Phil Bacerra, a real estate consultant and former city planning commissioner, held on to his lead for a City Council seat in the third day of election results Thursday, as former city planner Manny Escamilla closed in slightly, from 2.4 percentage points to 2.0 points behind Bacerra.

Escamilla originally was 6 points behind Bacerra on election night, before overtaking the OC Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, Beatriz Mendoza, for second place in Wednesday’s update.

Vote counting is expected to continue into next week. Mail-in ballots sent on or before Election Day can be received by election officials by Friday evening and still count.

In the Santa Ana Unified School District board race, middle school teacher Carolyn Torres continued to hold a wide lead over former City Councilman David Benavides – 47 percent to 31 percent.

Benavides conceded the race in a Facebook post Wednesday.

The 5 p.m. Thursday update reflected an extra 517 votes in the council race, on top of the 12,818 reported in Wednesday’s update.

The next update is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday. Results could also be updated next week as voters get a chance to challenge their ballots being disqualified over signature issues, under a new state law that took effect last year.

The new council member will potentially impact key decisions on local issues like the ongoing homelessness crisis, complaints about slow 9-1-1 response times, and how to spend an extra $60 million a year from a new sales tax increase that has bolstered city coffers.

The winner will also affect the balance of power on the City Council, which has been confronted with sharply rising city police and pension costs and an upcoming decision on approving a controversial project at 2525 N. Main St.

The new school board member will join four other board members grappling with issues like class sizes, how to address students exposed to violence at home, and whether to welcome or limit the growth of charter schools in the city.

A host of developers and labor and trade unions, including the city’s police union, comprised the City Council race’s key campaign spenders. The final set of campaign finance disclosures, however, aren’t due until the end of January.

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Other Elections Coming Up

The Santa Ana political community has also been gearing up for next year’s race, which will see most of the council seats up for election – including the first open mayor’s race in 25 years.

Pulido was first elected in 1994 and has won every election since then, but is now termed out of office. In addition to the mayor’s spot, three council seats are up for election, currently held by Vicente Sarmiento, Jose Solorio, and Juan Villegas.

The mayor’s seat and two of the council seats are open races. Sarmiento is termed out and Solorio is running for mayor instead of seeking re-election to his council seat. The mayor’s race has also drawn Iglesias and former Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez as candidates.

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

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at or on Twitter @photherecord.

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