Filing has closed for the March 17 special election to fill the vacancy in the 37th Senate District left when Mimi Walters was elected to Congress. As expected, Assemblyman Don Wagner and former Supervisor/former Treasurer-Tax Collector John Moorlach filed for the seat. Unexpectedly, Naz Namazi pulled papers on the final day of filing and then filed for the seat as well.
A head-to-head Wagner vs. Moorlach race would have ended this election on St. Patrick’s Day. If Namazi pulls enough votes to prevent either candidate from breaking 50%, that would force a Wagner-Moorlach run-off on May 19.
Wagner is using “Business Owner/Assemblyman” as his ballot designation. Moorlach unsuccessfully sought “County Supervisor/Businessman” as his ballot designation, receiving “Orange County Supervisor” instead. Oddly, Namazi does not have a ballot designation. Ballot designations can be challenged in court through Monday, February 2 (a week from today).
I’ve never understood why a candidate would refuse to have a ballot designation. It costs nothing and is the one thing every voter sees because it’s right under the candidate’s name under the ballot. It’s literally the last thing a candidate gets to say to every voter (and for a scary number of voters, it’s also the first thing).
Ballot Statements (or Lack Thereof)
Wagner and Moorlach both got statements for the sample ballot while Namazi did not.
There are only two scenarios why a candidate wouldn’t have a ballot statement for the State Legislature: 1) the candidate can’t afford it or 2) the candidate plans to spend more than the voluntary expenditure limit. (For example, in November 2014, Young Kim, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Janet Nguyen, and Jose Solorio did not get statements because they all planned to spend more than the voluntary expenditure limit.)
The voluntary expenditure limit for this election is $846,000, and I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that Namazi isn’t going to spend more than $846,000. That leaves only the logical conclusion that Namazi couldn’t plunk down the $5,376 for a ballot statement.
If a candidate can’t afford to even get the ballot statement, how is the candidate supposed to get their message out? The ballot statement is the opportunity for every candidate to get a 1/4 page message mailed out to every registered voter in the district, as it is included in the sample ballot. Any mailer districtwide would cost more than the ballot statement. Even the costs of ink and paper from printing literature on a home computer to hand deliver to every voter in the district would cost more than a ballot statement.
In a general election, it’s possible to win an obscure down-ticket race without a ballot statement because voters are exhausted from reading many seats’ ballot statements or voters aren’t paying attention to the down-ticket races. However, this is the only thing on the ballot; there is no down-ticket. Anyone turning out for this election is turning out solely for the Senate race. Plus, it’s a special election, and special election voters are far more likely to read the sample ballot than general election voters.
Who is Namazi?
Namazi was a paid staffer on Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s re-election campaigns in 2012 and 2014. She also purportedly joined Rohrabacher’s Congressional staff earlier this month. She has been a licensed real estate salesperson for 1 year, 8 months (since May 2013).
As I live blogged two years ago at the January 2013 OCGOP Central Committee meeting, Namazi received the Anna Woods Memorial HQ Volunteer of the Year Award for her efforts in the 2012 election at the OCGOP headquarters in Tustin and the OCGOP office in Huntington Beach. (Ironically, as the highest-ranking elected official present at that meeting, Wagner helped present all of the volunteer awards, including the one to Namazi.)
Born in Pakistan, the 47-year-old Namazi had been registered to vote at her Laguna Niguel residence for 20 years but recently reregistered to vote in Irvine in the two-bedroom residence of 64-year-old Julie Tanha. Property records do not show that Namazi has given up her residence in Laguna Niguel nor acquired Tanha’s residence in Irvine. Laguna Niguel is in the 36th Senate District while Irvine is in the 37th.
Born in Pennsylvania, the 54-year-old Wagner has been registered to vote at his Irvine residence for 23 years. Wagner has been a licensed attorney since 1987, an Assemblyman since 2010, and was a community college district trustee from 1998-2010.
Born in the Netherlands, the 59-year-old Moorlach has been registered to vote at his Costa Mesa residence for 12 years. Moorlach’s CPA license was issued in 1980 but is currently inactive; he was a County Supervisor from 2007-2015 and the County Treasurer-Tax Collector from 1995-2007.
Ordinarily, a candidate who pulls papers on the last day of filing, recently reregistered from a longtime out-of-district residence to an in-district residence, has no ballot designation, and has no ballot statement would have all the red flags of being a decoy candidate.
However, there is one big gaping hole in the decoy theory: who actually benefits from Namazi’s candidacy? Unless she starts hitting either Wagner or Moorlach, there is no obvious beneficiary of her candidacy. There is no reason to see how she would draw from more from one candidate or the other: her name isn’t similar to either Wagner or Moorlach, she doesn’t have a similar ballot designation to either Wagner or Moorlach, she’s a woman while the other two are men (indeed, her name doesn’t even make her gender obvious), she has an Iranian name while Wagner and Moorlach have European names, etc. Now, if Namazi starts campaigning heavily against one of the two major candidates, then the decoy theory is worth another look.
Who Will Campaign to Democrats?
It had long been thought that Wagner and Moorlach would try to outflank each other on the right to win the safely Republican SD-37, but with the Democrats failing to field a candidate (and indeed, no non-Republican candidate filing at all), which one will attempt to win over Democrats? Or will both attempt it? It will be a delicate balancing act trying to hang on to Republicans and grabbing Democrats. 28.6% of SD-37 voters are Democrats. It’s a huge voting bloc. If one candidate goes for the Democrats but the other does not, the Democrats could well determine the result of the election. (Leslie Daigle missed her chance; this race was tailor-made for her!) However, it’s still a staunchly Republican district; tilting too far left could cost too many votes on the right.
The riskiest strategy would be sending a hit piece to Democrats accusing the opponent of being too conservative, as the target of that hit piece would presumably quickly send a piece to Republicans: “Look! My opponent says I’m more conservative than he is!”
Of course, there is the ever safe strategy of non-substantive messaging, along the lines of “Democrats Trust John Moorlach” or “Democrats Support Don Wagner” without any political stances included whatsoever.
Full Text of Ballot Statements
Wagner’s ballot statement is below:
As an Assemblyman since 2010, I’ve been a proven, principled conservative voice in Sacramento. That’s why I’m endorsed for State Senate by our conservative Congressman Ed Royce and Congresswoman Mimi Walters.
As Senator, I’ll strongly support a balanced budget, with no new taxes. I’ve fought to eliminate the $500 billion “wall of debt” that liberal politicians have created and plan to leave to our children. I signed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” to never vote to raise your taxes and am endorsed by the OCTaxpayers Association.
My fiscal credentials aren’t just talk. I have real experience balancing government budgets – as President of a local Community College District I balanced every budget and paid off all debts, without raising taxes. It can be done.
I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. I’ve been a leader in demanding that Washington secure our border and compensate California taxpayers for the enormous costs of illegal immigration. I’m on record strongly opposing President Obama’s actions to grant amnesty.
As a small business owner myself, I experienced how overregulation and over-taxation stifle business success and economic growth. That’s why I’ve worked to get government off the backs of business owners. And that’s why I’ve been endorsed by the California Small Business Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
I’ve been leading the fight for conservative values in Sacramento, not just talking about them from afar. I pledge to use my experience and proven conservative record to keep up that fight for responsive, responsible, limited government.
Moorlach’s ballot statement is below:
I will fight to end unnecessary government spending and reduce debts. I oppose raising tax rates and I believe government must be lean, efficient, and live within its means.
I began my career as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner. I believe government spending requires sound planning and must stand firm against pressures from special interests.
California has an unrestricted net deficit of $124 billion and is 46th out of 50 states in financial status! Billions in underfunded public employee pensions is one of our biggest threats. As a County Supervisor, I passed a ballot measure requiring voter approval on any new public employee pension enhancement.
We also renegotiated the county employee retiree medical plan, reducing the unfunded liability by 71% and saving Orange County taxpayers nearly $100 million a year.
In 1994, I was a partner in a local accounting firm. When Orange County declared bankruptcy that December, I was brought in to help clean up the mess. We immediately cut costs, eliminated risky investments, and put the County back on a fiscally conservative path.
In 2006, I was elected to serve as County Supervisor, where I helped to prudently guide spending through the Great Recession, thus improving the business climate. During my tenure, the County’s unrestricted net assets grew from a deficit to in excess of $300 million. Today Orange County is fiscally sound, and our economy is strong.
California needs a fiscally conservative accountant in Sacramento. I would be honored to continue serving you. http://www.MoorlachforSenate.com
As mentioned earlier, Namazi did not get a ballot statement.