MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Fifty Percent Plus One — March 18, 2015

I ran for State Senate because so many people said three things to me. "You did a great job as County Supervisor — Thank you!" "We’re going to miss you." "Can’t you run for something else?"

By yesterday afternoon, a fourth phrase started repeating over and over: "We’re praying for you!"

How to describe last night? All I can say is that it proved the power of prayer. People could not believe the onslaught of negativity being thrown my way. We decided to take the high road and the voters responded.

Let me share some campaign analysis. We knew we’d be attacked and that we would be heavily outspent. So, we launched our communications at a point in time when we knew we could have the best chance of matching the other side. That meant giving up the first 10 days or so.

The absentee ballots were released at 8:05 p.m. and had me at 49.7 percent. Coming in under 50 percent would mean another two months of continued balderdash from my main opponent and his labor union allies. That’s when I had my conversation with the OC Register, which was under a deadline, followed by the Daily Pilot.

At 9:30 p.m., the first one-third of the polling results were released and I moved up to 49.8 percent. Those that voted at the polls were favoring me by a strong margin. At 10:00 p.m., the next one-third of the votes moved me up to 49.9 percent.

Our strategy played itself out, as the early returns gave us 49.7% of the vote, but everything that came in thereafter gave us an average of 54.5% of the vote, putting us over-the-top. At 10:30 p.m., with the last one-third of the precincts reporting, I went over 50 percent plus one.

My headquarters was packed with supporters that stayed until this final release. The reaction was a loud cheer of approval. Everyone was screaming and had their hands stretched out to the ceiling with joy. You would have thought someone scored a goal in the last few minutes of a World Cup Soccer Championship game. It was glorious. And, it was an answer to many prayers.

After thanking my family and supporters and taking photos, I finally had a chance to be interviewed by the Voice of OC. What a night!

The number of texts I received was incredible. And the phone calls continue to come in. I’ll attack my e-mails soon.

The next chapter of my life started last night. It should be fun to see what happens next. I want to thank you for your thoughts and prayers, for your contributions and your volunteering to write your friends, to walk precincts, to address envelopes, and to call voters. Everyone played a critical role in this victory and you have ownership in the results. We did it and I am most grateful.

The first piece is from the Daily Pilot, which has the correct headline. It is followed by the Voice of OC, the OC Register, the Lake Forest Patch, and the LA Times, respectively. (There are more pieces, but this is enough for today.)

Daily Pilot

Moorlach overtakes rivals in special election

Former supervisor gets more than 50% of the vote, suggesting no runoff with closest competitor, attorney Don Wagner.

By Bradley Zint

Former county Supervisor John Moorlach appeared to have won Tuesday’s special election for the 37th state Senate district, defeating three challengers, including his closest rival, state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine).

With all 248 precincts reporting, Moorlach — termed-out earlier this year after two four-year terms on the Orange County Board of Supervisors — had 34,208 votes to 29,987 for Wagner, an attorney and assemblyman since 2010 for the 68th District. This gives Moorlach 50.4% to Wagner’s 44.1%.

Turnout was 14% of the nearly 492,000 registered voters in the 37th District, according to information provided by the registrar of voters.

Trailing the two men, both Republicans, were challengers Naz Namazi, a Republican from Irvine and congressional aide, and Louise Stewardson, a nurse and Democratic write-in candidate from Huntington Beach.

As of 10:30 p.m., Namazi had 3.5% of the votes to Stewardson’s 2%.

Moorlach, speaking from his campaign reception at an Upper Newport Bay home, said he was shooting to get at least 50% of the vote, which would end the election this week and avoid a runoff May 19.

“We just worked really hard,” he said of his campaign. “We had a great grassroots. We had to deal with an opponent who just couldn’t tell a straight story. It showed desperation. Thankfully, the voters so far could see through it.”

Earlier in the evening, Wagner said he remained “cautiously optimistic.”

“If we can get to a May runoff,” he said, “I feel good about my chances.”

Republican infighting marked much of the 37th election, with Moorlach taking the brunt of negative campaigning from Wagner and his supporters. Wagner, who called himself the conservative choice, was critical of Moorlach’s terms as supervisor, which included raising various fees and redecorating his office at a cost of about $200,000.

Wagner also managed to stay far ahead of his challengers in terms of fundraising: $371,000, according to the latest campaign filing date.

Moorlach, who raised about a third of that, touted his financial acumen as a certified public accountant and predictor of Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy. He was also critical of Wagner’s acceptance of campaign funds from labor unions.

“We were hammered by the union crowd,” Moorlach said. “They told a lot of falsehoods. We were just hoping the voters could see through the nonsense that they were receiving in the mail.”

More than 1,000 poll workers manned 189 polling stations Tuesday throughout the district, which includes a large swath of Orange County from Laguna Beach to Anaheim Hills. Of the 491,852 registered voters, about 42% are Republicans and nearly 29% are Democrats.

The 37th seat was vacated earlier this year by Mimi Walters, who left after being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

The state Senate term lasts through December 2016.


Moorlach Appears to Have Won 37th State Senate District Seat

By Norberto Santana Jr.

Despite having far less campaign cash and endorsements than his main opponent, former County Supervisor John Moorlach appears to have won a state Senate seat representing much of coastal and southern Orange County.

Moorlach maintained a sizable lead over state Assemblyman Don Wagner for most of the election night return updates posted late Tuesday after a St. Patrick’s Day special election to fill an office vacated when Congresswoman Mimi Walters won her seat back in November.

In the 10:30 p.m. update from the county Registrar of Voters, Moorlach was out in front with 50.4 percent in the contest for the 37th State Senate District. Wagner was behind with 44.1 percent.

Another candidate, Republican Naz Namazi, garnered 3.5 percent. Write-in candidate Louise Stewardson got 2.0 percent.

The latest results show vote-by-mail ballots and votes cast at all precincts on Election Day. It’s unclear how many ballots remain to be counted.

If Moorlach retains more than 50 percent of the vote after all ballots are counted, he’ll win outright and avoid a May runoff.

Tuesday’s special election is the latest in a series of intensifying election clashes between moderate, pro big-business factions and more fiscally conservative, libertarian-leaning wings of the OC GOP.

The political hit mail in the 37th State Senate race was particularly nasty.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs weighed in heavily on the race, leading a contingent of public safety unions and a few other labor groups who spent in excess of a six-figure sum to oppose Moorlach through independent mailers attacking him. Moorlach earned law enforcement union officials’ ire after unsuccessfully waging a lawsuit against retroactive pension benefits for deputies.

That effort bolstered Wagner’s 4-1 fundraising advantage over Moorlach, with more than $371,000 for campaign operations and mailers.

Just like November’s mayoral election in Anaheim – where Mayor Tom Tait stood in stark contrast to an array of business interests like Disney and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas – Moorlach found himself standing up against just about every member of Orange County’s political establishment with nearly every countywide and state official endorsing Wagner.

Wagner slammed Moorlach, 59, as an ideologue who can’t work with others and sees nearly every public policy initiative through the lens of an accountant who concludes that virtually all government is a boondoggle.

He criticized the former CPA – credited with pointing out the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy – for running “a scurrilous, negative campaign based on the principle that ‘everybody is wrong except me, John Moorlach.’ "

“That’s how he has conducted his public career,” Wagner said. “You either agree with John or you are stupid, and bad and a sellout.”

Wagner, 54, offered himself as a sensible conservative that can work with business and unions and others with the aim of crafting broad-based policy.

“I can vote no without voting ‘hell no’ or poking you in the eye,” said Wagner, a former school board member and Irvine resident who has served two terms in the state Assembly.

Moorlach – who has indeed always kept a fairly independent profile since taking over the treasurer-tax collector’s office after the county bankruptcy – summed up the mountain of endorsements arrayed against him simply.

“Crony capitalism,” said Moorlach, taking aim at much of Orange County’s political establishment.

Independent, libertarian-minded Republican candidates like Moorlach, Tait and Supervisor Shawn Nelson are increasingly running against establishment interests.

The three are all largely opposed to business subsidies and the rising costs of public sector pensions.

Both Tait and Nelson, who are Moorlach’s main endorsements, won their contests against the establishment handily.

Policy battles between the libertarian and big-business OC GOP factions in recent years have centered around subsidies for large public sector projects like Anaheim’s multi-million dollar transportation center called ARTIC, a street car system in Santa Ana, subsidized sports stadiums and installing toll lanes on Interstate 405.

On most of those issues, Tait, Nelson and Moorlach have found themselves as lone no-votes slamming subsidies while their colleagues have supported the projects.

OC Register Logo

Moorlach leads in O.C. state Senate race


Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach was leading Assemblyman Don Wagner by more than 6 percentage points after the first round of vote counting in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant state Senate District 37 seat.

That tally included most mail ballots and all the precincts. It’s possible uncounted paper ballots could alter the results.

Moorlach had 50.4 percent and Wagner had 44.1 percent, despite Wagner raising three times as much money. Naz Namazi had 3.5 percent. All three are Republicans. Write-in Democrat Louise Stewardson was named on 2 percent of ballots tallied.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote after all the votes are counted, the top two will vie in a May 19 run off.

Moorlach was subdued after the early returns, despite leading.

"I would prefer to be above 50 percent," Moorlach said. "It would be nice to get this over with tonight. We have to wait and see and enjoy the nail biter."

Wagner was similarly low key.

"We may have to go to May," Wagner said. "I know I started with a significant disadvantage in name ID. John is very well known in the district. But I’m not crestfallen. Worst-case scenario is I finish out my term in the Assembly and go back to private life."

Wagner was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and is termed out next year. Moorlach was forced to step down as supervisor last year because of term limits.

The vacancy in the district, which extends from Anaheim Hills to Laguna Beach, was created after Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, was elected to Congress in November.

Moorlach and Wagner share similar positions on most issues, including advocacy for small government and low taxes. But their campaigns were shaped by distinctly different dynamics.

Wagner began preparing for a possible Senate bid in early 2014, lining up donations and key GOP endorsements long before others began openly considering a run.

Moorlach’s entry into the race in January landed him immediately on top in terms of name identification, thanks to notoriety gained when he warned of the county’s 1994 bankruptcy and his subsequent stints as county treasurer and county supervisor.

He’s also made headlines as a leading advocate for reining in public employee pension costs.

Wagner’s campaign countered with superior fundraising, bringing in $371,000 to Moorlach’s $118,000 through the most recent reporting period.

Wagner was also boosted by the endorsements of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, three local members of Congress and 23 state legislators.

Also helping Wagner were public safety unions, which spent more than $100,000 in independent expenditures on his behalf.

Moorlach pointed to that union spending in an effort to portray Wagner as a tool of the unions, while Wagner said he did nothing to solicit the help.

With Republicans voters holding a 13 percentage point advantage in the district’s voter registration, Democrats did not mount a competitive campaign.

The first round of mail and precinct ballots showed Moorlach receiving 34,208 votes, Wagner getting 29,987, Namazi at 2,359 and Stewardson bringing in 1,368.

Moorlach Wins State Senate Race, Avoids Runoff By a Hair

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach will represent Lake Forest, elected with a 50.4 percent majority.

By Paul Anderson

Moorlach Wins State Senate Race, Avoids Runoff By a Hair

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach won today’s special election in the 37th Senate District, drawing slightly more than half the vote to avoid a runoff.

Moorlach had 50.4 percent of the vote, with all 248 precincts counted, according to figures released by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, was second with 44.1 percent and Naz Namazi, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, third at 3.5 percent.

All three candidates on the ballot are Republicans.

Democrat Louise Stewardson, a registered nurse and small business owner, was a certified write-in candidate, receiving 2 percent of the vote.

The special election was necessitated by the election of Mimi Walters to Congress.

The district includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, Lake Forest, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Newport Beach, Tustin and Villa Park as well as portions of Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach and most of Orange.

Moorlach, who once unsuccessfully tried to persuade his colleagues on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to change its term limits so he could run for a third term, told City News Service he decided to run for the Senate seat because so many of his well-wishers asked him to do it.

Wagner was endorsed by Walters.

  • City News Service


By Patrick McGreevy

Voters send Republican Sharon Runner back to state Senate

Voters on Tuesday sent Republican Sharon Runner back to the state Senate three years after she underwent a double lung transplant. She was the only candidate on the ballot for a special election in a district representing parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

There was more drama in two other special elections held Tuesday for Senate seats.

With all precincts reporting in the 37th Senate District, former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach of Costa Mesa won 50.4% of the vote over fellow Republican and Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner of Irvine, who had 44.1%. If the numbers hold after counting of provisional ballots, Moorlach will win the Senate seat outright, avoiding a May runoff election.

Congressional aide Naz Namazi, a Republican from Irvine, finished third in that race.

In a special election for a third open Senate seat in the Bay Area, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer garnered 32.8% of the vote while fellow Democrat and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord received 24.9% of the vote, setting up a runoff contest in May.

Glazer, a former advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, was targetted for defeat by organized labor after he previously opposed strikes by transit workers and worked for candidates that competed with labor-backed contenders.

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo placed third, while Republican candidate Michaela Hertle was in fourth place, with a significant number of votes, even though she had dropped her candidacy and endorsed Glazer. Scientist Terry Kremin, a Democrat from Concord placed a distant last.

The three Senate seats were vacated after incumbents Mimi Walters, Steve Knight and Mark DeSaulnier won election to Congress in November.

The election does not affect the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority of seats, having lost their former supermajority in the November elections.

Runner, who left the Senate in 2012, was the only candidate on the ballot in the 21st Senate District, where her only opposition came from a half-dozen lesser known write-in candidates who received small numbers of votes.

“I feel great,” Runner said from her victory party at the Lemon Leaf Café in her hometown of Lancaster. Her election caps a remarkable comeback from a rare auto-immune disease that required her to undergoing a double lung transplant in February 2012.

“It’s pretty miraculous to be able to come back again and serve,” Runner said. “I’m kind of a comeback story. I’m excited that I am getting back there” to Sacramento.

Runner, 60, had served in the Assembly and was elected to the Senate in 2011 in a special election but decided not to run for reelection the next year so she could devote herself to recovering her health.


Twitter: @mcgreevy99

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