An update of ballot counts Wednesday evening showed Anaheim and Santa Ana candidates retaining the leads they had in election night counts. At least 40 percent of ballots are still left to count across Orange County, which could take weeks to finish counting.
The latest update, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, continued to show first place positions in Anaheim for mayoral candidate Harry Sidhu and City Council candidates Jordan Brandman, Jose Moreno, and Trevor O’Neil.
If Sidhu wins and current election trends hold, five of the seven council seats will be held by people backed by the Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Resort business interests.
In Santa Ana, first place positions continued for Mayor Miguel Pulido and council candidates David Penaloza, Roman Reyna, and Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias.
If they end up keeping their leads in the final count, it will represent a mixed result for the main factions vying for power in Santa Ana this election. Candidates supported by the police officers’ union, and a separate slate backed by Councilman Sal Tinajero, each appear to have fallen short of their goals and didn’t gain a majority on the new council, if the current election count stands.
Anaheim’s narrowest lead was Sidhu’s 6.3 percentage-point lead over Ashleigh Aitken. The closest Santa Ana lead was Roman Reyna’s 6.0 point lead over Phil Bacerra.
It was still a close race for a controversial Anaheim ballot initiative, Measure L, which would require certain Anaheim Resort businesses receiving city subsidies to pay a $18 an hour minimum wage by 2022. It was slightly ahead in returns with 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, a slim 519-vote lead.
The last vote count update at 5 p.m. Wednesday showed former city councilman Sidhu with a 6.3 percent lead, with 35.9 percent compared to 29.6 percent for the second highest vote-getter, attorney Ashleigh Aitken.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Sidhu had already declared victory in the mayoral race.
“The residents of Anaheim know that it’s time to move past the divisiveness and get back to working with all residents, businesses and a workforce that make Anaheim what it is today,” Sidhu said in a news release early Wednesday morning. “We must return to the understanding that we only succeed when we all succeed.”
A campaign consultant for Aitken, Douglas Herman, said it’s too soon to call the mayor’s race.
“There’s a significant chunk of votes that have yet to be counted, it’s far too early for anybody to claim victory or to concede,” said Herman, noting that less than 3,000 votes separate Aitken and Sidhu.
Two Disney-backed candidates ended election night with comfortable leads: former city councilman Jordan Brandman had a 9.1-point lead over incumbent councilman James Vanderbilt in District 2, and small business owner Trevor O’Neil had a 10.9 point lead over retired teacher Patty Gaby in District 6.
Incumbent councilman Jose Moreno looks like he will keep his seat in District 3, with a 17.5 percent lead over business owner Mitch Caldwell.
That outcome would give Disneyland and Anaheim Resort businesses five seats on a seven-person council that since 2016, and under the helm of termed-out Mayor Tom Tait, has sought to unwind business deals and tax subsidies for big businesses that they argue prioritize profits over the well-being of the city’s neighborhoods and underserved residents.
Tait’s message, however, has aroused the anger and frustration of residents and business interests who say the mayor has eroded crucial business partnerships that have been the backbone of the city’s economy. It’s thanks to Disneyland and the tourism industry, they say, that Anaheim has thrived and avoided the financial pressures other cities face.
Two other Anaheim ballot measures, Measure J and K, have since early results been on track to pass. If approved, development agreements for two city-subsidized hotels will remain intact.
Santa Ana voters on Tuesday appear to have approved a proposed sales tax increase that would set the highest sales tax among the 34 cities in Orange County
As of the Wednesday evening update, the tax measure was ahead by 13 percentage points – 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. The increase would bring in an estimated $63 million extra to the city each year, which city officials said was needed to avoid bankruptcy or major cuts to services.
Contact Thy Vo at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.