Democratic challenger Tom Umberg Wednesday declared victory over State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) in the 34th Senate District race.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust put in me by the voters of the 34th Senate District to represent them in the State Senate. I’m looking forward to getting to work and delivering for our community,” said Umberg in a news release.
Nguyen did not respond immediately to requests for comment, but she has not conceded the race.
After days of gaining in ballot counts from election officials in Orange and Los Angeles counties, Umberg took the lead Nov.19 by 438 votes. Since then, Umberg’s lead has continued to widen and as of Tuesday evening, his lead increased to 2,802 votes. After Wednesday’s updated ballot counts from Los Angeles and Orange counties, Umberg’s lead grew to 2,980 votes over Nguyen.
Umberg, a former Assemblyman and retired Army Colonel, has run against Nguyen in the past. In 2007, a special election was held for the 1st District supervisor seat vacated by Democrat Lou Correa mid-way through his first term when he was elected to the state Senate. Umberg finished in third place, about 1,200 votes behind Nguyen, who won the seat. Correa, now a congressman for the 46th District in central Orange County, easily won re-election this year.
Chapman University and Brandman University political science professor Mike Moodian said Umberg’s name recognition, combined with the campaign efforts from the Congressional races helped push him over the top.
“Umberg is not a newcomer. Umberg is a longtime political figure in Orange County … he has some name ID so that certainly helps his case as well. It probably would’ve been a little bit harder had a political newcomer run against Nguyen,” Moodian said. “This just goes to show how Orange County is changing and it’s also reflective of the anti-Trump sentiment in OC.”
Nguyen was elected to the district in 2014, after serving on the Garden Grove City Council beginning in 2004 and the Orange County Board of Supervisors from 2007 until she went to the Senate. Umberg represented central Orange County in the state Assembly in the early 1990s and mid-2000s.
The 34th Senate District includes eastern Long Beach, as well as the entire cities of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos.
While Nguyen was ahead of Umberg by 117 votes among OC voters, Umberg had a 3,097-vote lead over the state senator among LA County voters.
According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters website, there are 12,206 ballots left to count and LA County is expected to wrap up its count by Friday.
All seven Congressional Districts that are in, or partially in OC, will now be represented by Democrats. It’s a result that many experts have tied to the anti-Trump sentiment, which also trickled down to some state and local offices.
“I think that in all of these races in OC — this is a very strong organization effort that started in November of 2016, when Trump became president. This is reflective of the resistance movement that started years ago,” Moodian said.
Chapman University political science professor and elections expert Fred Smoller said the county could see Democratic organization for local offices as a result of the Congressional efforts put forth by national and local Democrats.
“What’s interesting is this may be a top-down effect because the Republicans have a hell of a lot of strength at the (County) Supervisor level … we’ll see if Democrats can use that success to leverage more control over cities and the board, because you know Republicans have done pretty well there,” Smoller said.
As of Tuesday evening, Fullerton Mayor Doug Chaffee, a Democrat, held a 1,240-vote lead over La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw, a Republican.
Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) lost to Democratic candidate and political newcomer Cottie Petrie-Norris in the coastal 74th Assembly District race. Petrie-Norris was ahead of Harper by 10,092 votes, according to Tuesday’s updated count.
Democrats could have a shot at another Supervisor seat when District Attorney-elect Todd Spitzer vacates his spot on the board after becoming the DA.
Orange County GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker, in an email newsletter Monday, said while the GOP was able to get its voters to the polls, some Republicans voted for Democrats because of national policy issues like the Republican tax bill or healthcare fight.
“As a matter of fact, on many of the preliminary vote totals we’ve been looking at – significant numbers of Republicans we turned out, look to have voted Democrat. Whether it was on healthcare or the limitations on mortgage interest and state tax deductions (from the tax bill), some of our voters defected,” Whitaker wrote.
Whitaker said the GOP needs to start focusing on various types of voters beginning in 2019.
“Our job now is to spend 2019 reaching out to Republicans, No Party Preference and moderate Democrats as ambassadors for the party. We need to start planting the seeds to earn their trust and their vote in 2020. We have to reach out to people, including some of our own Registered Republicans who don’t look like us, who don’t think like us, don’t agree with us on every issue, and may not have voted with us this cycle. We have to fight for their hearts and minds,” Whitaker wrote.
After Wednesday’s update, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido maintained a 703-vote lead over Councilman Sal Tinajero for the mayor’s seat. In the Anaheim Mayoral race, Harry Sidhu had a 484-vote lead over Ashleigh Aitken. And in the north OC race for 4th District County supervisor, Democrat Fullerton Mayor Doug Chaffee held a 1,266-vote lead over Republican La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio