MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — How I Won — March 30, 2015

A front-page, top-of-the-fold story greeted me this first morning back in my District. My wife and I had a fun drive up and back, allowing us to spend some time Saturday morning looking at second home housing options. It was a busy and packed first week in the Capitol.

Steven Greenhut of the San Diego U-T has the best column that I’ve seen on my very first two votes (see and MOORLACH UPDATE — First Full Day — March 25, 2015).

At my campaign debates, my opponent blatantly stated that he could take public employee union contributions because he was not involved in the bargaining unit negotiating process. If you read Greenhut’s piece, you’ll find this sentence: "The bill includes the approval of a bargaining agreement that boosts the pay for some professional workers employed by the department of corrections." Isn’t it amazing that you can serve in the State Legislature for four years and not realize that you voted for contract side bars and bargaining agreement approvals?

Then the OC Register covers the results of the race. I knew I had much better name ID than my opponent, which his consultant confirms in the first article below, but did they have to lie about me to narrow the gap? Apparently so. Instead of quietly standing down, a tragic and unseemly obfuscation strategy was utilized to besmirch my good name and reputation. Now I have to raise funds to help Republicans get elected to the Senate, as being in the minority is not all that fun. But, I don’t think candidates that cozy up to the public employee unions, or use consultants that have, should bother calling on me.

The second piece is a column by former State Senator Gloria Romero, who gives a perspective on union domination in Sacramento that is worth the read. I took this version from Fox and Hounds, but it has been published elsewhere.

For other debriefings on last week’s election results, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Day Two — March 26, 2015.

The Daily Pilot has a kind letter to the editor with the third piece below. It explains why the voters, at least the savvy ones, cast their ballots for me. Unfortunately, my opponent’s mail pieces made it a much closer race. The column referred to can be seen at MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Senator Elect — March 20, 2015.

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How seat was won by ‍Moorlach

The former supervisor spent less and didn’t go negative in ads. But name recognition prevailed.


John Moorlach and Don Wagner each held their home turf in the March 17 special election for state Senate, yet Moorlach won by 6 percentage points thanks to a greater depth of support in his strongholds, a Register analysis shows.


State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa

For instance, Moorlach received 2,996 more votes in his hometown of Costa Mesa while Wagner won by just 336 votes in his hometown of Irvine. State Senate District 37 is roughly split between the area Moorlach formerly represented as a county supervisor and the area Wagner currently represents as an assemblyman.

Experts agreed that Moorlach‘s superior name identification at the outset of the campaign was primarily responsible for the outcome, despite his campaign being outspent by more than 3-1. Nearly $1 million altogether was poured into the race between the two Republicans with nearly identical policy positions.

“As a supervisor and treasurer, Moorlach was far more in the media than Wagner” in the two decades leading up to the race, said Scott Lay, who runs the Sacramento political website There are indications that Moorlach’s more spartan campaign may have done a better job strategically, but that was a secondary factor.

“I think it was mostly name ID,” Lay said.

Moorlach first made headlines when he predicted the county’s 1994 bankruptcy and continued to be in the news after becoming county treasurer in 1995. And his work as county supervisor from 2006 through 2014 brought Moorlach more media attention than Wagner’s efforts in the Assembly, where the Irvine attorney is a minority member of a relatively distant, 80-person chamber.

According to internal polling cited by the Wagner campaign, Moorlach had a 63 percent to 34 percent advantage in name recognition among likely voters on Jan. 30, a margin Wagner was unable to overcome despite spending vastly more money.

By Election Day, Wagner had amassed $494,000 to Moorlach’s $185,000. Additionally, PACs spent $253,000 in independent expenditures on Wagner’s behalf, while Moorlach got just $25,000 of such help.

Ineffective campaigning by Wagner may have contributed to Moorlach’s win. In their effort to diminish Moorlach’s name recognition advantage, Wagner and his allies attacked Moorlach relentlessly in mailers and automated phone calls.

“It is possible the voters may have been punishing Wagner for the negative mail,” said Fred Smoller, a Chapman University political scientist. “The ton of money spent by Wagner on negative mail may have hurt him.”

Wagner consultant Jason Cabel Roe has downplayed the impression held by Smoller and others that their campaign was more negative than Moorlach’s, pointing to the name identification as the primary reason for the outcome.

“While the Wagner campaign had a 3-1 spending advantage, it was difficult to catch up to Moorlach’s advantages in a race with only 14 percent turnout in just 62 days,” Roe wrote in a campaign analysis on

But Tim Clark, Moorlach’s campaign consultant, said separate strategies for different parts of the Senate district contributed to the margin of victory.

“Because we had limited funds, we had to slice and dice our mailers very carefully,” Clark said. He noted that in the areas Moorlach previously represented, there was a big push was to use volunteers to call those voting by mail. Mail voters would account for 86 percent of all ballots cast.

“In John’s (former) district … we paid special attention there to push the (mail) vote as high as we could,” Clark said. “Our absentees delivered stronger votes there than Wagner’s did in his district.”

The Moorlach campaign mailed most heavily to “jump ball” areas that were in neither of the two candidates’ districts. That helped Moorlach win Laguna Beach as well as some Irvine precincts outside Wagner’s Assembly district.

While Wagner won in four of the six cities in his Assembly district, Moorlach won in the other two, Anaheim and Villa Park. He may have been helped in the parts of Anaheim in the Senate district – including Anaheim Hills – by prominently using Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait’s endorsements in mail and phone calls there.

The sole “jump ball” city won by Wagner was Laguna Woods. UC Irvine political scientist Mark Petracca said Wagner may have been helped in Laguna Woods and other southern parts of the Senate District by his 1998 to 2010 stint on the South Orange County Community College District.

“So he had name recognition in the southern part of the 37th Senate District,” Petracca said. “I certainly think his prior electoral service may explain why he did better in Laguna Woods.”

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Government Union Wrath Aimed at Democrat

Gloria Romero

By Gloria Romero

Director of Education Reform for the California Policy Center. Former Democratic Majority Leader of the California State Senate.

It didn’t take long for “the brotherhood” of status quo politics to pile on. Within hours of former Assembly member Joan Buchanan having lost her election bid for Northern California’s 7th Senate District seat in last week’s special election to fill the vacancy, she endorsed labor-embraced and fellow Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. Together, they joined the panoply of monied special interests led by public sector unions that are largely funding the Democratic Party, to defeat a third Democrat – independent Steve Glazer.

Glazer describes himself as “fiscally conservative, socially progressive.” He is the mayor of Orinda and former political aide to Gov. Jerry Brown. Glazer brandishes “blue” credentials in California, having worked for decades to support Democratic candidates and causes.

But a funny thing happened on the way to governing California: Glazer ran afoul of the Democratic Party establishment when he started challenging the power of public sector unions on municipal and state government. Glazer supported banning strikes by public transit workers, embraced pension reforms and campaigned to elect more business friendly Democrats.

Millions of dollars were spent to try to bury Glazer on Election Day, prompting questions on whether there is a zero tolerance policy in the Democratic party against independent-minded Democrats.

Yet, on Election Night, Glazer not only survived, but emerged as the top vote-getter. A May runoff is scheduled.

Glazer stands out because it is rare for Democrats to “go rogue” and support labor-opposed changes to teacher tenure or curbing government pensions. Despite the “big tent” image, discourse and dissent is disallowed, despite growing public support for these reforms. Party-supported candidates are reminded that the hand that feeds them comes with a demand of loyalty.

If not, as was done to Glazer, they become labeled with the equivalent of a political red-letter A: abandonment of the Democratic Party for not remaining subservient to the interests of those who fund them. Forget 50 shades – can Democrats even be allowed to display more than one shade of blue? Yet, the dirty laundry of adherence to blind allegiance has erupted into public view in recent election cycles.

Indeed, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama lost favor with the National Education Association for his support of holding teachers and schools accountable and linking student outcome data to teacher evaluations. Since then, he and his Education secretary have largely earned the wrath of national teachers unions.

In the most-recent Los Angeles mayoral election, Eric Garcetti defeated a fellow Democrat largely by portraying his opponent as blindly subservient to the city unions that had endorsed her. Today, Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a re-election runoff due to his willingness to battle Chicago’s powerful teachers unions.

Meanwhile, in Orange County’s special election to fill another vacant state Senate seat, two Republicans battled each other. Former county Supervisor John Moorlach – the candidate who refused to accept campaign contributions from labor unions – claimed outright victory in that Republican stronghold district. His opponent, Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, was financed by labor unions who perceived him to be more allegiant to the state’s public sector unions.

The outcomes of both elections – one in a Democratic and one in a Republican stronghold district – send strong signals that voters desire to reclaim their party, and not allow candidates to be constricted to only one shade of red or blue. The challenge now is to seek independence in California’s remaining 38 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and every statewide and constitutional office.

Originally published in the Orange County Register

Cross-posted at Union Watch.

Daily Pilot

Venezia’s column captured Moorlach’s election party

Thanks to columnist Barbara Venezia for her coverage of an event I so wanted to witness firsthand but was unable to attend ("Venezia: Moorlach’s steady record of accomplishment," March 20).

She filled in the particulars.

I am a longtime supporter of state Sen. John Moorlach, having lived in his La Palma supervisorial territory since 1998. Now in Anaheim, and just outside of the 37th District, I wish I could have added my vote, but I cheered him on via email.

I have enjoyed every one of Venezia’s columns and especially appreciate her candor. Her knowledge of Orange County history and backstory is impressive. She is gifted with (and I am sure she’s worked very hard to hone) a straightforward yet humorous writing style. I also like her lack of pretension, which is refreshing.

Sharp people don’t need pretension, just wisdom, and stature, not status — like Moorlach. He and wife, Trina, are true jewels.

I am glad Venezia is still writing regularly in Orange County. Reading her encourages me that there are some clear-minded writers still in the press.

Di Patterson


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