Mansoor, Rush advance in 74th Assembly District race

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and his Democratic opponent, Newport Beach community activist Bob Rush, will advance to the November general election after winning the most votes in the 74th Assembly District primary race Tuesday.

Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, a Republican, came in third in the new "top-two" primary system, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

With all precincts counted Wednesday morning, Mansoor won 43% of ballots, Rush 33% and Daigle 24%.

Rush, a real estate investor, is a political newcomer and was significantly outspent by Daigle supporters. But the cumulative effect of Mansoor and Rush's attacks against her may have paid off, if Tuesday's returns were any indiction.

"It was the issue of who was the true centrist," Rush said by phone Tuesday night. He added: "We're just encouraged and humbled with the response we're getting from the community."

Tuesday's top two vote-getters advance to the November general election, when voters will have to choose between Mansoor, a party-line conservative, and a more moderate choice.

Rush is a fiscal conservative but holds liberal positions on social issues. Daigle campaigned as a pragmatist and refused to sign a no-tax pledge.

A heavily Republican district, the 74th serves Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods and Huntington Beach. Republicans outnumber Democrats 42% to 31%, with 22% declining to state a party preference. Legislative districts were redrawn this year to encourage more competitive races.

Mansoor secured an early endorsement from the county GOP, a de-facto process for incumbents that was shortly in doubt because the district boundaries changed. His campaign also led in fundraising during the most recent reporting period, and had the most funds on hand.

Daigle's support came from a political action committee backed by Northern California Republican activist Charles Munger Jr., the son of one of Warren Buffett's business partners. Since the beginning of May, he spent about $568,000 mostly attacking Mansoor and touting Daigle's record on the City Council.

Running on a platform of environmental and fiscal stewardship, Daigle took partial credit for funding Newport's Back Bay dredging, and for the city's more than $90 million in reserves. She also leaned heavily on endorsements from those in the local political establishment, such as retired state Sen. Marian Bergeson and her fellow council colleague, Rush Hill.

But her debate performances and interaction with the media may have harmed her chances. One commentator said she "rambled incessantly, giving ambiguous answers in a monotone voice." At a forum in Laguna Beach hosted by three women's groups, Daigle didn't show. She also stopped taking calls from most reporters.

Their reasons differed, but both men wanted Daigle out: Mansoor sought to diminish her viability in Republicans' eyes, and Rush has consistently criticized the Newport Beach City Council.

Rush was more steady during debates than many expected, based on his reputation as a firebrand. Scrapping together a campaign at the last minute, he mostly paid for it himself with a $100,000 loan. The one endorsement listed on Rush's website is from the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn.

Voter turnout by 9:30 p.m. was at 8.9% of registered voters, slightly lower than at that point during the 2010 midterm elections.

Twitter: @mreicher

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