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If not for California’s new open primary system, today’s election in Orange County might not have much in the way of drama.
While most observers seem to be having little problem picking the winners of the county’s biggest races, there will likely be some tight battles for No. 2 slots.
The following is a peek inside some of the most-watched races on Election Day.
69th State Assembly District
In the intensely fought primary for the 69th State Assembly District race in central Orange County, most observers agree that County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly will finish first.
As a former mayor of Anaheim and a countywide elected official for the past decade, Daly’s name recognition in the district is considerable. And he’s attracted quite a bit of campaign cash.
While the Daly campaign itself has raised only about $140,000 for the race, according to the state secretary of state, independent spending on his behalf by the business community has been considerable at just under $1 million.
But despite the big money flowing Daly’s way, most of the attention in recent weeks has focused on which candidate will garner the No. 2 slot in the November runoff election.
Orange County labor leader Julio Perez is the choice of the Orange County Labor Federation as well as many in the local Democratic Party. Perez’s campaign has raised more than $150,000 and has been bolstered by another $200,000 in independent mail paid for by the local labor political action committee, campaign records show.
But there’s been a somewhat unusual split this year among labor constituencies, with Daly getting a significant amount of support from trade-related unions.
But when labor does what labor does best on Election Day — getting voters to the polls — Perez is expected to get the most assistance.
But no one should count out Santa Ana Councilwoman Michelle Martinez, who has also raised $150,000 this campaign season, campaign records show. Martinez’s campaign, however, has not benefited from the levels of independent spending that Daly and Perez have enjoyed. Just $15,000 has been raised on her behalf by outside groups.
Nonetheless, Martinez is aided by the fact that much of the Assembly district lies within the same district lines as her City Council seat, areas where she’s been campaigning since 2006.
74th State Assembly District
While the 74th district is a new entity carved out by last year’s redistricting, Assemblyman Alan Mansoor is considered the front-runner here, gaining the nod from Orange County’s Republican Party.
But the big money in this race is being spent on behalf of Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who is running as a moderate against Mansoor.
While her campaign has raised about $100,000, more than $600,000 has been spent on her behalf from independent committees, most notably one called Spirit of Democracy California that has pumped more than $300,000 into her campaign, records show.
Newport Beach resident Bob Rush entered the race as a Democrat, arguing that voters could use a different option than the traditional contrast offered by Mansoor and Daigle. Rush has pumped $130,000 into his campaign, mainly from his own pockets, and been helped by a modest $20,000 in independent expenditures, records show.
OC Board of Supervisors
The race for the Orange County Board of Supervisors 3rd District seat being vacated by Bill Campbell features former supervisor and state Assemblyman Todd Spitzer against Villa Park City Councilwoman Deb Pauly.
Spitzer had been hoping to run for district attorney in 2014 but changed plans after current DA Tony Rackauckas fired him after he made inquiries about the dealings of Public Administrator John Williams, who employed Rackauckas’ then-fiancé Peggy Buff.
Spitzer exceeded most challengers by having more than a $1-million campaign war chest gathered during his days in the state Assembly. He has spent about $200,000 on the race and still has nearly $862,000 in his coffers, campaign records show.
Pauly has neither raised much money — slightly more than $20,000 — nor gathered many endorsements, campaign records show.
In the 1st District, County Supervisor Janet Nguyen is running largely unopposed. Perennial candidate Steve Rocco has filed papers to run in the race but has not been a factor.
County Ballot Initiatives
Voters countywide will also be asked to approve two ballot initiatives sponsored by county supervisors.
The first, Measure A, will ask voters to reverse a move sponsored by supervisors several years ago that made the public guardian an elected rather than appointed office.
That change was initially made to asssist a GOP favorite son, John Williams, who was serving as public administrator. Williams was put into the elected slot, which is a part-time job, with the idea of making things run more smoothly.
Ironically, the focus on Williams came after Rackauckas’ firing of Spitzer over Spitzer’s queries about goings on in Williams’ office. Now supervisors want to ensure they have flexibility with the office in the future by keeping it an appointed slot, which helps them pick a professional as opposed to a party-supported official.
In the second initiative, Measure B, supervisors ask voters to change how their pensions are selected.
The issue arose after Supervisor Shawn Nelson signed up for the most lucrative pension after running on a platform of opposing expanded pensions for public workers.
Under current state law, a supervisor need not sign up for a pension. Voters could change that by passing Measure B, which would require supervisors to sign up for a pension and to select the least expensive option.