As early voting is about to open up in the race to replace Michelle Steel on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, another type of contest is heating up.

Endorsements – key tools for candidates to fundraise and show which community leaders trust them – have been in flux for several weeks – and some are changing their tune as ballots are about to go out.

Click here to see the top endorsements of each candidate.

Just after Voice of OC published a story Monday about the split in the Republican ranks over the seat, Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery said he did not actually endorse his City Council colleague, Kevin Muldoon, in the high-stakes 2nd District race – contrary to the list Muldoon provided.

In a phone call Monday morning, Avery confirmed he endorsed no one in the race, saying he liked both Muldoon and John Moorlach.

That changed after Voice of OC contacted Muldoon for comment. That prompted Muldoon to call Avery, who then called the reporter back to announce he’s now endorsing both Muldoon and Moorlach.

“[Muldoon] had talked to me before the race got going…before John got in the race. And I said Kevin, ‘Yeah I’ll support you.’ This was a conversation months ago – this was of course before John jumped in,” Avery said.

In now endorsing both candidates, Avery said he appreciates how Moorlach was “really keeping his eye on the ball in terms of the budget” as a state senator, and that Muldoon has “always been a good partner on council.”

As mail-in ballots start going out next Monday, the final five candidates are set for the special election: Moorlach, Muldoon, Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, Fountain Valley Mayor Michal Vo, and attorney Janet Rappaport.

While Democratic Party groups consolidate around Foley, a major split has emerged among Orange County’s top Republican leaders over who should win the hotly contested, coastal supervisor’s seat.

A majority of Republicans on the county Board of Supervisors are breaking with their county party and endorsing Newport Beach Councilman Kevin Muldoon, despite GOP efforts to coalesce around the party-endorsed candidate John Moorlach.

County GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker has repeatedly warned fellow Republicans that by backing multiple candidates, they risk splitting their own vote and handing the seat to Foley.

“This is the big battleground right now for both parties in Orange County,” said Mike Moodian, A Chapman University public policy researcher who closely follows local politics.

“This of course will determine whether Republicans have a 4-1 advantage on the board of supervisors or whether Democrats are able to narrow that gap a little bit to a 3-2 advantage.”

Oftentimes endorsements are a key early part of a campaign, as candidates work to build credibility in fundraising networks.

“It’s a way of showing the public that they’re the choice of those who are in the field already,” said Moodian.

“In a race for [county] supervisor, they certainly matter because they show that not everybody is behind one particular candidate,” he added.

“Endorsements can also help, for example if you’re trying to raise money. Many of these longtime elected officials have people who have been allies to them and people who have donated to their campaigns for years. So sometimes by lending one’s name, by way of endorsement, that might help a candidate because they will be able to raise a little bit of money from [people who support the] person making the endorsement.”

Lastly, Moodian said, endorsements can matter “if there’s a close race, and maybe the voters need as much information as they can.”

This article is part of Voice of OC’s ongoing coverage of the 2nd District special election. Click here for the full list of stories.

The Candidates’ Top Endorsements

With the candidate field now set, Voice of OC asked each candidate for the top endorsements they’d like to highlight. Here’s what they provided:

John Moorlach

  • Republican Party of Orange County
  • The Lincoln Club of Orange County
  • The New Majority Orange County
  • Lisa Bartlett — Orange County Supervisor, Fifth District
  • Shari Freidenrich — Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector
  • Mari Barke — Orange County Department of Education Trustee
  • Ken L. Williams, Jr., D.O. — Orange County Department of Education Trustee
  • Don Harper — Costa Mesa City Council
  • Patrick Brenden — Huntington Beach City Council
  • Erik Peterson — Huntington Beach City Council
  • Will O’Neill — Newport Beach City Council
  • Thomas Moore — Seal Beach City Council
  • David Shawver — Stanton City Council

Katrina Foley

  • Orange County Professional Firefighters Association
  • Orange County Employees Association
  • Democratic Party of Orange County
  • Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys
  • Orange County Labor Federation
  • Newport Mesa Federation of Teachers
  • National Union of Healthcare Workers
  • United Food & Commercial Workers Local 324
  • Valor
  • Congressmembers Linda Sanchez, Alan Lowenthal, and Katie Porter
  • California State Senators Tom Umberg, Dave Min, and Josh Newman
  • California State Assembly Members Cottie Petrie-Norris, Tom Daly, and Sharon Quirk-Silva

Kevin Muldoon:

  • Supervisor Do
  • Supervisor Wagner
  • Assemblywoman Laurie Davies
  • Former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
  • Former Supervisor Jim Silva 
  • Former Assemblyman Travis Allen
  • Mesa Water VP Shawn Dewane 
  • Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery
  • Newport Beach Councilman and former Mayor Duffy Duffield
  • Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu
  • Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang
  • Lake Forest Mayor Scott Voigts
  • Crime Survivors PAC

Michael Vo:

  • Andrew Do, Orange County Board of Supervisors / Chairman, 1st District
  • Carol Warren, Councilmember / Mayor City of Stanton
  • Tri Ta, Mayor City of Westminster
  • Kimberly Ho, Councilmember of Westminster
  • Dina Nguyen, Garden Grove Unified School Board Member, former Mayor Pro Tem of Garden Grove
  • Tyler Diep, former California State Assembly Member
  • Ron Shenkman, former Mayor of Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley
  • Kathy Buchoz, former Mayor of Westminster
  • Peter Kim, Mayor of La Palma
  • Edward Palmer, former Councilmember of Rialto
  • Judy Edwards, former President of Fountain Valley School District Board of Trustees
  • Ian Collins, former Fountain Valley School District Board of Trustees

Janet Rappaport:

  • No endorsements. (Rappaport said she doesn’t have time to seek endorsements as she focuses on having a grassroots campaign.)

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

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