Orange County Democrats just won this seat for the first time since 1894

Orange County Democrats just won this seat for the first time since 1894

On Tuesday, Democrats in Orange County, California, flipped a seat on the five-member Board of Supervisors that has been in GOP hands for well over a century: Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley defeated former Republican state Sen. John Moorlach 44-31 in a five-candidate special election. There are no runoffs in special elections for this post, so Foley’s showing brings the Republican majority down from 4-1 to 3-2 ahead of redistricting.

Foley will succeed Republican Michelle Steel, who was elected to Congress last year, in a place that has been tough turf for Team Blue in the past. District 2 supported Joe Biden 50-48 last year, which was still Donald Trump’s best showing in any of the five seats. A small win here for any Democratic presidential nominee, though, would have been unfathomable even a few years ago: While there have been different iterations of this district over the years, it has always been focused on Orange County’s formerly staunchly conservative coastal communities, and has not been represented by a Democrat since 1894.

Foley, however, benefited from a deeply fractured GOP field, as the three Republican candidates combined to narrowly lead the two Democrats 51-49. (Some ballots remain to be counted, so these totals could shift.) There was already clear tension within the GOP field, though, and as Foley’s victory became evident, it spilled further into public view.

Moorlach, the Republican candidate who had the blessing of the county GOP, referred to his intraparty opponents as “confused Republicans” and blamed them for Team Red’s failure to hold this seat, a view shared by county party chair Fred Whitaker. Kevin Muldoon, a Republican who took third with 11%, strongly pushed back on this assessment. Muldoon claimed that many voters in the district had reservations about Moorlach, who once held this seat himself. Muldoon argued, “This is Moorlach’s second time costing Republicans a safe seat,” alluding to Moorlach’s 51-49 loss last year for the state Senate seat he represented.

Muldoon’s view of tepid support in the district for Moorlach could be based in fact. Two of the three current GOP members of the board threw their support behind Muldoon and the traditionally Republican-friendly Orange County sheriff deputies union spent heavily against Moorlach.

Republicans made a weak attempt at splitting the Democratic vote when the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a group who had backed Moorlach, spent $2,000 to support Team Blue’s other candidate, Janet Rappaport. This half-hearted venture to influence the Democratic field was far from enough, though, as Rappaport finished in a distant fifth place with 5%.

Foley will serve out the remainder of Steel’s term and be on the ballot once again in 2022. Fellow Democratic Supervisor Doug Chaffee will be up that year as well, and there will also be a race for term-limited Republican Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s seat. If Democrats hold their seats and successfully flip Bartlett’s seat, Team Blue can win control of this body for the first time in decades.

Powered by WPeMatico

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: