OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

OC’s Top Ten 2020 Primary Election Stories

Posted by Chris Nguyen on March 4, 2020

With 158,000 votes remaining to count in Orange County (which is actually 30,000 fewer ballots than were remaining the morning after the 2018 primary election), here are the top ten OC Primary Election stories after the completion of the first night of results:

  1. AD-72: Nguyen vs. Diep Continues with an All-Republican General Election
    I’m starting a new company to sell larger mailboxes to residents of the 72nd Assembly District. After a $1.6 million primary, Republicans have finished in the top two for AD-72. What had been one of the closest swing seats in the state now becomes a guaranteed Republican win in November. Of the aforementioned $1.6 million, $1.5 million of it was spent between former Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Fountain Valley) and incumbent Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster). Spoiler Bijan Mohseni (D-Los Alamitos) prevented Councilwoman Deidre Nguyen (D-Garden Grove) from reaching the top two.

    After running to the right in the primary, Janet Nguyen and Diep now face the adventure of wooing Democratic voters. Eight years ago, this same district had an all-Republican November general election, in which Businessman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) upset Mayor Troy Edgar (R-Los Alamitos).

  2. BOS-1: Incumbent Do to Face Off Against Latino Democrat Officeholder…But It’s Unclear Which One
    As was widely expected, incumbent Supervisor Andrew Do (R-Westminster) is headed to a November run-off election. However, what isn’t clear is whether his November opponent will be Councilman Sergio Contreras (D-Westminster) or Mayor Miguel Pulido (D-Santa Ana). After the first night of results, Contreras leads Pulido by just 382 votes, or 0.64% of the vote. The Democratic Party of Orange County endorsed Contreras, but Pulido has been Mayor of the district’s largest city for the past 26 years.
  3. CD-45: Raths Emerges from Republican Pack to Challenge Incumbent Democrat Porter
    After a $2.6 million primary, of which $1.65 million was spent on the Republican side, Councilman Greg Raths (R-Mission Viejo) won 18.9% of the vote, defeating five other Republicans to reach the top two to face off against incumbent freshman Democrat Katie Porter (D-Irvine). Raths raised $451,637 and spent $325,491, spending nearly $100,000 less than Councilwoman Peggy Huang (R-Yorba Linda) and less than half of what Councilman Don Sedgwick (R-Laguna Hills) spent. Sedgwick had raised almost double what Raths did, and Sparks raised about $44,000 more than Raths did. Raths faces a tall order in the general election, as Porter sits atop a $3 million warchest.
  4. SD-37: Who is Going to Be Moorlach’s Opponent?
    As was widely expected, Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) came in first place. What isn’t clear is who will advance to the November general election to face off against Moorlach: UCI Law Professor Dave Min (D-Irvine) or Mayor Katrina Foley (D-Costa Mesa). After the first night of results, Min leads Foley by just 1,569 votes, or 0.95% of the vote. The California Democratic Party endorsed Min, but Foley is the directly-elected Mayor of the district’s third-largest city, holding City and School District offices for the past 16 years.
  5. Most (Maybe All) Nine School Bonds Fail
    In most elections, most school bonds pass, but this election, the voters were particularly unfriendly to the school bonds, with a majority voting against the Brea-Olinda Unified School District’s Measure G, Capistrano Unified School District’s Measures H and I, Fullerton Elementary School District’s Measure J, Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s Measure K, and Saddleback Valley Unified School District’s Measure M.

    Anaheim Union High School District’s Measure B and Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Measure L had a majority backing them, but both are unlikely to reach the necessary 55% margin to pass (both are below 52%). Tustin Unified School District’s Measure N is at 52.61% and still has a chance to get to 55% since the remaining ballots are expected to be disproportionately Democratic ballots since the competitive Democratic presidential primary caused those voters to cast later ballots.

  6. AD-73: Brough in Fourth Place with Davies Likely to Be an Assemblywoman
    Starting election night in the top two, embattled Assemblyman Bill Brough (R-Dana Point) fell to fourth place by the time election night was complete. Mayor Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) and Business Services Director Scott Rhinehart (D-Mission Viejo) will advance to the top two in one of California’s safest Republican Assembly seats. Homeland Security Attorney Chris Duncan (D-San Clemente) came in third ahead of Brough while Councilman Ed Sachs (R-Mission Viejo) came in fifth behind Brough. Brough was dogged by allegations of sexual harassment and campaign finance misspending, with Davies winning the endorsement of the Republican Party of Orange County.
  7. County Board of Ed. Trustee Area 3: How Much Does it Take to Beat Ken Williams? No One Knows, But $750,000 Isn’t Enough
    County Board of Education Trustee Ken Williams (R-Silverado) won more than 61% of the vote in a head-to-head race with self-funding millionaire Andy Thorburn (D-Villa Park). Thorburn was dubbed “the Mike Bloomberg of OC” by the Liberal OC and ended up putting more than $750,000 of his own money into the race. As a resident of this Trustee Area, I personally received eight mailers from Thorburn, with several attacking Williams as being too extreme for Orange County. Thorburn ran as a carpetbagger for the 39th Congressional District and almost ran for 3rd Supervisorial District. (Only Brea, Yorba Linda, and a portion of Anaheim Hills are in both the 39th Congressional District and Board of Ed Trustee Area 3.) Despite Thorburn’s $750,000 onslaught, the popular Williams cruised to a seventh term.
  8. County Board of Ed. Trustee Area 4: Shaw Wins 33.7% to Deliver Conservative Supermajority as Democrats Shoot Selves in Foot
    Unlike every other seat on the primary election ballot, County Board of Education seats are won by plurality vote (city councils, school boards, and special districts on the November general election ballot are also won by plurality). As the sole Republican on the ballot, Professor/Councilman Tim Shaw (R-La Habra) came in first place with just 33.7% of the vote.

    Three Democrats split the remainder of the vote, with At-Risk Youth Counselor Vicki Calhoun (D-Fullerton) coming in second with 26.8% of the vote, ahead of Educator/Attorney Paulette Chaffee (D-Fullerton), who got 22.4% of the vote and Councilman/Businessman Jordan Brandman (D-Anaheim) who got 17.1% of the vote. Chaffee (whose husband Doug Chaffee beat Shaw for Supervisor in 2018) spent over $124,000, Brandman spent over $64,000, and Calhoun spent so little that she was not required to file campaign finance reports: Calhoun didn’t even buy a ballot statement.The three Democrats got a combined 66.3% of the vote. With one fewer Democrat in the race, it is likely that Shaw would have fallen to second place.

    Consequently, with the election of Tim Shaw and the re-election of Ken Williams, there is now a conservative supermajority on the County Board of Education for the first time in memory (conservative Trustees Mari Barke and Lisa Sparks are not up for election until 2022).

  9. BOS-3: No One Wins Their Hometown…Again
    For the second election in a row, no candidate won their hometown in the race for Third District Supervisor. As expected, Supervisor Don Wagner (R-Irvine) won re-election without a run-off necessary since he achieved a majority of the votes. Specifically, he won 54.4% while attorney Ashleigh Aitken (D-Anaheim) won 45.6%. Despite winning most of the Third District, Wagner actually lost Irvine. Aitken lost Anaheim Hills (the only part of Anaheim in the Third Supervisorial District) handily to Wagner. Similarly, in 2018, Anaheim Hills came out strong for Republican Harry Sidhu over Democrat Aitken in the race for Mayor of Anaheim. In the 2019 special election to fill this supervisorial seat after Supervisor Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) was elected District Attorney, all seven candidates lost their hometowns. This strange streak of hostile hometowns continues.
  10. Central Committee: New Bipartisan Strategy Emerging – Get a Central Committee Seat While Running for Office on the Same Ballot
    In a fascinating phenomenon, candidates for Congress or Assembly are concurrently running for Central Committee. Nowhere was that clearer than the 68th Assembly District, where every challenger to Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine) ran for Central Committee. Melissa Fox (D-Irvine), Eugene Fields (D-Orange), and Benjamin Yu (R-Lake Forest) all won seats on their respective parties’ Central Committees for the 68th Assembly District while Choi already holds a Central Committee seat by virtue of being the Republican nominee for Assembly.

    Cynthia Thacker (R-Fullerton) in the 65th Assembly District, James Waters (R-Anaheim) in the 46th Congressional District (running for Central Committee in the 65th Assembly District), Brian Burley (R-Huntington Beach) in the 48th Congressional District (running for Central Committee in the 72nd Assembly District), Amy Phan West (R-Westminster) in the 47th Congressional District (running for Central Committee in the 72nd Assembly District), Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) in the 73rd Assembly District, Ed Sachs (R-Mission Viejo) in the 73rd Assembly District, Greg Raths (R-Mission Viejo) in the 45th Congressional District (running for Central Committee in the 73rd Assembly District), Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) in the 74th Assembly District, and Kelly Ernby (R-Huntington Beach) in the 74th Assembly District all won elections for Central Committee.

    In other words, a full dozen candidates for Congress and Assembly won seats on their parties’ respective Central Committees. Half of them (Fox, Thacker, Waters, Davies, Raths, and Dixon) will vacate their directly-elected Central Committee seats because they have won the ex officio positions on their respective Central Committees by virtue of being the nominees of their party for Congress or Assembly.

“As Expected” News

  • The 39th Congressional District will be a rematch (from 2018) between incumbent Gil Cisneros (D-Fullerton) and former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R-Fullerton).
  • The 48th Congressional District will feature incumbent Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) vs. Supervisor Michelle Steel (R-Surfside).
  • The 49th Congressional District will feature incumbent Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) vs. Councilman Brian Maryott (R-San Juan Capistrano).
  • The 29th Senate District will be a rematch (from 2016) between incumbent Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) and former Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton).
  • In the 55th Assembly District, Assemblyman Phillip Chen (R-Yorba Linda) won the primary in commanding enough fashion that Councilman Andrew Rodriguez (D-Walnut) is unlikely to be able to mount a rigorous challenge to Chen in the November general election.
  • The 74th Assembly District will be the most hotly contested between the two parties, as Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) faces off against Councilwoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach).
  • County Board of Education Trustee Beckie Gomez (D-Tustin) defeated former Councilman Jim Palmer (R-Tustin) and former School Board Member/Perennial Candidate/Lunatic/Convicted Ketchup Thief Steve Rocco (NPP-Santa Ana) to hang on to her Trustee Area 1 seat.
  • In other Orange County seats, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-Norwalk), Congressman Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) all face nominal opposition in November and are expected to cruise to re-election.

(Cue my usual Nguyen disclaimer: Former Senator Janet Nguyen and Garden Grove Councilwoman Diedre Nguyen are not related to each other, and neither of them are related to me. The last name Nguyen is held by 36% of Vietnamese people.)

(In the interest of full disclosure, Dynamic Strategies, the consulting firm that owns OC Political, are the general consultants for 74th Assembly District candidate Diane Dixon, and did some last-minute work for County Board of Education Trustee Ken Williams.)

One Response to “OC’s Top Ten 2020 Primary Election Stories”

  1. […] Top Ten 2020 Primary Election Stories ocpolitical.com/2020/03/04/ocs… […]

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