Early results showed Santa Ana City Councilmember Jessie Lopez hanging on by 626 votes Tuesday night in a controversial, police union-backed recall election against her.
As of 9 p.m. on Tuesday, 3,254 Santa Ana Ward 3 voters were against the recall question.
In favor of Lopez’s ouster were 2,628 votes.
Ballot counts are expected to be updated at 5 p.m Wednesday.
There were 444 estimated ballots left to process, according to OC Registrar of Voters Bob Page’s office. There are 26,762 registered voters in the ward Lopez represents
The effort to unseat Lopez – also driven by landlords – could tip the scales of power in Santa Ana on issues like rent control and policing in the working-class and predominantly Latino heart of Orange County.
And it could be the second time the police union has recalled a Santa Ana lawmaker from office after challenging police officer pay raises and the union’s political grip since 2020.
But the outcome won’t be certified while there are still mail ballots to count, which will continue in the following days.
It also might not hold up in court.
Currently, there are unanswered legal questions as to whether the wrong electorate is determining Lopez’s fate.
At an emergency court hearing last week, an Orange County Superior Court Judge refused to halt the recall election, amidst 11th hour questions raised by the county’s top elections official, of whether recall petitioners got enough signatures by using the city’s current electoral map instead of the one Lopez was elected under in 2020.
It comes after City Council members last month deadlocked on whether to cancel the recall entirely, with police union-backed council members Phil Bacerra, David Penaloza and Mayor Valerie Amezcua refusing to take action.
Another court hearing on the issue is scheduled for Jan. 12.
If the judge decides that the 2020 map applies, that means nearly 1,200 residents were left out of recall organizers’ signature-gathering efforts and should have gotten a mail ballot to vote by Tuesday but didn’t.
The replacement would only hold office for a year before the seat goes back up for grabs in next November’s 2024 Presidential Election. No replacement candidates ran in the recall election. The ballot only contains the question of whether Lopez should be recalled.
The police union has spent more than $660,000 – as of Oct. 28 – on its campaign to unseat Lopez, according to newly released campaign finance disclosures, after Lopez voted against union pay raise demands last December.
The union’s campaign has been getting significant boosts from property owner and landlord advocacy groups, most recently with a $100,000 contribution from the National Association of Realtors Fund.
Mobile home interest groups have also contributed nearly $100,000 to the recall efforts through two different political action committees.
The committee fighting Lopez’s recall has spent more than $123,000 this year as of Oct. 28, with $10,000 in independent spending support from a PAC run by the Latino organizing group Mijente, and $23,000 in spending from a PAC set up by the United Food and Commercial Workers.
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