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From Canyon To Cove: Dem. candidate: In it to win it

Congressional candidate Beth Krom is no token Democrat seeking office in traditionally Republican Orange County. She’s not a place-holder, or an also-ran.

When the former Irvine mayor says she is “in it to win it” in her race against Rep. John Campbell for the 48th District seat in the House of Representatives, she isn’t kidding.

With the June 8 primary in her sights, she’s raised $300,000 so far for her campaign, but acknowledges she’ll need $1.5 million to run a competitive race.

She’s hired a professional fundraiser and a communications director.

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One thing Krom is totally confident about: She’ll be the Democrat taking on Campbell. She says she has the endorsement of perennial Democratic underdog Steve Young, and no other Democrat has yet to appear on the horizon to challenge her.

Months before the primary, Krom thinks she’s got more than a fighting chance in the “red” county, and is already making plans about what she’ll do in Congress.

“We’re calling our campaign ‘Mrs. Krom goes to Washington,’” she said when she visited our newspaper offices in Costa Mesa last week.

For starters, here’s what she won’t do if elected: turn down government money, as Campbell did during last year’s stimulus spending spree, due to his unbending opposition to Congressional earmarks.

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Krom also derides Campbell as a “Birther,” a member of a far-right — some say “wacko” — fringe of the Republican party that, despite evidence to the contrary, doesn’t believe Barack Obama was born in the U.S. and therefore isn’t qualified to be president.

Campbell co-sponsored a bill, House Resolution 1503, that would require future presidential candidates to make public documentation (birth certificates and other papers) proving their status as natural-born citizens, which is one of the requirements to hold the top executive office in the land.

Interviewed last year by Chris Matthew of “Hardball” fame, Campbell admitted under a barrage of questioning that he personally believes Obama was born in this country, and denied Matthew’s accusation that he was “playing to the nut wing” of his party by championing the “Birther” bill. Campbell is the only Californian to sign on to the bill, which has six Texans as co-sponsors. That alone probably puts Campbell to the right of most of Republican Orange County.

Krom notes that Obama won in the 48th district, which she sees as a sign that the historic Republican hold on the area is slipping.

Krom further accuses Campbell of being “given” the seat by the Republican leadership in 2005 after the previous congressman, Christopher Cox, took a job heading up the Securities and Exchange Commission, and hopes voters will agree. Sure, it’s sort of like the way Democrats hand out elected positions in Los Angeles County, where they have the votes and the clout.

No party should own a seat

Krom has even put a positive spin on the Democrats’ embarrassing loss of the long-held Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts.

It proves that even in districts with long-standing voting records, voters can change political horses, Krom contends.

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“What happened in Massachusetts is a good sign for us,” she said. “People don’t feel a party should own a seat.”

Still, the demographics of the 48th district should give Campbell comfort: 44% are Republican; 30% are Democrat; and 22% are “decline to state,” meaning they can go either way.

But Krom is banking on some Republican votes; indeed, she’ll have to, to overcome the party numbers.

She says she is already raising money from Republican voters, despite her Democrat affiliation.

The Irvine factor

She also has a secret weapon: Irvine, where she was overwhelmingly elected mayor twice and returned as a City Council member when she was termed out of the top job.

In her 10 years in local politics in Irvine, “the Republicans always made sure everyone knew I was a Democrat,” she said, and she got elected anyway.

She also says that her Irvine base gives her a big leg up.

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“Irvine is 30% of the [voters in the] district,” she said.

By contrast, she accuses Campbell of not making much of an effort to curry favor on her home turf.

“John Campbell never came to Irvine when I was mayor,” she said. “We don’t have a congressman willing to work with us. We send billions to Washington and he makes sure we get nothing back. John [Campbell] is an invisible congressman.”

Because Campbell himself lives in Irvine, he might have grounds to dispute that assessment.

Indeed, Irvine seems to be the breeding ground for a new generation of pols.

One of Krom’s colleagues on the Irvine City Council is seeking the Republican nomination for the 70th Assembly district held by Chuck DeVore, who is termed out of office. Entering the race eight weeks ago, Stephen Choi has already amassed $115,000 in available “cash on hand,” according to his press deputy.

Choi considers himself the front-runner in his primary race, just as Krom does in hers.


CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 494-2087 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.


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