OC Candidates Set for March 2020 Election

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelly demonstrates the final step of the new in-person voting process for 2020. Voters place their ballot in a scanner that automatically deposits it in a safe below the scanner.

Orange County candidates running for public office are now officially set for the upcoming March primary election, with the region remaining a key battleground for control of Congress and the California Legislature in 2020.

Local Republicans and Democrats will face off for a series of federal, state and local seats previously held by Republicans that have become increasingly competitive in recent years.


CLICK HERE or on the button below to view the final Orange County 2020 primary election candidates.


Republicans are targeting the four OC Congressional districts they lost to Democrats last year, as the two parties also aim their sights on OC’s state Assembly and Senate districts – considered key to whether Democrats will have a supermajority in Sacramento to pass new taxes without Republican support.

In the northern 39th Congressional District, it’ll be a rematch between Democrat incumbent Gil Cisneros and former state Assemblywoman Young Kim – who were separated by just 3 percentage points in last year’s results. Also in the race is Steve Cox, who says he is not a member of any political party.

Republicans are also challenging Democratic incumbents in other Congressional seats flipped last year.

In the the 45th District, centered on Irvine, incumbent Democrat Katie Porter has drawn six challengers, all of whom are Republicans: Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang, Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths, Laguna Hills Mayor Don Sedgwick, Chapman University dean Lisa Sparks, retired teacher Rhonda Furin, and attorney Christopher J. Gonzalez.

In the coastal 48th District centered on Huntington Beach, incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda has drawn five challengers, four of whom are Republicans: county Supervisor Michelle Steel, mortgage consultant John Thomas Schuesler, information technology consultant Brian Burley, and real estate broker James Brian Griffin. The Democrat challenger is Richard Mata, whose ballot title is retired educator.

And in the 49th District, which stretches from south OC into northern San Diego County, incumbent Democrat Mike Levin is being challenged by one candidate: Brian Maryott, the Republican mayor of San Juan Capistrano.

Competitive state legislative seats include Senate District 29, where Democratic former Sen. Josh Newman is facing off again against incumbent Republican Ling Ling Chang. In the coastal  74th Assembly District, two Republicans – prosecutor Kelly Ernby and Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon – are challenging incumbent Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris, who won the district in a surprise upset last year.

In south county’s 73rd District, incumbent Republican Assemblyman Bill Brough has drawn primary challenges from two Republicans – Laguna Niguel Mayor Laurie Davis and Mission Viejo Councilman Ed Sachs – and two Democrats: real estate broker Scott Rhinehart and Chris Duncan, a retired attorney with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

And in the 37th Senate District, incumbent Republican John Moorlach is being challenged by two Democrats: Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley and UC Irvine law professor Dave Min.

At the county level, both major parties have their sights set on the highly competitive 1st District supervisor seat, as three Democrats challenge incumbent Republican Andrew Do: Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, Westminster Councilman Sergio Contreras, and Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen.

In his last election in 2016, Do was re-elected by a narrow 0.4 percent margin, while this time around he faces and even larger voter registration disadvantage, with Democratic Party voters in the district now outnumbering Republicans by 18 percentage points. Still, voter turnout is a major unknown factor in the outcome, and the multi-way race leaves insiders eyeing a high likelihood of a runoff election in November between Do and one of his Democratic challengers.

And for the inland 3rd District supervisor seat, incumbent Republican Don Wagner faces a primary challenge from Democrat Ashleigh Aitken, an Orange County Fairgrounds board member whose father, Wylie Aitken, also serves as Voice of OC’s board chairman.

On the judicial side, a total of 44 seats for OC Superior Court judge were up for election. But only one race will actually be up to voters to decide.

No one filed to run against any of the 43 judges running for re-election. In the 44th seat, the incumbent judge wasn’t running for re-election, and only one candidate filed to run for the seat.

Tony Ferrentino, an assistant district attorney in Orange County, will be the only judicial candidate on the ballot.

The county Board of Education has also emerged as a key battleground, as Democrats seek to flip two Republican seats and gain a majority on the board that decides whether to approve new charter schools. Incumbent Republican Ken Williams Jr. is facing off against Democrat businessman Andy Thorburn, while a vacant board seat has drawn three Democrats – Vickie Calhoun, Paulette Chaffee, and Anaheim Councilman Jordan Brandman – against one Republican, La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw.

And the education board’s one Democrat, Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez, is facing off against nonprofit Orange County Rescue Mission executive director Jim Palmer and former Orange Unified School District board member Steve Rocco.

City Council and mayoral elections are scheduled for November, with candidate filing deadlines typically in August.

The primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, though voters will have multiple options for casting ballots in the days beforehand.

Under Orange County’s new election system in 2020, voters will be able to cast ballots in person up to 10 days before the election at official vote centers, or drop their ballots off at official ballot drop boxes throughout the county. The in-person voting locations are expected to be finalized by early January.


CLICK HERE or on the button below to view the final Orange County 2020 primary election candidates.


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