Election results for most ballots across Orange County show Republican Tim Shaw taking a narrow lead in the north county race for 4th District supervisor, with 21.0 percent of the vote.
Democrats Doug Chaffee and Joe Kerr were slightly behind, at 20.6 percent and 20.0 percent, respectively. Republican Lucille Kring was at 17.4 percent.
The top two candidates advance to the November runoff election, unless one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the primary election vote.
As of the final election night update at 1 a.m., at least 80 percent of all ballots were counted countywide, based on Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley’s estimate for total turnout.
Shaw is the mayor of La Habra, Chaffee is the mayor of Fullerton, Kerr is a retired firefighter and union president, and Kring is an Anaheim councilwoman.
They were trailed by La Habra Councilwoman Rose Espinoza (11.7 percent), and county budget analyst Cynthia Aguirre (9.2 percent).
The results at 1 a.m. Wednesday reflected roughly 83 to 92 percent of the total estimated ballots cast countywide in Orange County, based on Kelley’s rough estimate of 27 to 30 percent total turnout. The next round of results was expected at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
About 40,000 mail-in ballots across Orange County were received by election officials on Election Day, according to news reports citing Kelley. It was unclear early Wednesday how many of these ballots, equivalent to roughly 10 percent of the total estimated turnout, remained to be counted and reported.
Officials also do not know how many ballots are currently in the mail. Under state law, ballots mailed on or before Election Day are counted and included in the final result after they’re received by the Registrar.
Earlier on election night, the results showed Chaffee and Kerr – both of whom are Democrats – with a narrow lead, raising the possibility of Democrats shutting out Republicans from a runoff in November.
After more votes were reported, Shaw jumped from third to first in the results, providing Republicans a higher likelihood of a candidate in the November runoff.
Six candidates are vying for the seat on the county Board of Supervisors, which oversees the $6 billion county administration of homelessness, mental health, social services, law enforcement and other services.
This election year, Republicans are seeking to preserve all seats on the five-member county board, which officially is non-partisan. Democrats are aiming for what would be their first full supervisor term in three decades.
On the Republican side are Shaw, the mayor of La Habra who works as government affairs director for the Pacific West Association of Realtors and is supported by realtor associations and most of the current county supervisors; and Kring, an Anaheim councilwoman and attorney who is supported by top business leaders in Anaheim.
On the Democrat side are Kerr, a retired county firefighter, fire captain, and firefighters’ union president; and Chaffee, the mayor of Fullerton and an attorney.
Two other candidates, both Democrats, raised and spent far less campaign money than the other four candidates. They are Espinoza, a La Habra councilwoman and director of the nonprofit Rosie’s Garage; and Aguirre, a county budget analyst who also is an elected school board member at the La Habra City School District.
The north county 4th District includes most of Anaheim and Buena Park, as well as the cities of Fullerton, Brea, La Habra, Placentia, and unincorporated areas.
The election comes as homelessness and affordable housing rank among the top voter concerns, with encampments popping up across Orange County, including north county, and larger portions of household budgets going toward housing.
Other issues facing county government are sharply escalating law enforcement spending, problems with the mental health system, and Sacramento short-changing Orange County’s property tax revenue to the tune of $200 million or more per year.
Under Orange County’s system for electing supervisors, a candidate wins the seat outright in Tuesday’s primary if they received more than half of the votes. If no candidate got more than 50 percent, then the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff in November.
Since 1987, Democrats have occupied a single seat on the five-member board for just half of a four-year term, from 2005 to 2006, when then Supervisor Lou Correa was elected to the state Senate.
Democrats have a 9 percentage-point lead in voter registration within the 4th District, with 40 percent of voters registered as Democrats versus 31 percent Republican and 25 percent with no party preference.
One of the biggest factors in elections is who actually turns out to vote, and primary elections in non-presidential election years have the largest advantage for Republicans, who turn out in larger proportions than Democrats.
The 4th District’s registered voters are 50 percent non-Latino, Asian, or African American; 34 percent Latino; and 15 percent Asian, according to the firm Political Data, Inc.
The winner replaces Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who could not run again due to term limits and campaigned instead for Congress.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.