Santa Ana’s High-Stakes Mayor and Council Race [Latest Election Night Count]

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A sign guides people to vote in the June 2018 primary election polling location setup at a senior center in Santa Ana.

The ongoing election count, as of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, showed Mayor Miguel Pulido, David Penaloza, Roman Reyna, and Cecilia Iglesias in the leading positions for Santa Ana mayor and City Council.

All of the Election Day votes on electronic voting machines in Santa Ana have been counted, though there remain an unknown number of mail-in and provisional ballots left to count.

The count as of 1:30 a.m. showed:

  • Mayor: Miguel Pulido (incumbent) ahead of Councilman Sal Tinajero, 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent.
  • City Council Ward 2: David Penaloza with wide lead ahead of the next-highest candidate, Sandra “Pocha” Peña Sarmiento, 28.5 percent to 19.0 percent.
  • City Council Ward 4: Roman Reyna ahead of Phil Bacerra, the only other candidate for the seat, 53 percent to 47 percent. Reyna had a narrower 1.2 percentage point lead in the first count at 8:05 p.m., which widened to 6 points as of the end-of-election-night update.
  • City Council Ward 6: School board member Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias with large lead over the next highest candidate, Mirna Velasquez, 40.1 percent to 30.6 percent.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated with new counts on election night. The final update to the article was at 1:59 a.m. See an archive below of each Voice of OC update.


The full set of ballots in the race likely will not be counted until Friday, the last day mail-in ballots can arrive at the county elections office and still be counted.

In the June primary, 42 percent of all ballots in Orange County were not yet counted at of the end of election night. Many mail-in ballots did not arrive at the county elections office until the Friday after Election Day.

Two main groups of candidates were battling for control of Santa Ana City Hall in Tuesday’s election, pitting people backed by the police officers’ union against those backed by $170,000 from a secret source.

On one side of the election were Pulido, Bacerra, Velasquez, and Penalosa – who are supported by the city police officers’ union, which is Santa Ana’s largest campaign spender. The union spent over $450,000 supporting the candidates, mainly for advertisements, while it seeks a raise for officers at a time the city’s upside-down finances put it on a path to bankruptcy in a few years.

On the other side were Tinajero, Peña Sarmiento, and Mendoza. Three of them – Reyna, Tinajero, and Peña Sarmiento – were supported by a secret donor or donors who routed $170,000 in dark money through a shell company created about a month before the election. The money has gone to ads and public opinion polls for these candidates and against one of their opponents.

The election came as the city faces an ever-worsening financial crisis, pulling $10 million in one-time money this year to make ends meet – which is projected to grow to a $32 million annual gap next fiscal year.

The largest factor in the fiscal crisis is sharply rising employee pension costs – mostly for police – at a time residents complain of long response times to 9-1-1 police calls and a growing population of homeless people affecting neighborhoods and businesses.

Tuesday’s election was considered highly consequential for Santa Ana because three City Council seats are vacant, leading to the largest turnover on the council in six years.

Santa Ana voters also decided Tuesday whether to approve the highest sales tax among the 34 cities in Orange County, to bring in an estimated $63 million extra to the city each year to avoid bankruptcy or major cuts to services.

Initial results showed the tax measure ahead by 13 percentage points: 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent.

While the exact amount varies by family, depending on how much they purchase in the city each year, the tax increase would cost hundreds of dollars a year for households. It raises the cost of each purchase in the city by 1.5 percent – from the current 7.75 percent sales tax to 9.25 percent – and would add an estimated $63 million extra per year to the city’s coffers.

ELECTION COUNT UPDATES:

[8:05 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 6] The first reported election count showed leading positions for Pulido, Penaloza, Reyna, and Iglesias, with Reyna having the narrowest lead at 1.2 percent. The count was reported at 8:05 p.m.

[12:08 a.m. election night, Nov. 7] Latest update has same candidates in the lead, with Reyna’s previously narrow lead growing from 1.2 percent to 6 percent. The count was reported at midnight.

[1:59 a.m. election night, Nov. 7] The update released by election officials at 1:30 a.m. had the same candidates in the lead, by similar margins.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.