said the request was referred to his office on Oct. 16, but would release no further details.

Registrar of Voters Rosalyn Lever said her office would certify the election results on Tuesday. They are then to be reviewed and certified by the secretary of state next week. Dornan’s staff said he would probably travel to Washington today, while Sanchez, who was recovering from a cold, planned to return to California this weekend after participating in today’s freshmen lottery for office space on Capitol Hill. Her campaign staff planned a victory party for Monday night at the Disneyland Hotel.

Sanchez was appointed this week to the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, dealing with education, economic and labor issues that she said would be her top priorities in Congress.

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At Dornan’s district office in Garden Grove, staff members were maintaining a gallows sense of humor. “It is a sad thing, but life goes on,” said Fanelli, who has been with the congressman since 1984. “We all live with change. We are not sitting here crying.”

And indeed they were not.

“There is always hope,” said Alberto Sandoval, a field representative. “I have a tremendous loyalty and respect for him. To me, he is not a boss but a friend who teaches me.”

Sandoval patted a stack of constituent files on his desk, noting that they all represented people he was trying to help. He hopes for a job with the federal government doing the same sort of thing.

“I am going to miss this, you know,” he said. “I am going to miss saying, ‘Hi, I work for Congressman Bob Dornan.’ ”

In the Vietnamese American community, where support for Dornan has been unwavering over the years because of his stance against the Vietnamese Communist government, his backers said they were saddened by the loss.

Tony Lam, a Republican and Westminster councilman, said that for conservative Vietnamese Americans, Dornan is an icon. “The community will continue to support [him] because he really stands for a Vietnam free of communism,” Lam said. “A lot of people criticize that he’s very outspoken. True, but sometimes you need an outspoken person to get things done.”

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However, Sanchez said she was concerned that constituents are not being served because of Dornan’s refusal to cooperate. She said Friday she heard from an Anaheim resident who was unable to get help from Dornan’s office concerning his Social Security.

The constituent, 53-year-old Rick Parker, said in an interview that he called Dornan’s office in Orange County because paperwork related to a Social Security payment had been lost and he needs the money.

“Someone answered and said they were not taking any more problems, and they, in so many words, said, ‘Deal with it the best you can,’ ” Parker said. Searching for help, he said he then called Lever’s office and obtained the telephone number for Sanchez’s campaign headquarters, where he left a message on the answering machine.

At Dornan’s district office, Eric Kimball of Anaheim, a constituent who had worked almost daily in the Dornan campaign, was one of only two visitors. The dozens of reporters and cameras that had jammed the place a week ago had not returned.

Like many congressional offices, the walls were decorated with scores of mementos--from models of planes to a machete used by a Contra who fought communism in Nicaragua. In the kitchen cum stock room, there was a framed picture of Mother Teresa; on the opposite wall a large handmade poster of Oliver North and his wife, Betsy.

Kimball said he had never been to the district office. “I just wanted to see it before they take down the plaques and decorations,” he said.

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Also contributing to this report was Times staff writer Lily Dizon.

The Full Story

* THE RIGHT STUFF--Dornan’s allies on anti-abortion, anti-communism and POW/MIA issues say he leaves a void. A28

* FRIENDLY FIRE--War hero and local GOP official William Dougherty refuses to retreat amid attacks for backing Sanchez. A28

* MORRISSEY SURVIVES--GOP assemblyman edges Correa by 93 votes; other council, school board cliffhangers are finally official. A27

* MORE GRAPHICS, PHOTOS: A27-33

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