UPDATE: MAR. 18, 11:45 A.M.: Irvine mayor Don Wagner, a Republican, declared victory last week in the Mar. 12 Orange County Board of Supervisors special election. His closest opponent, former Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, made no concession on account of wanting all the ballots to be counted. But after Friday afternoon’s tally, Wagner maintained a firm lead with only a handful of votes left to count.
“I appreciate the confidence of the voters and look forward to working for them,” Wagner says in a statement. According to Wagner’s campaign manager, Sanchez called over the weekend to concede. In the meantime, the Weekly awaits an official statement from the Sanchez campaign.
Wagner enjoyed an even five-percent lead over Sanchez after election night. With thousands of ballots counted since then, the margin only shrank marginally with the Irvine mayor winning 42 percent of the vote to Sanchez’s 37.1 percent.
Prospects for a Blue Wave come-from-behind victory proved slim. Voter turnout for the special election hovered at about 21 percent. Wagner is now poised to fill the vacancy left by former supervisor Todd Spitzer in maintaining a Republican super majority on the five-member board.
The deadline to certify the election results is April 11.
But at this point, waiting for all the ballots to be counted is like holding off until the NBA season is over to see if the Los Angeles Lakers will be eliminated from the playoffs.
ORIGINAL POST: MAR. 13, 9:16 A.M.: Irvine mayor Donald Wagner withstood a crowded field of Republican candidates to take an early lead over former congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in the special election for Orange County Board of Supervisors. Wagner increased his lead to an even five-percentage points by night’s end, but the Orange County Registrar of Voters reports more than 9,000 ballots remain to be counted–not including those that can arrive through mail by Friday.
Is another “Blue Wave” come-from-behind win in the works for OC Democrats? Sanchez sure hopes so.
With Todd Spitzer besting Tony Rackauckas in the November election for district attorney, the former third district supervisor’s seat became vacated. It stretches across Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda, Villa Park and a swath of unincorporated areas. Republicans maintain a voter registration edge over Democrats in the district, a key reason why other Democrats in the race dropped out to back Sanchez.
In recent years, Republicans have maintained a lock on the OC Board of Supervisors. Former Fullerton mayor Doug Chaffee made a blue chip in the board for the first time in 12 years when he scored a come from behind razor-thin victory over Republican La Habra mayor Tim Shaw in November. Sanchez is looking to build on that with a special election win, one that’d give Democrats two seats on the five-member board.
Political observers are also looking at the special election as a litmus test for the sturdiness of OC’s “Blue Wave” where Democrats took control of all congressional seats in November. Sanchez, an Orange resident, was first publicly announced as a candidate in the special election at the victory party for Democratic congressman Gil Cisneros in November who edged Republican Young Kim after initially trailing by more than five percentage points. In replicating the feat with Sanchez, Democrats can carry more “bluphoria” into the 2020 elections.
But this is a special election with a low voter turnout, not the November midterms.
The race too close to call at the moment. Neither Wagner nor Sanchez offered any definitive statements on election night. Trailing far behind both of them, former Anaheim city councilwoman Kris Murray acknowledged the obvious in placing third. After failing to emerge as the leading Republican candidate, she tried to position herself as the “OC First” nonpartisan choice. It didn’t work.
“I am proud that we ran a clean, ethical campaign that honored the community I sought to serve,” Murray stated. “Some battles are worth fighting for and this campaign may be lost, but the race for integrity was won on all fronts.”
The OC Board of Supervisors manages a $6.5 billion annual budget for county residents. Key issues before the board include homelessness and the county’s mental health system. Lesser discussed, but no less important, especially in a rapidly aging county, is its In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. Home-care providers for residents who are either elderly or have disabilities are paid minimum wage amid shortages in the system.
Tuesday’s special election won’t lead to runoff if a candidate fails to claim an outright majority. Whoever the newly seated supe is will finish the remainder of Spitzer’s term before running for reelection in 2020.
Updated vote counts will appear on the Registrar’s website every afternoon at 5 p.m. Keep those web browsers refreshing until a clear winner emerges.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!