The first round of election night results show Supervisor Katrina Foley, Buena Park Mayor Sunny Park and Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento in the lead for seats on Orange County’s powerful Board of Supervisors.
But they’ll all likely be heading to runoffs in the November election, if no one gets above 50% of the vote.
If the current results hold, Sarmiento and Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen would advance to a runoff in the central county 2nd District, while Park and incumbent Supervisor Doug Chaffee would be in the runoff for north and west county’s 4th District, and Foley and state Sen. Pat Bates would make the runoff for the southern and coastal 5th District.
But it’s still early in vote counting, with no in-person Election Day ballots counted yet, and an unknown number of mail-in ballots yet to be counted.
The first results, which were posted at 8:05 p.m., had Sarmiento with 33.6% and Nguyen with 26% of the vote for the 2nd District; Park with 39.5% of the vote and Chaffee with 35% of the vote for the 4th District; and Foley with 47% of the vote and Bates with 22% of the vote for the 5th District.
The ballots counted so far account for 14% of all registered voters in OC – though additional votes will be counted and reported later this evening and in the coming days.
If no one ends up with more than 50% of the vote after ballots are counted, the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff in a month of voting that runs from early October until November 8.
Few officials have as much impact on local residents’ quality of life as county supervisors, five independently-elected officials who together oversee $8 billion in taxpayer spending on criminal justice, mental health, homelessness, public health, parks, libraries and myriad other priorities.
In other county-level races, incumbent Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen was set to cruise to re-election and had 84% of the initial vote tally. And incumbent Assessor Claude Parrish far ahead of his challengers, with 70% of the vote.
Sheriff Don Barnes and county Treasurer Tax-Collector Shari Freidenrich did not face any challengers this election, so they’re automatically guaranteed another four years in office.
But they did still appear on the ballot, with voters having an option of voting for them, writing in another candidate (though the write-in votes are not tallied by election officials until weeks later), or not voting at all in that race.
The next round of results is expected at 9:30 p.m. and every half hour until late in the evening.
After that, county election officials plan to post updates once every day at 5 p.m. until all ballots are counted.
In California, mail-in ballots can be received by election officials up to a week after the election and still be counted if postmarked by Election Day.
2nd District Supervisor
The new 2nd District is OC’s first-ever Latino-majority supervisor district, and includes most of Anaheim as well as Santa Ana, east Garden Grove, Orange and Tustin.
This district leans heavily toward the Democratic Party in terms of voter registration. There were total of five candidates running for this seat, with two Democrats on the ballot: Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen.
Sarmiento pointed to his leadership of one of the largest cities in California along with his efforts during the Covid pandemic for rent relief and boosting vaccination access. He had the endorsement of the OC Democratic Party and Supervisor Katrina Foley.
As of a few days before the election, the largest funding supporting Sarmiento came from three sources: Woodland Hills-based plaintiff’s attorney Dale Galipo, who has sued on behalf of families of people killed by police in Santa Ana and Anaheim; Sarmiento’s sister Vicki Sarmiento’s Alhambra-based law firm; and HF Tile and Stone Inc., a Santa Ana-based countertops business run by Hugo Fernandez.
Each contributed $10,000 to a political action committee backing Sarmiento. Galipo and Vicki Sarmiento have been representing the family of Brandon Lopez – a cousin of Santa Ana Councilman Johnathan Hernandez who was shot and killed in Santa Ana by Anaheim police in September – as the family prepares for a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim.
Nguyen ran on having a plan to tackle the homelessness crisis and said she’s the only candidate with direct experience working with county agencies and the public health care plan CalOptima. She pointed to her endorsements from elected officials like Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine).
The biggest campaign support backing Nguyen is from the county sheriff’s deputies union, which had put around $140,000 into promoting her as of a few days before Election Day.
In response to Voice of OC’s candidate survey, Sarmiento said he opposes local agencies like the county sheriff notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when undocumented inmates are set to be released.
Nguyen said the sheriff should follow state law that limits such notifications, but that she supports transferring to ICE “the most dangerous criminals who are a clear threat to public safety.”
That prompted pushback from Tracy La, executive director of the progressive Vietnamese immigrant advocacy group VietRISE, who tweeted that she was seeing Nguyen “flip flop” on the issue and “throwing immigrant communities under the bus for political gain” – pointing to sheriff deputy-funded mailers for Nguyen.
Nguyen responded that she wasn’t flip flopping at all, saying she’s “marched, called for my reps to support the Vision Act, written letters and will continue to do so. I do however believe there needs to be amendments for serious crimes.”
Candidates Juan Villegas – a former Republican who has had no party preference since 2016 – and Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias – a registered Republican – are former Santa Ana City Council members known for fiscal restraint and being lone votes against large raises for police officers that city staff said were far beyond the city’s financial means.
That stance later cost Iglesias her council seat, with the police union bankrolling a recall campaign that ousted her from office.
Republican Jon Dumitru, an Orange councilman, ran on a platform of better support for police and ending what he calls the county’s “goal” of ensuring housing and food for homeless people, saying that should instead be up to non-profits and churches.
There was no Republican Party endorsement in this race.
4th District Supervisor
This race – centered on Fullerton, West Anaheim Buena Park, and much of north and west Orange County – featured something extremely rare in local politics.
In this Democrat-leaning district in terms of voter registration, the Democratic Party endorsed against their own incumbent, Supervisor Doug Chaffee.
The OC Democratic Party instead backed Buena Park Mayor Sunny Park – citing Chaffee siding frequently with his Republican supervisor colleagues on issues like mask mandates and beach closures during the pandemic and publicly criticizing Democrat Supervisor Katrina Foley for holding public coronavirus briefings with county staff.
Chaffee, meanwhile, pointed to his long experience in both city and county government, as well as his efforts to add homeless shelter beds and permanent supportive housing and supporting the creation of a mental health campus known as Be Well OC.
Republican Brea Mayor Steven Vargas – who had his party’s endorsement – was the only other candidate in the race, noting his current service as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and endorsements from many local Republican elected officials.
5th District Supervisor
The outcome of this race – centered on Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, part of Irvine and much of South County – could end up deciding which political party has a majority on the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Katrina Foley – a Democrat endorsed by her county party – was competing against three Republican challengers: former Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, state Sen. Pat Bates and Newport Beach Councilman Kevin Muldoon.
Local Republicans had a major split among their party’s candidates, with the county party endorsing Harkey while Bates was backed by the heavy-hitting Republican fundraising group Lincoln Club of Orange County.
The county sheriff’s deputies union – which is the largest campaign spender in OC supervisor elections – spent big on supporting both Foley and Harkey.
As of a few days before the election, the union dropped over $160,000 for each of them on robocalls and other promotional support.
Correction: This article has been updated to note that California ballots can arrive up to seven days after the election and still count if postmarked by Election Day, rather than the three days allowed in prior elections.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.