You Are Surrounded by Idjits, Mostly

Our cruel but insightful wrap-up of OC Elections

Photo by Jack GouldIt his party's election-night shindig at Newport Beach's swank Sutton Place Hotel, Congressman Dana Rohra-bacher delighted the crowd with a simple chant: "No more Gore!" It was an exciting moment for Rohrabacher—what with his man Dubya scoring impressive primary victories across the country. Of course, the Huntington Beach Republican's high may have been . . . well, a little too high. While Bush Republicans nationwide happily speculated about John McCain as vice presidential nominee, Rohrabacher—decked out in pea-green —offered up his buddy Christopher Cox. The thought of the smug, overrated Newport Beach congressman joining Bush is intriguing. We can imagine the bumper stickers: Cox 'n' Bush 2000! March 7 was certainly welcomed therapy for Republicans. The last time the GOP gathered at the hotel was Nov. 3, 1998—when Democrats romped statewide. That night's defeats were devastating. Consider this: just 16 months ago, Dan Lungren was the Republican nominee for governor. The onetime U.S. congressman and California attorney general is now an OCN commentator. But even the downtrodden Lungren was smiling at this election. Had it not been for the too-cute Republican Youth screeching what seemed like an extra-long version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the evening might have been perfect for the GOP. Unless you were Jim Righeimer. The longtime trusty lieutenant to Rohrabacher and OC Repub lican Chairman Tom Fuentes may be the county's hardest-working and smartest party activist, but fellow Republicans apparently can't stomach the thought of a Righeimer victory. On the night of March 7, the conservative Huntington Beach real-estate broker became a four-time loser, falling victim this time to moderate Tom Harmanin the 67th Assem bly District race. Harman won by a whopping 10,000 votes. Righeimer has now dropped out of or lost school-board, assembly and state-proposition races in 1998, 1996 and 1995. He may have sensed this latest defeat early. One omen: overzealous hotel security kept showing up at his suite, pestering him and his supporters to "keep it quiet." It wasn't even 10 p.m. yet. Before midnight, a frowning Righeimer collapsed in a chair. Away from Righeimer, the mood was fit for a proper Mardi Gras celebration. Winning election results may have served as a narcotic. Three Weekly staffers found themselves repeatedly welcomed with seeming warmth. After sarcastically greeting us with "Love your rag," major GOP contributor Buck Johns—a mainstay dark figure in multiple Weekly exposes—turned tender and introduced us to his beautiful daughter. The always-colorful Eddie Rose, a former Laguna Niguel City Council man, told us he voted for Alan Keyes. "But I like McCain," he said. "Bush is nothing but a phony. I'll probably vote for Pat Buchananin the fall." Young Americans for Freedom leader Brian Park served as our jovial escort for the night, supplying us with candidates and alcohol. Bob Dornan, bearded again, couldn't stop telling us about how happy he is living in Virginia and doing a daily radio show. A smiling Fuentes—the target of near unrelenting Weekly smacks—found it in his heart to put his arm around nemesis R. Scott Moxley. There may even be the beginnings of racial healing within the GOP: we spotted at least six Asian-American males coupled with Anglo females. Republican gatherings usually spark bizarreness, and this one was no exception. A middle-aged white couple giz-gazzed through the ballroom, silently waving "Keyes 2000" posters. Several grown men publicly kissed—albeit European-style. The Reverend Lou Shel don of the Traditional Values Coali tionwas so elated that he had gut-punched the queers with Proposition 22 that he may have permanently lost his mind. "You can't stop me from making an elephant into a giraffe," he told one reporter. A pony-tailed Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan fame hopped onstage and said, "The fact that I'm here just goes to show you how open the Republican Party is. . . . I'm a stone Republican!" But perhaps the oddest sight wasn't with the GOP but at OCN studios in Santa Ana. There, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchezdonned a thick, fuzzy light-blue sweater that made her look 100 pounds heavier. Where is Dornan when you need him? Finally, we'd love to know: who were the 138 Orange County Democrats who voted for Orrin Hatch. You may not think the local Democratic Party speaks up enough for Orange County's have-nots. But hey, on election night, the Dems could identify. Oh, the things the Demo crats had not as they gathered on election night: they had not a band nor catered food, unless you count the pizza boxes hoisted in by party leaders. They had not throngs of TV cameras and print reporters milling about asking for interviews. They had not so much of what they had the last time they got together, two years ago in the Disneyland Hotel. That night, they were re-electing Sanchez and getting Joe Dunn and Lou Correa into office. On that night, there was much hooting and hollering and the music played and the drinks poured and there was much beating of chests. On March 7, Sanchez didn't show up, and Dunn and Correa made short speeches that were the political equivalent of elevator music—Dunn boldly stated that the party's aims are "not partisan issues but quality of life issues." The most memorable comment came from John "MC" Hanna, former party head and the evening's MC, who requested that everyone drink moderately because he "wanted to take the left-over beer home." Hanna, like everybody who spoke, said it was "a great night to be a Democrat in Orange County." Which was certainly true if you were hoping to avoid the glare of the media spotlight. The party was held at the Inter national Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall in Orange, a blindingly white place decorated with a few folding tables, a few bunches of balloons, and strings of those plastic red, white and blue pennants one usually finds festooning used-car lots. Lording over everything was a big-screen TV tuned to local election coverage that constantly seemed to be going to remote feeds from the Republican Party's plush party at the Sutton Place Hotel. Perhaps the clearest indication of the gap came when Hanna closed the speech-making portion of the evening and announced that the TV's audio would be turned up. At that moment, the volume was cranked up so collected Democrats could hear a fawning TV reporter ask George P. Bush, Dubya's nephew, if he had any political ambitions. "I'm just going to take it day by day," said Bush, who is 23 and could play younger. Meanwhile, local Demo crats with actual political ambitions actually running for office couldn't get attention if they'd gotten cleated at Disneyland. (Way to take one for the team, guys!) Not that they didn't try. Candidate Ted Crissell promised he'll "remove" Rohrabacher this year, not only matching the incumbent dollar for dollar but also out-surfing him! Crissell got 26 percent, compared to Rohrabacher's 61. Gill Kanel, who will face 39th District incumbent Ed Royce, said he would "work his butt off." Kanel owns a machine shop in Fullerton and was drafted to run against Royce just a week before the filing deadline. He's a big guy, proud to tell you his first car was a Harley. He'd probably stand a better chance against the diminutive Royce if he could make the bench press an important issue. At 8 p.m., the mood at the Holiday Inn in Laguna Hills was quiet but upbeat. As the mostly septuagenarian crowd listened to big-band tunes like "Kansas City, Here We Come" and "Girl From Ipanema," early returns showed the anti-airport Measure Fwinning an immense 69 percent. This wasn't entirely surprising: for a week, polls showed Measure F with slightly more than 50 percent support. Measure F ultimately won with an astonishing 67 percent—a roughly 200,000-vote margin. All the pro-airport fear-mongering about Measure F leading to massive jail next to schools meant nothing to most voters. For all the talk of airport booster Bruce Nestande that Measure F changes nothing, El Toro International Airport is dead. During the past four years, he and his comrades in harm have claimed they have public opinion on their side. Not anymore. What happens next is clear: according to Measure F, the county can no longer spend a dime on the proposed airport. And to make matters more awkward, the county will have to defend Measure F in court against the legal challenges that are sure to come. The question of whether to plop a massiveWal-Mart on the closed Crest View Elementary School site in the middle of a residential neighborhood was supposed to be decided in a special election held two months ago. That's what 22,000 signatories on the grassroots initiative earned. But the Huntington Beach City Council—three of them co-investors in a start-up bank with Wal-Mart developer Argyros—voted 4-3 to try to beat it by manipulating loopholes in state election laws so as to dump the issue amid the colossal general primary ballot. It worked, but Measure I ended up being pretty special anyway. The infusion of some $400,000 from Wal-Mart's Arkansas headquarters, worked out to approximately $15 for each of the 27,300-plus votes in favor of the super duper discounter's project. That's enough to make any voter feel valued—although that $15 moment in the sanctity of the voting booth is probably going to be remembered bittersweetly by any of those who end up slaving away at Wal-Mart, where $15 represents about two and a half times the hourly wage. The pro-Wal-Mart (No on I) campaign concluded at the election-eve City Council meeting with former planning commissioner Ed Laird's vicious personal attack on Crest View resident Bob Cronk. It was celebrated on election night by Ocean View School District board member Tracy Pellman, who ripped the anti-Wal-Mart (Yes on I) neighborhood group as a collection of "paid petition gatherers" and summed up the outcome as "a grassroots victory for the children by PTA moms and dads." Again, special. Despite the defeat, Measure I helped forge a coalition of citizens groups now better organized to fight the developer-backed City Council on other issues. Already, this coalition has influenced the council to at least temporarily back down from two eminent-domain issues. And on Election Day, the state Fair Poli tical Practices Commission continued its investigation into conflict-of-interest allegations against Huntington Beach Mayor Dave Garofalo, Wal-Mart developer Argyros and various other public officials invested in the Pacific Liberty Bank. Very special. It was 9:13 p.m., and for what seemed like the tenth time that night, OCN Decision 2000 anchorwoman Brooke Robbins apologized for not having any election results from the Orange County Regi strar of Voters. "It's not our fault," she pleaded. She was right: with the rest of the California's counties reporting 20 percent or even 30 percent of their votes, OC Registrar Roz Lever couldn't find enough hands on the ends of her arms to count past 10. At 9:49 p.m., OCN's Jack Fink, who was at the GOP election-night blowout (obviously there weren't enough cameras or reporters or interest at OCN to staff the Democrats' party), was unrelenting as he tried to get Keyes supporter Marsha Neal to explain why no one was voting for the right-wing nut bar. "I don't really know," she said. "Everyone comes up and tells me they agree with everything he says. Everyone has an obligation to God to vote their conscience. I think the media has done him a disservice. They've hidden him to some degree." Yeah, in a mosh pit. At 9:59 p.m., Robbins noted it had been two hours since the polls closed. She apologized again for not having any Orange County election results. At 10:02 p.m., in a live remote from the gloomy No on F gathering at the fabulous Villa Nova in Newport Beach, probably the only person willing to go before the cameras was brain-dead Supervisor Jim Silva. "This is the third vote we had," Silva observed. "We went up against a lot of money. Orange County is growing. An airport is going to happen. I think there will be another initiative in November. We're still planning the airport. That's in place. We have an EIR. We're taking public comment on it. We're going to vote on it in June. I think." No, Jim. You don't. At 10:27 p.m., at the Yes on F party, Mission Viejo City Council member Susan Withrow cut down Silva's argument lickity split. Sure, voters twice before approved the airport, but "six years and $40 million later, the county has done a lousy job of planning the airport," she said. In the previous votes, no one knew about the flight paths, or the noise, or the jet fumes, or that there was an alternative, namely, the Millennium Plan. At 10:36 p.m., back at the OCN roundtable, UC Irvine's Mark Petracca peeled off the evening's best line: "We can all wake up safe tomorrow and not worry about getting any e-mail marriage proposals from gay men." Reporter Leslie Leytonlooked confused. At 10:51 p.m., viewers trying to watch OCN's Fink interview Royce, who was blabbering about a Dubya-McCain ticket in the tradition of Reagan-Bush I, were distracted by a woman in red in the background doing annoying things with a Royce campaign sign. It was later confirmed that she's Royce's wife. At 10:52 p.m., the more Royce talked under the hot OCN lights, the sweatier his upper lip got. Just like Nixon! At 11 p.m., for what seemed like the 487th time, the OCN anchors went over the same results: zero precincts reporting. "I'm sorry we don't have more results yet, but when we do it should be interesting," Roger Cooper said sheepishly. At 11:18 p.m.—yippee!—OCN had 5 percent of the precincts reporting! At 11:45 p.m., over at KCET's Life and Times, status-quo gadfly Hugh Hewitt said he wasn't surprised by Measure F's victory because the airport was dead after the noise tests. He added that he used to be a supporter of the airport but came out against it before the election because it's not the will of the people. "The pro-airport board is not listening to 70 percent of the electorate," Hewitt said. If it weren't for the fact they don't allow it in Cali fornia, we'd marry the guy. At 11:54 p.m.—finally!—substantially updated election results appeared on OCN. At midnight, OCN Decision 2000signed off, with an assurance that they would have updates in the morning.

 
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