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Partisan pals

In a year full of ruthless national campaigning, the chairmen of O.C.’s Republican and Democratic parties remain friends.

October 21, 2008|By Paul AndersonDaily Pilot

Scott Baugh worries about his party’s “brand.”

Frank Barbaro’s starting to get the feeling things are nearing those heady days post-Watergate for Orange County Democrats.

But both of the county party chairmen know the reality is that Republicans still rule Orange County.

About 496,000 Democrats vs. 706,000 Republicans.

But the Democrats are catching up and making things a bit more competitive this election cycle. In the last 15 months, 32,000 new Democrats have registered while the GOP has lost 12,000 voters, according to Barbaro.

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So you’d think Barbaro the Democrat and Baugh the Republican would be bitter rivals.

Would you believe they’re friends?

It’s an odd relationship given that both men are also playing the part of presidential kingmakers this year. But they’ll have dinner together on election night just like they did four years ago as they watched the returns roll in on the President Bush vs. John Kerry race.

“Frank is just a gentleman,” Baugh said. “We can sit down and have an open dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of our parties. It’s always a candid conversation.”

“There’s so much in the country that’s not a partisan matter at all,” Barbaro said, referring to how the two sometimes actually work together on common causes.

In fact, when Baugh was working to bring the annual Orange County marathon to Costa Mesa he called Barbaro for help. Baugh wanted all of the City Council candidates to back it before he went forward with the deal, meaning he would have to lobby Councilwoman Katrina Foley, a Democrat. Just in case Foley was a bit suspicious why the Orange County Republican chairman was calling her, he asked Barbaro to call on his behalf. It worked. Foley backed the marathon.

But they do most of their work at cross purposes politically. And this year the stakes were very high — the country’s top job.

California’s votes don’t matter much since it’s a reliably blue state. That’s why you almost never see candidates canvassing for votes here.  

But they need California for fundraising. And if you want to raise money in Orange County you have to go through Baugh or Barbaro to organize it.

Newport Beach, jokingly referred to by politicos as the presidential ATM, is one of the more popular destinations.

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