Republican Tim Shaw and Democrat Doug Chaffee are facing off Tuesday for the north Orange County seat on the county Board of Supervisors, which oversees the $6 billion county administration of homelessness, mental health, social services, law enforcement, public works and other services.
The Nov. 6 election for 4th District supervisor comes as Republicans look to continue their five seats on the five-member county board. Democrats are aiming to gain what would be their first full supervisor term in three decades.
Shaw, the mayor of La Habra, is supported by realtor associations, major business groups, and and most of the current county supervisors. Chaffee, the mayor of neighboring Fullerton, is supported by the largest union representing county employees, as well as $675,000 he’s put toward his campaign.
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.
Among the biggest issues in the campaign is the county’s growing homelessness and how to deal with it, as well as tens of millions of dollars in stockpiled mental health money.
At a forum last week, Chaffee said he’d try to get homeless housing placed at the Fairview Development Center, a state mental health facility in Costa Mesa. The idea was floated months ago, but no official plan was formed. The Costa Mesa City Council held an emergency meeting to address the Fairview idea March 28, and over 300 divided residents showed up— some lambasting the Council, while others supporting the idea.
“It’s 114 acres of state-owned land and the local cities can’t really have a say on that.” Chaffee said at the forum.
Shaw said the county shouldn’t try to place too many homeless people in one city, but the county should put more pressure on cities.
“No one part of the county can be off the hook here, but I don’t think you can take one city and say you’re going to take thousands and thousands … but everyone has to do something here,” Shaw said.
“You can find a site that’s perhaps more in an industrial area…You don’t just want to jam it down on them, but hopefully with some city council leadership and some county leadership, we can overcome the NIMBYism and find the appropriate sites as needed.”
As far as how they’d run the county, Chaffee said he would emphasize getting “out and about” and talking to people, including at their workplaces.
“My open-door policy is not just so people can come in,” Chaffee said in an interview Wednesday, adding he wants to “go out” and “listen to their ideas, especially the employees of the county.”
Shaw, also in an interview Wednesday, emphasized he’d focus on transportation for his first year as supervisor.
“I’m clearly going to have a focus my first year on transportation. I expect I will be the chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors,” Shaw said. “That’s going to consume a lot of my time, I think.”
Regarding an upcoming Orange County Housing Finance Trust that is estimated to manage $900 million for homeless housing, Shaw said: “I come from the real estate world, so helping establish the housing trust is going to be a great concern and a top priority.
Shaw said he hopes to do that well and in a “way where the different stakeholders will be represented.”
In the interview, Chaffee emphasized he’d give the home healthcare workers, represented by United Domestic Workers of America “the raise they deserve,” after years in which the workers’ requests have been rejected by the supervisors.
“There is state money…$96 million that could have been used to give them a modest raise, from the state. And the board of supervisors passed on it,” Chaffee said in the Wednesday interview. “We have a growing elderly population and we need these kind of people now and more so in the future.”
Asked about the ongoing controversy over his wife allegedly stealing campaign signs that opposed her run for Fullerton City Council, Chaffee said she is no longer campaigning.
“My wife needs some care and comfort, and as her husband I’m going to give her all that I can,” Chaffee said.
Some mailers for her, known as “slate mailers,” may still be appearing, but “she paid for some of these slate mailers months ago, and you can’t stop them,” Chaffee said. “She has suspended her campaign. [It’s] not going forward.”
Stealing campaign signs is a crime in California, enforceable as misdemeanor petty theft with a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Democrats have a 9.5 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.
But the difference is expected to be much closer among actual voters in the election, because Democrats historically turn out in smaller share than Republicans, especially in non-presidential election years like 2018.
Political ideology affects the county supervisors’ policymaking, though ballots do not show the candidates’ political parties.
The winner of the 4th District race will replace Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who could not run again because of term limits.
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. Then-Supervisor Lou Correa vacated the seat after he was elected to the state Senate, and now is a congressman.
When Correa left his supervisor seat, it went back to Republican hands with the election of Janet Nguyen, who served as supervisor for eight years and is now a state senator.