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Immigration Issue Forces Runoff in California Special

Previewing the electoral potency of the illegal immigration issue among Republicans in the 2006 midterms, state Sen. John Campbell (R) finds himself in a California 48th district special-election runoff this December against Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist and three others.Gilchrist, running under the American Independent Party banner, captured 14.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s open primary, possibly preventing Campbell — who finished first in the open primary with 46 percent — from garnering the 50 percent plus one he needed to win the election outright and avoid the Dec. 6 runoff.

“It’s a brand new election and I’m glad to know we’re on solid ground with John Campbell,” Gilchrist campaign manager Howie Morgan said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. “He had a two month head-start on us. He loaned himself $250,000 and was able to grab early voters, but now he can’t.”

The winner of the runoff in the Orange County district will replace ex-Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Campbell, the frontrunner throughout, had to battle Gilchrist from the right, second place finisher and former Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer from the GOP left, not to mention 14 other candidates who grabbed a total of 54 percent of the vote from a meager 20 percent of registered voters.

Brewer, who was endorsed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and was reasonably well-funded, with more than $600,000 by Election Day, received 16.7 percent of the vote for a second-place finish. Attorney Steve Young, the top Democratic finisher, placed in the runoff with 8.9 percent of the vote.

The Campbell campaign could not be reached for comment early Wednesday. But Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, released a statement this morning congratulating him for securing the GOP nomination in the December runoff.

“The people of the 48th District would be well represented by John,” Reynolds said.

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