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Jon Fleischman

AD72: Allen (R) vs. Edgar (R) – Now Rated A “Toss Up” Race

The 72nd Assembly District is located in the westernmost part of Orange County, and includes cities such as Westminster, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and the northern portion of Huntington Beach. The heavy Republican registration in this primarily blue-collar district would have elected a new GOP Assemblymember to replace the term-limited Jim Silva anyway, but this is one of those districts where because of Proposition 14, there are actually two Republicans battling it out for the brass ring.

Travis Allen (R)

In the June election, there were four viable Republican candidates — nuclear engineer Long Pham, Huntington Beach City Councilman Matthew Harper, businessman Travis Allen and Los Alamitos Mayor and businessman Troy Edgar. To be honest, all of the momentum going into that June race was with Troy Edgar. Edgar had been running for the local Congressional seat but abruptly pivoted out of a pending show-down there against Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong, and into the Assembly race. Edgar, apparently a person of means, who had dropped a considerable amount of his own money into the aborted House run, did the same with his bid for the legislature. Matthew Harper, Edgar’s most formidable primary foe, dropped out of the race, and Edgar amassed a big pile of endorsements. Long Pham never spent the kind of money it would take to do voter contact — and Travis Allen was dogged by controversy surrounding a handful of donations he had made to high profile Democratic candidates (news we broke on this website). The presumption was the Edgar would easily best the field, and that with three GOPers vying for votes, that a fourth candidate, Democrat Joe Davinh would come in third, which would have left Edgar a shoo-in for November. But things in politics often are hard to predict, and by the time the final ballots were counted — while Edgar got 28% of the vote, Travis Allen ended up in second place with 19.8%.

The conventional wisdom heading into the summer was that this race was Troy Edgar’s to lose. The “momentum” (always important in politics) was on his side. But since the June victory, the Edgar campaign has been riddled with missteps and snafus that seem to have taken it completely off message, while Allen seems to have run a fairly disciplined campaign that has up-ticked in activity to the point where the November outcome is now far from certain.

Troy Edgar (R)

The first issue that came up for Edgar was that he made an attempt to gather up support to get an endorsement from the Orange County Republican Party, but ended backing off of that. Apparently there was not enough support for the idea amongst the 70 or so committee members around the county. Shortly after that, Edgar drove up to the California Republican Party Convention in Burbank, where he spoke to the Board of Directors asking for the State Party’s endorsement in his race — but the Board decided that while it had made some endorsements in GOP face-offs (such as U.S. Rep. Miller over Senator Bob Dutton, and Eric Linder over his opponents), they were not going to do any more. Next on the parade of foibles was the revelation that the former Congressional campaign of Edgar had committed some spending violations. Then pollster Adam Probolsky released a survey that really shook conventional wisdom a bit, showing Allen up by 6% over Edgar. Now the poll was commissioned by Allen’s campaign, but Probolsky is a respected public opinion specialist. On the heels of the Probolsky survey, the Orange County Register came out with a scathing editorial on a ballot measure in Los Alamitos being championed by Edgar — a measure that would lower local telephone tax rates but broaden the tax to include internet and other services. The Register called it a tax increase (Edgar insists that it is not, but sparring with the big paper in the district isn’t optimal during a campaign). Finally one of Orange County’s most prominent GOP leaders, former California Republican Party Chairman Mike Schroeder issued a statement that he was pulling his endorsement of Edgar, and throwing his support to Allen. To be honest, in all of my years knowing Mike, I’ve never known him to switch his support during a race (Edgar still enjoys a vastly superior endorsement list).

It’s worth taking a paragraph to address the issue of no new taxes pledges. Travis Allen has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge. Troy Edgar has not and will not. He has taken his own pledge on his website to oppose taxes. Speaking on behalf of those who encourage candidates to sign no taxes pledges, we prefer a candidate who takes a more comprehensive pledge to both oppose and vote against taxes, but also to oppose any efforts to raise taxes. This language prevents any ambiguity (Is voting to put a tax increase on the ballot to raise taxes? Technically not, but it is sure an effort to raise them!). I have encouraged Edgar to broaden his pledge. But I digress…

At the same time the Edgar went through months of challenges, Allen was enjoying positive achievements. Probably the most significant was that all of the candidates who lost in the June election circled the wagons and endorsed him over Edgar — important endorsements for November. He also picked up the endorsements of two of Edgar’s colleagues on the Los Alamitos City Council. Allen’s fundraising up-ticked — primarily with considerable funding from his own pocket — infusing his campaign in time to go toe-to-toe with the seemingly-more-wealthy Edgar in mailing to absentee voters. Also, Allen’s campaign has now announced an endorsement from former Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte. It’s worth mentioning that Allen is related to the Chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, and so it leaves observers wondering whether Allen gets any last-minute boost to Democrat voters.

Back on the Edgar side of this, he too has reached back into his deep pockets for more funds. But the part that confused me is that Edgar’s campaign has engaged in a kind of amateur-hour press release campaign against Allen that strikes me as being off-message. It started with their own press release attacking Allen’s campaign finances. It was followed up by a hard-hitting press release responding to Mike Schroeder’s pulling of an endorsement that ended up leading to a whole Orange County Register piece about it (Edgar says Schroeder never formally endorsed him). The last PR battle, engaged by press release and on Twitter was something about Allen holding a fundraiser at some less-than-reputable locale – I think. Still, Edgar has the endorsements of many popular GOP officials, as well as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC. He will be formidable to beat.

The bottom line is that I at this point I would categorize this race as an official “toss up” — anyone could win it. With the election right around the corner, we’ll see who the voters choose. For now, I can guarantee you that no one is packing their bags quite yet…

[Publisher’s Note: While I would have endorsed Matt Harper’s candidacy (he and I are very old, dear friends), I never got the chance to do so. And have been and continue to be neutral in this race.]