O.C. Republicans withhold Campbell endorsement

Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) failed to get the endorsement of the Orange County GOP this week when a tea party faction refused to vote for him because he supported federal stimulus spending during the recession.

“For many people, it was a protest vote,” said O.C. GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, who supports Campbell. “It wasn’t a vote against John Campbell. It was a vote against TARP.”

Campbell supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008.

“John has a track record of voting what he believes is right, even if it causes him some political damage,” Baugh said. “John’s argument was he believed it was the best thing for this country, not for the banking situation but for the individual bank accounts.”

Campbell was also one of 15 House Republicans who voted in December 2010 to lift the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, an issue that rankled his party’s social conservatives.

The Orange County Republican Party requires a two-thirds majority to endorse a candidate for a primary. The vote at Monday’s central committee meeting was 41-22, one shy of an endorsement.

Campbell is running as an incumbent for the 48th Congressional District, which includes Newport Beach and Irvine. He is widely expected to win a fifth term.

The congressman was unavailable for comment Tuesday, staff members said.

Baugh said Monday’s vote does not reflect a divide between tea party Republicans and the traditional conservative base.

“I think the party, the Orange County GOP, has always been a conservative organization, and the issues of our day are runaway federal spending,” he said. “It didn’t sit well with many people that you have this runaway federal spending and on top of that, people voted to bail out the banks.”

Twitter: @JosephSerna