State Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. (Photo credit: Liberal OC)

Close on the heels of Janet Nguyen’s victory in the race for his 34th District state Senate seat, termed out Sen. Lou Correa Wednesday announced his candidacy for her seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

“I’m definitely in,” said Correa, referring to the special election for Nguyen’s seat expected to take place on Feb. 3.

Correa, a socially conservative, pro-business Democrat, already served one term as the First District supervisor from 2004 to 2006. He represented the same area in the State Assembly from 1998 to 2004.

He joins Garden Grove Councilman Chris Phan, who in June announced his intentions to run for Nguyen’s seat in the event of her victory in the state Senate race.

Others being mentioned as possible candidates include Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, former Santa Ana Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez and Garden Grove City Councilwoman Dina Nguyen.

Correa grew up in Anaheim but now lives in Santa Ana and was being courted earlier this year to challenge Pulido for Mayor. Correa ultimately decided not to run for that seat and Pulido easily won reelection Tuesday.

Given his background, Correa said running for supervisor is a natural fit.

“I work for the community,” Correa said. “I love retail politics,” Correa said adding, “I believe in my office and care deeply about representing my constituents.”

Phan, a Republican, took a shot at Correa for his previous public service.

“I have a lot of respect for the senator — he’s definitely done a great job,” Phan said. “At the same time, if you follow history, he was a supervisor before. I don’t think these seats should be a safe harbor waiting for another opportunity.”

Correa said after decades in public service dealing with Orange County issues at all levels of state and local government, “one of the things I bring back is experience,” noting that the county’s interaction with federal and state agencies can be “complex.”

Whether it’s mental health grant funding from the state, homelessness, realignment of prison funding, veterans services — even medical marijuana — Correa said he’s got a host of experience to help address critical funding and programmatic challenges without a focus on partisanship.

Yet to get there, Correa notes that Orange County has to do a better job of achieving what he calls “tax equity,” referring to the common complaint that Orange County doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of money going to other counties from local property taxes because Sacramento uses outdated measures.

“This has to be a public policy priority,” said Correa, echoing recent statements by Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson that county officials need to do a better job of securing more property tax allocations from Sacramento.

Correa said all levels of the county’s legislative advocacy should be reviewed to ensure the most effective coordination to secure resources for Orange County taxpayers.

Correa is particularly sore about the issue given that in 2009 he was a key budget vote and secured an extra $50 million in property tax allocations for Orange County.

Yet the very next year, county officials lost that and more when Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget staff identified vehicle license fees that were incorrectly still being steered to Orange County after the refinancing of the bankruptcy debt in 2006, when Correa was a supervisor.

While supervisors have taken intense heat on the issue – because they saved $90 million in annual payments to the bankruptcy debt but unhooked a legislative authorization that has been impossible to reestablish. That hit is estimated at more than $73 million annually and unlike the bankruptcy debt has no sunset.

Nelson has in the past pointed the finger at Correa, saying he was both a supervisor when the refinancing occurred in 2006 and a senator when the issue arose again in 2009.

Correa takes issue with that saying that he was never told as a supervisor about the risks entailed at disconnecting the legislative intercept that netted Orange County more vehicle license fees than other counties.

“That presentation was never made to me,” he said.

Yet Correa said the entire affair highlights how important it is for legislators to “double check” such issues as well as staying on top of the relationship with Sacramento.

“It’s all about equity,” Correa said.

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