Jose F. Moreno, a longtime community activist and nemesis of Anaheim’s business establishment, has scored a comeback victory is his race against incumbent Jordan Brandman for the District 3 City Council seat.

Moreno’s win, along with a likely victory by Denise Barnes in District 1, will alter the balance of power on a council that has been dominated for years by a Disney-backed majority.

Although Brandman was 268 votes ahead of his fellow Democrat in the election night count, Moreno immediately began gaining ground as the Registrar’s office started counting mail-in and provisional ballots in the days following the Nov. 8 election.

With the Orange County Registrar of Voters reporting a slim 44-vote lead for Moreno on Monday evening, Brandman left a voicemail for Moreno at 5:30 pm to congratulate his opponent and concede the race.

“Looking forward to being one of your constituents in District 3,” Brandman said. “If there is anything I can do for you in the transition or as a member of the community to serve you I am at your disposal.”

Moreno announced his victory in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“Tonight after six months of bringing our message of hope to the people of Anaheim and with all votes now counted, the people have spoken and we have pulled ahead,” wrote Moreno, who did not return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, Barnes held on to her 270-vote lead over Steven Chavez Lodge in the race for the District 1 seat, with 3,493 votes to Lodge’s 3,223.

This November marks the first time the city elected its council members by district, thanks to an American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California lawsuit that successfully claimed that the city’s at-large election system disenfranchised Latino voters.

Moreno, who was the plaintiff in that lawsuit, immigrated to the U.S. as an undocumented minor and received citizenship through a 1986 amnesty bill under Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Moreno and Barnes’ victories are also expected to significantly shift the council’s priorities away from the resort-district focus of the current council majority and toward the more community-oriented policies of   Mayor Tom Tait.

Barnes and Moreno would join Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt to create a four-member majority opposing the lavish subsidies that the council majority has approved for Disneyland and other hoteliers in recent years.

During the election, Disney funneled nearly $1 million to groups supporting Brandman and Lodge and opposing Moreno and Barnes.

Although the Registrar has not finalized the vote count, Monday’s tally includes all vote-by-mail,  provisional and electronic ballots submitted at the polls, according to Registrar Neal Kelley. The 71,505 ballots left to count countywide, Kelley said, are ballots that are missing pages or damaged.

Kelley said Monday evening that he expects to finish counting ballots and certify the election results by December 6, two days before the state-mandated deadline.

New council members will be sworn in on December 13.

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter  @thyanhvo. 

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