Reviewing AD-65 and “West Central” Orange County (Including a Repost from June 8!)

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Hello, OJ readers.  I’d like to introduce you to a delicious time-waster, if you’re of a certain bent.

Meet the final version of the 2012 General Election Orange County Statement of Votes.  DON’T CLICK ON THAT YET.  It is a honking 923-page PDF; be sure your computer can handle it.  For now, just get a flavor of it with this image of the top lines of grand totals for the AD-65 race:

AD-65 results by district

What this sucker does is lay out all of the votes in each OC race both by precinct (not shown here) but also by district — not just the district in question, but by any other kind of border that has anything at all to do with the district in question.  You can see how a candidate did in specific Congressional districts; state legislative districts; judicial, school, water and other special districts; and in cities and unincorporated areas.  If it overlaps the district in question and someone votes in it, it’s in the chart.

For some of you, this will look like catnip.  For others of you, it will look like cat vomit.  What is it, though, is a tool that will allow people to look not only at where support came from, but to get a sense of how other districts might go in the future.

Today, I’ll review the post I published about this race on June 8, 2012.  (I’m putting that old post in green — because that much orange hurts my eyes.)  Then I’ll have some closing thoughts.  To set the stage, remember that this was written just after Norby had walloped Quirk-Silva (who had reserved her money and not campaigned) by a 17.6% margin — or 9,000 votes.

That result did something good for Norby — it kept the state party (and other interest groups who want to make the difference in securing a win) out of the race until very late in the game, when Quirk-Silva essentially proved to them that she was their best bet to be the coveted 54th seat.  It also did something bad — it made Norby overconfident.  He should have read this article, one of a series on then-completed primary races.

Today, I turn my eyes to AD-65, where Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva is taking on semi-incumbent Chris Norby.  (More on that “semi” part in a moment.)  And, what do you know, there is a huge reason to discount that result as well.  Turnout in the most conservative portion of her district — the City of Fullerton — was massively inflated by the Fullerton Recall, and especially by conservative/libertarian voters.  Turnout in the other 2/3 of the district was not inflated at all.

In a Presidential Election year, turnout will be big all over the place — Norby’s advantage in the city that you see in the primary won’t be nearly as great.  (Bigger turnout generally means more Democrats.)  That smaller advantage will be outweighed by lots more votes in the relatively less conservative and far less libertarian portion of the district, which those of us in the area know as “South of the Freeways.”

I’ll start there before we get too deep into the weeds.  Let’s check those predictions.

(1) What was Norby’s final advantage in the city of Fullerton?  He actually barely lost the city, but it was pretty much a tie.  SQS got 22,740 votes to his 22,476.

(2) How did Quirk-Silva do outside of Fullerton?  The margin, obviously, would be about the same — but her 4% margin turns into a 6% one: 46,248 to 41.100. or 53% to 47%.  (This percentage would probably be even bigger if we could remove Buena Park north of the 91, or maybe I-5, from the totals — I just don’t happen to know how to do that other than precinct by precinct, which I won’t do now.)

AD-65 map, with images of Quirk-Silva and Norby superimposed

Time to look at a map!

Chris Norby currently, under the pre-redistricting maps, represents all of North Orange County (except Buena Park!) from La Habra to Yorba Linda and part of Placentia.  In the new maps, most of that territory (except Fullerton) is in AD-55.  In AD-65, Fullerton is instead joined to Buena Park  and the rest of “South of the Freeways.”  The district is about 1/3 Fullerton and 2/3 “south of the freeways” — that is, SR-91 for the eastern part of the district and I-5 for the western part.

(Skip this paragraph unless you don’t mind a technical clarification: about 30% of Buena Park is, like all but a few square yards of Fullerton, actually north of the freeways.  This part of Buena Park is a lot more like the adjacent sections of Fullerton than like southern parts of Buena Park.  However, the northern “Los Coyotes” part it is adjacent to wealthier Northwest Fullerton, and the rest of it is adjacent to more working-class Southwest Fullerton, so it’s hard to generalize.  For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to consider all parts of the district north of the I-5 to be “Fullerton,” expanding the population of the city from 135,000 to 150,000.  I promise that I’ll put it back when I’m done with it.)

The critical thing to know about AD-65 is that Fullerton, due to the Recall, had a lot more reason to come out to vote in what was generally a low-turnout election than did the “South of the Freeways” region. Fullerton will probably have higher turnout than the rest of the district in November as well — wealthier areas generally do — but by nowhere near the same proportion.  And that is why everyone — including the candidates — has to take the primary election results with a huge grain of salt.

For one thing, Fullerton will be a different environment in the fall, where insurgent voters will not be attacking an existing city administration, but instead wrestling with the same sorts of issues (and disaffection) that we see in Costa Mesa.  (“Hey, we’re refunding your water tax!” will be offset by the likes of “Oh, and the city’s broke.  If you want to fix potholes, show up behind City Hall with a bucket; we’re ladling out tar.”  I exaggerate here — but I’m not sure by how much!)

In other words, in the primary, Norby’s vote was inflated by Tony Bushala.  In the runoff, Quirk-Silva’s vote will be inflated by Barack Obama.  (If I don’t miss my guess, it will also be inflated by Travis Kiger, but that’s an article for next week or so.)

For anyone who thinks that what happened in Fullerton was unpredictable — well, there it was, five months before the general election.  Fullerton was a very different political environment in November than it was in June.  And, yes, Quirk-Silva’s vote probably was “inflated by Travis Kiger,” but not enough to make a difference.

As a candidate for State Senate in this area myself, I can’t wait to see the breakdown in voting results for the just-completed primary election by city and precinct.  But I doubt that I’m anywhere near as eager to see them as Quirk-Silva and her team are.  For her, those breakdowns are going to be a lot more interesting than the bottom line numbers themselves.

I’m betting that they were, too.

For Democrats, the “South of the Freeways” part of AD-65 has been some of the most potentially fertile, but as yet largely unmined, territories for Democrats.  That is about to change.  It will change partly because CA-39 Jay Chen will devote Democratic resources to all-but-southern Buena Park that the area hasn’t seen before.  But it will mostly change because of three other candidates whose territory overlaps this district — and who know that it needs resources to build it up into the Democratic bastion that it can be.

And who are those Democratic candidates running in this area whose efforts to register and turnout voters will help bring out the Democratic vote in November?

Well, here’s a hint: none of them is Democratic State Senate candidate Greg Diamond, author of this very article, who is taking on foreigner to the area Bob Huff.  No, we’re talking about a trio of more experienced and better funded politicians: Alan Lowenthal, Loretta Sanchez, and Linda Sanchez.

Loretta clearly helped Sharon immensely — largely with the work that came out of the Anaheim office out of which Quirk-Silva campaign manager Jason Mills worked.   The offense part of Sharon’s race was old-fashioned sweat and toil, calls and knocks on doors.  (I just found out last night that the Fullerton campaign office alone made over 14,000 voter contacts — almost half of the Democratic Party contacts in the County (excluding Obama for America and the non-partisan unions, of course.)   The campaign also played defense — but if you’ve been following it online you already know about that.

Loretta Sanchez’s CA-46 includes the West Anaheim area of “South of the Freeways”; she has already opened up an office near Euclid and Lincoln that is, pointedly, in Quirk-Silva’s part of the district rather than in the part to be contested by Tom Daly and an opponent to be determined.

Loretta’s help to Sharon — including the initial propulsion into the race and sharing the campaign office with her — was enormous.  How many votes did it win her in their shared territory of Anaheim?  We can calculate that — more easily for Loretta then for me, and then we can compare Sharon’s total to mine as a baseline.

The only portion of Loretta’s district that overlapped Sharon’s was Anaheim, so the tables give up Loretta’s vote share there directly.  Loretta received 19,888 to her no-name opponent Jerry Hayden’s 12,905.  In the Anaheim Island Annexation Project (aka the unincorporated “Garza Strip”), which should more or less be considered in the same bucket as Anaheim, she won by 1,460 to 818.  Her combined total for the two areas was 21,348 to Hayden’s 13,723 — a margin of 7,625.  That’s about as good as I suspect a Democrat can do there as it stands, barring some GOP scandal — but Loretta and Sharon will till this area to improve it in 2014.

I received 24,244 votes from Anaheim and another 1,288 from the Anaheim Island.  My opponent received 16,869 and 899 respectively.  So that’s a total of 25,532 for me and 17,768 for him.  (We like West Anaheim!)  But to compare that with Sharon’s AD. 65, we want to exclude the portion of my district that overlapped with Tom Daly’s 69th A.D. race., where my margin was 7547 to 4175.  That means that in just the AD-65 portion of Anaheim + the Island, I received 17,985 votes to my opponent’s 13,593.  That’s a margin of 4,392 — 4003 from the city and 389 from the Island.

How does that compare to Quirk-Silva?  In the Anaheim portion of her district itself, Sharon got 16,589 votes to her opponent’s 12,916 — a margin of 3,673.  I outperformed her in the Anaheim Island, where she got 1256 votes to Norby’s 959, a margin of 297.  (This may have been due to her supposed “failure to debate” there — which I still think was just a misunderstanding.)  The combined margin was 3,970 — in other words, almost 3/4 of her margin of victory — but was  3,655 less than Loretta’s and 737 less than mine.

Does this mean, um, that I’m a better candidate than Sharon?  No, don’t be silly.  Sharon had something in this race that Loretta and I didn’t have (because her opponent was too weak to compete and mine was too strong to bother much, although he well-outspend me): an well-financed and actively campaigning opponent sending out attack mailers.  Sharon’s advantages over me  (including money and help and guidance from Loretta) roughly balanced out the disadvantages created by her facing the Norby campaign.  Facing a no-name or non-campaigner, Sharon still would not have done as well as Loretta, largely because of the 3,000 fewer people who voted in that race, but probably still a little better than me, as I think her percentage margin would have been closer to the 20% than Sharon received (and I think that I benefited from Sharon’s campaign.)  The difference is less than I thought when I started writing this, though.  Good news: room for growth!

Linda Sanchez‘s CA-38 almost entirely Los Angeles County district includes La Palma — and being in a safe seat, is it probably reasonable to think that Linda — now that she’s partially in OC, are we just going to call her “Linda,” like we call her sister “Loretta”? — Sanchez will give La Palma a disproportionate amount of Democratic voter turnout attention.

Linda Sanchez probably helped out a bit La Palma.  She won La Palma by 39 votes out of about 5950 cast.  Quirk-Silva lost La Palma by 154 votes out of almost 5900 cast.  I was the third candidate running there, losing La Palma by 443 votes out of 5850 cast; given that I didn’t campaign in La Palma, that’s probably a decent baseline.  So, of the almost 500-vote difference in margin between me and Linda Sanchez, Sharon picked up about 300 of it.

But Anaheim and La Palma aside, the major contributor to Democratic turnout in “South of the Freeways” will be Lowenthal.  Lowenthal has about 100,000 people in the district in Cypress, Stanton, and souther Buena Park — areas ripe for Democratic picking.  The Long Beach State Senator is going to be in a tough race with Long Beach City Councilperson Gary DeLong and he needs as many votes out of these working class and middle-class areas as possible.

And who will benefit from Lowenthal’s determination to turn out Democrats?  State Senate candidate Greg Diamond, that’s who!  But — much more importantly — so will Assembly candidate Sharon Quirk-Silva.

Now you might be asking — won’t Gary DeLong be doing the same thing on the Republican side?  Sure — he’ll try.  But Republican turnout is already about as high as it’s going to get in these areas.  (Relatively poor and Democratic registration majority Stanton has an all-Republican City Council.  Guess who is, and who isn’t, doing most of the voting.)  DeLong’s effect, which will admittedly help Norby some, will be at the margins.  Every dollar spent by Lowenthal will have a much larger effect, because there’s so much to be gained here.

This is weird: I actually outperformed both Lowenthal and Quirk-Silva in Stanton.  I won by 1516 votes (19.4% margin); Sharon won by 1260 votes (16% margin), and Lowenthal by 813 votes  (10-1/4% margin.)  This is probably due both to my doing more advertising there — I had signs out in Stanton before they came to Fullerton, because my goal was to rouse Democratic voters without prompting a reaction from Huff — and the relative weakness of my opponent’s campaign there compared to those of the other Republicans running.

Cypress was Sharon’s worst city by far.  She lost with 8,449 votes to Norby’s 10,052, a margin of 1,503.  Interestingly, this was not such a bad showing: Huff beat me by 2,166 votes and DeLong beat Lowenthal by 2,593.  So, bad as Cypress was for her, her campaign did pick her up by 650 over the baseline (me) and almost 1,100 compared to a candidate who faced more active opposition (Lowenthal).

So I don’t think that Lowenthal’s campaign had the coattails that I expected.  He’ll work the district in the next two years, though, and that will change.  (Sharon and Al — pay attention to Cypress!)

This portion of Orange County — stretching from La Palma and Cypress through southern Buena Park and Stanton to Western Anaheim  almost as far as Disneyland — doesn’t really even have a name.  It’s not North Orange County; it’s not the western part of the libertarian coastal area that begins with Los Alamitos and Seal Beach and hits critical mass in Huntington and Newport.  I suppose that we can start calling it the “West Central” area — maybe someday it will be “the Westside.”  But it is the key for Democrats in transforming Orange County politics.

(OK, it’s worth asking at this point — if I’m outperforming Sharon in various places, did I win her district?  No, I did not — I lost it by 1,181 votes.  For some unexplained reason, I was less popular than Sharon in Fullerton, losing 20004 to 24242 — probably close to a reasonable baseline there, though Huff did have a lot of signs out and my FFFF pals contend that I anti-campaigned in the city.  This compares to Jay Chen’s race in Fullerton, which he lost by 19196 votes to 27009 — a margin of 7,813.  That’s what happens when you face a withering negative campaign.)

Buena Park, most of which is now represented by Ron Calderon in the Senate, is where you can see how powerful Sharon’s campaign was.  Jay lost the northern 2/3 of Buena Park by 7,355 to 8,980 — a margin of 1,625.  Al Lowenthal lost the friendlier southern third by 3375 to 3075 — a margin of 300 votes.  Combined, Democratic Congressional Candidates lost it by 1,925 votes.  Sharon won it with 11,954 to Norby’s 10,445 — a margin of 1,509 — or a positive swing of 3,434 votes.  Almost all of that margin came from the portion of the district she shares with Calderon rather than with Huff — in that portion her lead was 8,964 to 7,281 — a margin of 1,683.  (She lost my SD-65 part of the city by 174 votes, in other words.  I lost it by 417 votes.)

The fact that I came so close in the AD-65 portion of my district, though (which again doesn’t include most of Buena Park) should give Republicans second thoughts about trying to knock off Sharon in 2014.  Without much campaigning, I received 56,839 votes here to 58,020 for Bob Huff, a deficit of 1,181.  Outside of Fullerton, which I lost by 4238 votes (20,004 for me, 24242 for Bob Huff), I led the district by 2,057 votes — and Sharon is going to do much better in Fullerton than I ever will!  Yes, this was a more Democratic-leaning Presidential electorate, but incumbency and constituent service can keep it blue.  Sharon has two years to work on that — and she will.

South of the Freeways” — sorry, I mean “West Central” — is stolidly middle class area (of a type commonly congenial to Democrats) to its west and turns into a working-class Democratic-enthusiastic to the east.  This is possibly the main area that Democrats have had to organize to build up the party’s strength in the county.  And now, thanks to redistricting, it looks possible.

Let’s put aside the merits of the party’s State Senate candidate and just look at the candidates for federal office in this area: Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez, Alan Lowenthal, Jay Chen.  Now add a powerful and experienced State Assembly candidate in the person of Sharon Quirk-Silva.  Now take away the bump from the Fullerton recall and add the stomach-ache the Bushala folks will cause when they actually try to govern.

Sharon Quirk-Silva will hold her own in Fullerton in November — but she doesn’t have to win it.  She’s going to win this race south of the freeways — in West Central Orange County.

And so she did.  She got a margin of about 4000 votes from Anaheim and its Island, and 1500 in Buena Park, 1,250 in Stanton, and 250 in Fullerton.  She lost La Palma by 150 and Cypress by 1,500.  By comparing her totals to mine, we can see that the southernmost parts of the district — Stanton and West Anaheim, not incidentally the places furthest from Fullerton — were where she most underperformed compared to me.  But she’s going to be their representative now — and as with Fullerton, as they get to know her better they’ll get to like her more.

Enough about AD-69, though.  I put all those numbers up there in the top graphic for a reason.  What about other future races in the area?

The most interesting result I see is that it suggests that CA-39 and SD-29  — where Jay Chen and I ran — really are quite winnable for Democrats in the future.  My entire 30,000-vote margin of defeat in SD-29 came from four north OC cities — 4,000 each  from Fullerton and Placentia, 6,000 from my fair city of Brea, and 16,000 from Yorba Linda. (I lost another 5,000, without campaigning a lick, in Chino Hills.)  I ran even in LA County — which is just going to get better — and ran ahead in Sharon’s district, excluding Fullerton (which can obviously be won.)  So the only truly intractable parts of the district are Chino Hills, Yorba Linda, Brea, and Placentia.  Cut down the margins there by 2/3 — not impossible for a candidate with money — and the Democrat has a shot.  Jay Chen lacks the benefit in his district of West Anaheim, Stanton, and southern Buena Park (along with Cypress), but he has Hacienda Heights to help make up for it.

But there’s another kind of race that catches my eye: Look at those Supervisorial districts.  Could Democrats make a push there before long as well?  Sharon’s victory totals suggest that we might.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)