The fight over state Sen. Ross Johnson's Orange County seat will pit two Republican assemblymen in a campaign that could cost more than $2 million, political experts say.
When John Campbell and Ken Maddox announced this week that they would seek Johnson's job, it set up an unusual primary between two popular assemblymen who easily won reelection last year.
"One of the roles of a party chairman is to try to reduce competition over resources," said Fred Smoller, a Chapman University political science professor. "I think this is a matter of self-interests overtaking the interests of the party."
Campbell, former owner of Orange County car dealerships, was first elected to the Assembly in 2000. He has been endorsed by Johnson, who can't seek reelection because of term limits.
Maddox was a Tustin police officer before being elected to the Assembly in 1998.
Whoever wins the March 2004 Republican primary in the 35th District, which stretches from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach, probably will have an easy time in the general election.
But Smoller said it might never come to that.
"I imagine somebody will receive a phone call at some point asking them to drop out. There will be a lot of pressure," he said. "When you spend that much money on a campaign, people expect you to fight hard. And that often means fighting dirty."