California's 48th congressional district special election, 2005

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In the fall of 2005, a special election was held in the 48th Congressional District of California to choose a United States Representative to replace Republican Christopher Cox, who resigned effective August 2, 2005, to become Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. A Special primary election was held on October 4. Because no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, a runoff general election took place on December 6, 2005. The top vote getter from each party moved to the runoff contest, which only required a candidate to receive a plurality of the vote. Republican candidate John Campbell ultimately won the runoff with only 44% of the vote, as there were three major candidates.

District geography[edit]

Map of the California 48th congressional district as of 2005.

The district is located in Orange County in southern California, and includes the cities of Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods Lake Forest (formerly known as El Toro), Tustin, and parts of Newport Beach, San Juan Capistrano, and Santa Ana.

Candidates[edit]

Ten Republicans qualified for the special primary election. California State Senator John Campbell won the Republican nomination by coming in first in the special primary election. Former State Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer came in second. Other Republican candidates included dentist David R. Crouch, former Tustin councilman John Kelly, attorney Scott MacCabe, attorney Guy E. Mailly, real estate agent Masha A. Morris, businessman Marshall Samuel Sanders, businessman Edward A. Suppe, and physician Don A. Udall.

Four Democrats qualified for the special primary election. Attorney Steve Young, UCI professor John Graham (who ran for the seat in three previous elections against Chris Cox: 2000, 2002, and 2004), teacher Bea Foster, and marketing consultant Tom Pallow.

Real estate agent Bruce D. Cohen of the Libertarian Party and teacher Béa Tiritilli of the Green Party were both unopposed for the nominations of their respective parties.

Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist was eventually chosen for the American Independent Party nomination. Robert C. Dornan also briefly tried to capture the nomination of the American Independent Party, but was rebuffed by the party's leaders. Dornan would later endorse Gilchrist.

Campbell and Brewer were generally considered the frontrunners, with Gilchrist viewed as a possible spoiler against Campbell in the special primary election. Campbell had the backing of many major Republican officeholders, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and closely identified with the policies of President George W. Bush. Brewer was considered the more moderate alternative, in favor of abortion and stem cell research and endorsed by Senator John McCain. A sore point for some conservatives in the district was Campbell's position on illegal immigration. Gilchrist ran as a third party candidate primarily on his support for stronger immigration laws.

Political climate[edit]

The district is overwhelmingly conservative, with Republicans enjoying a 2 to 1 voter registration advantage (Christopher Cox won his last bid for re-election with 65% of the vote). Most pundits therefore viewed the contest as which Republican candidate would get the honor of filling the vacant seat. Because John Campbell obtained the majority of the endorsements within the Republican establishment, and was able to raise over $2,000,000, it quickly became apparent that Campbell would be destined to win.

Campbell's strategy was to ensure that Jim Gilchrist would not "steal" too many votes that would have otherwise gone to him had Gilchrist not run. Gilchrist for his part, spent $500,000 to ensure that the topic of illegal immigration is prominent in the race. Democratic attorney Steve Young spent a large amount of his own money in the hope that Gilchrist and Campbell will split the conservative vote to a point which would allow him to edge both of them. Although Gilchrist spent more than twice the amount Young spent, Young edged Gilchrist for second place by two percentage points in the December 6 general election.

Campbell's confidence in his victory was quite evident. In September, he skipped a candidate forum, and in November he attended a fundraiser for himself in Washington D.C. in which Dick Cheney was the guest of honor. He also bought a December 7 early morning airplane ticket to Washington days before the December 6 runoff.

Results of special primary election[edit]

On October 4, Republican John Campbell garnered 45.5 percent of the vote, 4.5 percent short of the majority necessary to avoid a runoff race. He faced the leading vote getter from the four other parties participating: American Independent Jim Gilchrist, Democrat Steve Young, Green Béa Tiritilli, and Libertarian Bruce Cohen in a December 6 runoff.

California's 48th congressional district special primary, 2005[1]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican John Campbell 41,420 45.16%
Republican Marilyn Brewer 15,595 17.00%
American Independent Jim Gilchrist 13,423 14.64%
Democratic Steve Young 7,941 8.66%
Democratic John Graham 3,667 4.00%
Democratic Bea Foster 2,944 3.21%
Republican Don Udall 1,417 1.55%
Republican John Kelly 1,070 1.17%
Green Béa Tiritilli 790 0.86%
Libertarian Bruce Cohen 731 0.80%
Republican David Crouch 523 0.57%
Republican Scott MacCabe 397 0.43%
Republican Marsha Morris 351 0.38%
Democratic Tom Pallow 307 0.33%
Republican Guy Mailly 153 0.17%
Republican Marshall Samuel Sanders 110 0.12%
Republican Edward Suppe 101 0.11%
Republican Delecia Holt (write-in) 11 0.01%
Republican Steven Wesley Blake (write-in) 2 0.00%
Invalid ballots 758 0.83%
Totals 91,711 100.00%
Voter turnout 22.81%

Results of special general election[edit]

The result of the December 6 general election are notable in that Campbell's plurality actually decreased by more than a point, and the combined Democratic total nearly doubled in the general election, with Gilchrist additionally gaining ten points. This would seem to indicate that a large majority of the voters who voted for a Republican candidate other than Campbell in the October 4 special primary election, did not rally behind Campbell in the special general election.

California's 48th congressional district special election, 2005[2]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican John Campbell 46,184 44.24%
Democratic Steve Young 28,853 27.64%
American Independent Jim Gilchrist 26,507 25.39%
Green Béa Tiritilli 1,430 1.37%
Libertarian Bruce Cohen 974 0.93%
Invalid ballots 457 0.44%
Totals 104,405 100.00%
Voter turnout 25.74%

Postscript[edit]

Campbell's victory caused a vacancy in the 35th State Senate district. A special primary election was scheduled for April 11, 2006. Two Republicans: Assemblymember and former Huntington Beach, California councilmember Tom Harman, and Dana Point, California councilmember Diane Harkey raised $330 thousand, and $800 thousand respectively for the race (Harkey spent $620 thousand of her own money) [1], [2]. The Democratic candidate, Larry Caballero, spent virtually nothing. In a race that was largely centered on the issue of illegal immigration [3], Harman edged Harkey by 236 votes, out of over 98,000 votes cast [4]. Harkey has sought a recount of the official results, at a cost of $14,000 (which she had to absorb). The recount did not change the outcome, with Harman's lead shrinking to 225 votes [5]. Harman faced Caballero in a runoff on June 6 and won the race to succeed Campbell by a 2-1 margin.[6]

Harman's election to the State Senate left a vacancy in the State Assembly, which stayed vacant until December 4, 2006, when Jim Silva was sworn in after winning the regularly scheduled election for the seat on November 7.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Special Election Results" (PDF). Secretary of State of California. 2005-10-10. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  2. ^ "Special Election Results" (PDF). Secretary of State of California. 2005-12-16. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 

External links[edit]

Government web sites[edit]

News media[edit]

Campaign sites[edit]

General election candidates[edit]

Defeated special primary election candidates[edit]

See also[edit]