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Laurie Girand suspends AD-74 campaign after Dems throw support to Chris Duncan

Activist Laurie Girand says she’s bowing out of the 74th Assembly District race after Democratic party leaders told her they plan to back San Clemente Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan in the race against GOP incumbent Laurie Davies.

The news comes after the California Democratic Party held a virtual Pre-Endorsement Conference on Saturday to vote on which candidates to support in the June primary. Duncan earned 79.63% of the vote, which essentially secures a full endorsement for him when the party meets again in March.

Such endorsements aren’t required for candidates to win. The Democratic party backed opponents of both Katie Porter and Harley Rouda when they flipped their House seats in 2018, for example.

But party endorsement does mean more money and other resources for a candidate. And some local Democrats objected to the early AD-74 endorsement, saying they don’t see why the party feels a need to put its thumb on the scales in races where there’s more than one strong candidate in the primary.

“That means voters aren’t really deciding who the candidates are, party leaders are,” said Sharon Williams, a delegate from San Clemente who was supporting Girand.

When asked about that concern, Ajay Mohan, executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said voters still have a “clear choice in Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan versus Laurie Davies,” saying Duncan is “focused on ensuring environmental protections, expanding healthcare access and creating affordable housing options.”

Girand, 60, of San Juan Capistrano, made a name for herself by advocating for reforms in addiction treatment centers, for safe produce, and for victims of sexual harassment. In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Girand wrote that she was approached in 2021 “by many people in our community, including leaders in the Democratic Party, asking me to consider running for State Assembly.” She officially launched her campaign Jan. 3 with $100,000 of her own money in the coffers and unofficially reported raising another $100,000 from individual donors within two weeks.

A few days later, Duncan confirmed he’d also entered the race. He’s officially reported $9,800 in donations, though he said he has “many” more contributions that are not yet subject to reporting requirements. He did not have a figure to share Thursday.

Duncan, 46, is a private practice attorney who formerly served as counsel for U.S. Customs and Border Control and has worked under administrations from both parties. He ran for the 73rd Assembly District seat in 2020 but failed to advance out of the March primary. He ran for and won a seat on the San Clemente City Council that November, while Davies won the Assembly seat.

Davies, R-Laguna Niguel, now represents the 73rd District, which is entirely contained in southern Orange County. It was the safest Republican seat in the county when Davies won her first term in 2020. But after state redistricting approved new political boundaries, Davies was drawn into a new 74th District, which stretches from Laguna Niguel south along the coast to Oceanside in San Diego County. And it’s nearly a dead heat in terms of voter registration, according to Political Data Inc., with Republicans holding 35% and Democrats at 34.6%.

Girand said she has polling that indicated she was the strongest candidate in the race. But after learning she’d have to run without support of the Democratic party, she suspended her campaign.

“I have ample opportunities to make a difference outside of elected office,” she said.

Duncan said Thursday that he was unaware of any polling.

The filing period for candidates to enter state races closes March 11.

Source: Orange County Register

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