With election results certified, Santa Ana’s likely in for another two years of a pro-rent control City Council majority that’s not supported by the city’s police union.
That’s despite the union spending nearly $1 million across three different committees in digital ads, mailers and polling for certain candidates in local elections that include others outside Santa Ana’s.
The union funded independent mailers, digital ads and campaign text messages for four Santa Ana council candidates, three of them incumbents: Council members Phil Bacerra, David Penaloza, and Nelida Mendoza – along with mayoral-elect Valerie Amezcua.
It’s paid off in Amezcua’s case, as she’s set to be Santa Ana’s first woman mayor, succeeding the outgoing mayor and incoming county supervisor, Vicente Sarmiento, who local progressives supported.
Council incumbents Bacerra and Penaloza also held onto their seats.
Mendoza didn’t fare as well – turning out ahead of her progressive challenger Benjamin Vazquez in early election night results, but falling behind in later updates as ballots were counted.
Now a progressive will hold the Ward 2 seat, whose current holder won a special election in 2019 to replace former council member Ceci Iglesias, who was ousted in a recall campaign funded mainly by the police union after Iglesias publicly criticized police salary raises in 2019.
That largely maintains the political dynamic that currently exists.
Councilmembers Jessie Lopez, Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, Thai Viet Phan and Mayor Sarmiento tended to align with progressives on some of the city’s most hotly-contested issues.
Likewise, council members Bacerra, Penaloza and Mendoza aligned on the opposite end.
The new City Council members, expected to take the oath of office this month, will take charge of a city at a confluence of different policy debates and regional issues, like housing affordability, homelessness, policing, and environmental justice.
The council majority will likely follow up on policy debates it recently set in motion, like one to rework the police department’s written rules manual in light of a police lawsuit payout report by Voice of OC in 2020, as well as a push to negotiate police officer salaries in public over charges that confidential city information leaked to the union during police contract negotiations.
Council members also just enacted a historic police oversight commission but one limited to a largely advisory capacity, with any expansion of the commission’s power depending on the council’s will to put city charter amendments before voters in the 2024 Presidential election.
More than 42,000 voters in Santa Ana cast a ballot in the November election, according to county elections data.