As election day draws nearer, the media attention has increased. The Daily Pilot is back with a review of the race at this moment in time in the first piece below. The OC Register’s Commentary section includes letters to the editor in the second piece.
The negative hit pieces keep coming. Two mailers provided a recollection of an honest mistake I made nineteen years ago.
I included a memo with my first property tax bill stating that the tragic investment failure just made by my predecessor would never happen again. Constituents were very upset, even to the point of refusing to pay their property taxes, and I had hoped to calm them down by using the backside of an insert within the envelope. Unfortunately, I was unaware of a California Proposition that limits direct mailings to only 250 recipients.
I immediately informed the Fair Political Practices Commission of my misunderstanding, resolved the matter, and have not had a similar incident with them since.
Another recent hit piece mailer said that I supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. Now that’s an interesting whopper, as my opponent actually signed a letter asking Congress to adopt an amnesty policy. More egregious is that it was done under the banner of the "Conservative Republicans of California." I hear that the statewide leader of this organization is not amused.
It’s not fun being the recipient of distortions, untruths and half-truths. But, as I stated in the Daily Pilot article below, it’s a compliment. Obviously, I must be ahead in the race or this strategy would not be needed.
On another note, I just received an endorsement from the Orange Taxpayers Association.
Diverse set of candidates vie for vacant 37th state Senate district seat
Don Wagner and John Moorlach are the established candidates with name recognition, but newcomers Naz Namazi and Louise Stewardson hope grass-roots campaigns give voters a choice.
The head seat in the Sacramento office for the 37th state Senate district might be empty now, but at least four candidates are vying for the spot to represent a swath of Orange County ranging from artsy Laguna Beach, eclectic Costa Mesa and surfer-vibe Huntington Beach to master-planned Irvine and the equestrian estates of Orange Park Acres.
About 500,000 registered voters, 42% of them Republican, make up the 37th District that, until January, had been represented by Mimi Walters since 2012.
Walters, a Republican from Irvine, was elected to the House of Representatives’ 45th Congressional District, leaving a vacancy that three fellow Republicans and one Democrat are hustling to fill.
March 17’s special election isn’t as prevalent as the general election frenzy voters experienced in the fall, their mailboxes stuffed with fliers and forests of campaign signs staked about front lawns and grassy strips about town.
Despite that, the stakes are high enough this time around that the two Republican front-runners, Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) and former Supervisor John Moorlach, have collectively raised more than $500,000.
Alongside them are two challengers and first-time electoral office candidates: Naz Namazi, a Republican Irvine resident and congressional aide; and Democrat Louise Stewardson, a nurse from Huntington Beach.
Per California law, the winner will need to get at least 50% of the vote; if not, a runoff election is May 19.
The Senate term lasts through December 2016.
In interviews this week with the Daily Pilot, the candidates described how their campaigns and strengths set them apart from the others on next month’s ballot.
Republican names on the ticket
Wagner, of the 68th state Assembly district, is leagues ahead of the field in terms of gathering money. As of this week, he estimated having raised $400,000.
"It shows the strength of my campaign," Wagner, 54, said.
The Irvine resident and attorney has garnered the lion’s share of major endorsements, including ones from Walters, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Wagner, a state assemblyman since 2010, described his effort as a traditional campaign, comprised of precinct walks, mailers to high-propensity voters and television ads, one of which debuted this week.
The 30-second spot, titled "Common Sense," promotes a message of personal restraint as opposed to the lavish lifestyle of some politicians.
"I’ve been up in Sacramento fighting the fight, bringing the bills that the community wants," Wagner told the Pilot. "As opposed to down here dealing with the different — and, frankly, smaller — issues that county supervisors deal with."
The ad also doles a heavy dose of criticism toward Moorlach, termed out after eight years on the county Board of Supervisors. Among the qualms are that Moorlach raised dozens of county fees during his tenure and, in 2007, used about $200,000 in taxpayer money to renovate his office.
In response to his renovations, Moorlach told the Los Angeles Times: "When I got here, I thought I had moved into an old home in Palm Springs in the 1960s. It even went beyond my conservative pale … if I’m asking professionals to work for me on a $6-billion budget, it doesn’t make sense to ask them to sit on an antique furniture that wouldn’t even sell at a garage sale."
In an interview, Moorlach dismissed Wagner’s campaigning.
"It indicates to me that I’m ahead in the polls, he said, "and that he has to do whatever he can do to besmirch me with hit pieces to try and narrow the gap."
Moorlach, 59, of Costa Mesa noted that he never raised taxes — a supervisor can’t do that — but he did raise fees, "a job that sort of happens if you’re a supervisor or a city council member."
"You want to make sure that those who are requesting specific services pay the actual cost of those services and not allow all the taxpayers to subsidize those services," Moorlach said. "Yes, I voted to increase certain fees — after they were audited by the county to make sure the calculations were accurate."
Unlike Wagner, Moorlach said he hasn’t been campaigning long, but has managed to raise about $100,000 in two months.
"People know that I’ve been forthright," he said. "I’m not your typical politician."
The 37th District seat is the third spot Moorlach has eyed recently. He researched the idea of running for governor last year against Gov. Jerry Brown — it didn’t get very far — then he mounted a short campaign for the 45th Congressional District, which eventually went to Walters.
Many Orange County voters recognize Moorlach’s name from 1994 when the certified public accountant famously predicted the county’s pending bankruptcy because of risky investments.
Moorlach acknowledges that his name recognition is "going to be the key factor. It isn’t cash in the bank, but it’s an asset that has a really high value. It’s one of the reasons I’m running."
He offered his own snaps at Wagner, particularly his accepting of campaign funds from union interests — a sacrilegious act in many Republican circles.
"Over the last two decades, the public employee unions have done an effective job on controlling Sacramento," Moorlach said. "They happen to be an ATM machine, at least for Democratic candidates."
For his part, Wagner doesn’t deny taking union money. The record is the record, he contends, and with those funds, he said he’ll promote conservative causes.
"I don’t think I should get criticized for helping Republicans. I wish John would do more of it," Wagner said. "The union no more buys my vote or influence than any of John’s donors buy influence from him. When somebody gives me money, it’s because they like what I’m doing and saying."
With Moorlach and Wagner exchanging barbs and touting a better conservative approach to governing, the third Republican candidate is crying out against "the machine."
Naz Namazi, who recently moved to Irvine from Laguna Niguel, says she’s running against a "political-industrial complex."
"I believe that the people are tired of having people like Mr. Wagner, who doesn’t want to acknowledge where he gets his sources of funding," Namazi said.
The 47-year-old UC Irvine alumna is a congressional aide in Rohrabacher’s Huntington Beach office and has helped run some of his campaigns. However, the longtime congressman hasn’t endorsed her. He’s backing Wagner.
For her part, Namazi, the daughter of an Iranian diplomat, isn’t seeking endorsements from brand-name politicians. She touts a grass-roots approach, irrespective of county power brokers.
"The insiders know about these characters," Namazi said. "The only reason I put my name on the ballot is to give the public a choice."
Namazi’s name is on next month’s ballot, but a candidate statement from her is not. She filed at the last minute, which, she says, caused her campaign to start a few weeks later in the game.
She is actively fundraising, having garnered more than $12,000 as of Friday.
Namazi said she would fight against new taxes and fees. She also advocates voting remotely, which would save money on transport to Sacramento and allow representatives more time in their home districts, she said.
"When it comes to these type of issues, my stance is always with the people," Namazi said. "People over government, no new taxes and no new fees."
Lone Democrat in the race
Rounding out the list of 37th District hopefuls is Louise Stewardson, a registered nurse. She declared her intent to run earlier this month, a little late in the race, and is therefore a write-in candidate.
Stewardson said she was inspired after receiving her sample ballot and its lack of Democrats.
"I really got fired up when I received my sample ballot," she said. "Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to be on ballot."
Stewardson, 60, lives north of downtown Huntington Beach. She serves on the Orange County Democratic Party’s Central Committee. The party was too late to officially endorse her, but has expressed enthusiasm for her nonetheless.
"As a nurse and mother, Louise is passionate about community, families and the environment," the party said in a post on its website. "She will fight for those who do not have a voice in government and is committed to ensuring that Orange County and all of California is a better place for our children and grandchildren."
Part of Stewardson’s platform will be for the state to boost preschool funding.
"One of the best ways to help children achieve is preschool," she said. "I am an advocate for fully funded preschool for all children."
She’s self-funding her grass-roots campaign. She has volunteers reaching out to voters.
Stewardson favors a ban on plastic bags, improving the state’s infrastructure of roads and bridges, and addressing the drought by promoting water conservation.
A major difference between her and the Republicans, she said, is that she doesn’t want to give tax breaks to big business and the well-to-do.
"This is the crazy idea that it will trickle down … it doesn’t work," Stewardson said. "They would rather cut social benefits than tax big corporations and the wealthy."
Moorlach for state Senate District 37
Congratulations to the Register for their endorsement of John "Moorlach for Senate District 37” [Editorial, Feb. 15]. I have followed his public career over the years and, to this date, I have never seen any negative news concerning his capabilities or morality, both as an elected official and in his private life. With his refusal to accept union contributions, he has kept himself from having to repay any favors when he is elected. Mr. Moorlach’s concept of fiscal integrity is something this state needs now more than ever. I only hope that his potential senate office will be a stepping stone to governor. Then maybe we will able to have a balanced budget.
Kudos to the Register for getting it right with “Moorlach for Senate District 37” [Editorial, Feb. 15]. John proved he has the ability, with his financial background, to identify and fix fiscal mismanagement in Orange County in 1994 and the willingness to be the lone voice of reason. Another endorsement of Moorlach stated, “When elected, Moorlach will be the only CPA in the Legislature.” It is a sad commentary that more senators don’t have the basic financial acumen to help California dig its way out of a deepening hole of debt. It is choking our current operating budgets and will be the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren.
This e-mail was sent by the Moorlach for Senate campaign (www.MoorlachforSenate.com).