OC Results #1: Overview, Congress, State, Supe

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Who won OC’s giant prizes in federal and state legislature — and what happens now?

As of 11/14: We know that it took us a while, but we’re ready to give our comments on OC’s election results, plus the statewide measures. (Sorry, some of us have been a little obsessed with the Presidential race.)  Your comments here are more than welcome!

First, a few overarching observations:

  • OC’s turnout in this election, with ballots delayed by USPS and conditional/provisional registrations still able to trickle in, is 87.0%.  That is stunningly high.  So, good job, those of you who sent around those “VOTE!” messages — I guess they must have worked!  (Next time, post them in LA….)
  • In past elections, there has been only one inflection point in the partisan shift: starting out with absentee voters (who then tended to be Republican) followed by Democratic voters who showed up at the polls or turned in later-arriving absentees.  I’ve called these the “Quirk-Silva effect,” based upon the Assemblywoman’s habit of falling behind early and then coming back to win, but apparently political scientists have come up with another set of terms: the “red mirage” and the “blue shift.”  But in this election, thanks to Covid and the President’s donor/appointee’s jiggering with the Post Office, it looks like there may be two inflection points.  We start with early-arriving absentee ballots, which this year are blue, and then see a red shift thanks to Republican participation in early voting, and I’m still awaiting a second blue shift thanks to what I’m calling the “procrastivote” (people who mailed in or dropped off their ballots too late to make the initial count) and the “provisiovote” (people whose eligibility to vote took some time to establish.)
    • So far, we’ve seen a stark red shift (in the Cisneros and Rouda races, most significantly), and some of a second blue shift — but not enough.  Rouda’s race is also complicated by the shameless and shameful mimicry of official ballot drop boxes and voting centers, which I hope that at least the House will investigate.
  • I didn’t give DPOC the credit for winning the Congressional sweep in the 2018 elections because I knew that it was their antagonist the DNC that ensured that at least one Democrat made the top two runoff in CA-39 (with a cunning vote-splitting ad campaign for a Republican also-ran candidate, and because its top choice in CA-45 (Dave Min) was rejected by the voters in favor of Katie Porters.  (I had had a reason to deny them credit for Harley Rouda’s win in CA-48, also — but I can’t remember it!)

    • That being the case, I don’t think that it would be fair of me to cast blame on them for losing two seats this year.  Orange County is not — at least not yet — naturally a place where Democrats get every Congressional seat.  In fact, we get three of the even — CA-38, CA-47, and CA-49 — only because the first two are tied to Los Angeles County and the last to San Diego County.  (We had gotten the same benefit from CA-39 last cycle, but that’s gone for now.)
    • We only have one truly blue Congressional district wholly within OC — CA-46 — and look at how little we do with it!  (We give it to freaking Lou Correa!)  The other district where we can compete using OC votes is CA-45, where Katie Porter’s underwhelming win isn’t so much a matter of her weakness, but a matter of the district not being more than purple at best.  So I don’t think that DPOC deserves the blame for these Congressional losses: it’s just our reverting to our natural state, where we have one truly blue district (CA-46); three where we win due to our being outvoted by our neighbors (CA-38, CA-47, and CA-49);  and three that are competitive but lean red (CA-39, CA-45, and CA-48).
    • If we count the partial districts as whole ones, as we commonly do, that’s a natural advantage of about 5.5 to 2.5 — and only Porter’s win kept us at 5-2.  But if we (more rationally) count partial districts as partial — and I’m basing this on the total obtained vote in each this year, rather than registration, then CA 45, 46, and 48 count as full districts, CA 39 counts as .65 of one, 47 as .42 of one, 49 as .26 of a district, and CA 38 (when there is no Republican candidate) counts as a .02 of one — for a total of 4.35 district-equivalents.  In the new Congress, we’ll now hold CA-38, 45, 46, 37, and 49 — which equals about 2.70.  (If we had to rely only upon our own voters, we’d hold only 1.22 seats. (I’m giving half credit there to Lowenthal for barely winning OC this time; had that county outcome mattered, he would have lost it.)

      (Showing my work): Given the competitive nature of our districts — and in offering these percentages we move from science to art — we’d have a 100% chance to win CA-38 and CA-46; about an 90% chance in CA-47; about a 60% chance in CA-49; about a 50% chance in 45 (more with Porter in it, less without her); and about a 40% chance in CA 39 and 48.  This, in an average year, we’d be expected to win:

      • 38: 100% x .020 district = .02
      • 39: 40% x .65 district = .26
      • 45: 50% of 1 district = .50
      • 46: 100% of 1 district = 1.0
      • 47: 90% of .42 district = .38
      • 48: 40% of 1 district = .40
      • 49: .60% of .26 district = .16
    • That means that, of our 4.35 district equivalents, we hold 2.70 seats (thanks mostly to our neighbors) — and we’d expect to win about 2.72 seats.
    • In other words, Democrats will control about 62.07% of the voting power in OC — and these calculations suggest that we wwe be expected toto hold 62.53%.  This year’s result is pretty much what you’d expect OC to look like in a non-blue-wave year; our having had 100% of them was an aberration that invited us to pretend that OC had “turned blue” when it really hadn’t.  This is especially true given that, based on our own voting power alone, we’d probably control only 22.99%That’s not a blue county — at least not yet.

  • The OCROV estimates that 542 ballots are left to count (bearing in mind that they have two more days to show up, if the USPS is that bad), setting aside any rejected conditional voter registrations that may or may not be cured.  (Anyone need help curing theirs? Let us know!)  Three days ago 74 ballots were arrayed across ballot categories in a special kind of code that (I imagine) Neal Kelley uses to send messages to secret agents:

6, 7, 5, 11, 16, 8 (or in letters: F, G, E, K, P, H)

(If you can crack the code, let us know!)  But for now all of the uncounted votes are based on a forecast, which may be off, of the upcoming incoming postal mail.  Now, on to analysis!

President (OC only)

With 1,545,173 ballots cast, Biden leads Trump in OC by 7.03%, with 813,255 votes 53.49% to 675,924 (44.46%) a margin of over 147,000 votes.  (How can this be?  It’s educational attainment!)  Statewide, Biden won 63.8% to 35.1%, with a current margin of 5.01 million votes.  So, as I stated months ago: any time that you spent convincing another Californian to vote a given way for President was wasted.  (If you cared about the result of that race, you should have been calling into Nevada and Arizona.)

Congress (*indicates multi-county)

CA 38 (shared with LA)

Linda Sanchez beat Michael Tolar with over 68% of the vote.  We’re proud to have endorsed the leftist underdog Tolar, though, because … why not?  It shows the strength of the party’s internal protest faction!  (Or of the district’s Republicans.)  Hard to know — we’ll have to check turnout but it doesn’t really matter.

CA 39 (shred with LA and Chino Hills)

Young Kim beat Gil Cisneros by 4.5% in OC (9,926  votes) and 1.2% in San Bernardino’s Chino Hills (1,415 votes) — which was not unexpected.  What was unexpected — at least by me — is that Los Angeles did not come roaring to his rescue. District-wide, Kim leads 173,157 to 168,942, a margin of 1.2% (4,215 votes).  Los Angeles had to produce about a 12,000-vote margin for Cisneros.  It delivered 45,487 votes to Kim’s 38,361, a margin of 8.4% (7,126 votes).

My first thought was to blame the Los Angeles County Democratic Party’s weakness and neglect of the far reaches of its county.  I suspect that this will be part of the story, less due to margin than to low turnout.  Future records will allow us to test that.

One might also blame DPOC, despite that expectations for their effectiveness in North County are low.   But that didn’t seem like the whole story.  Can we learn anything more about Cisneros’s loss from the largely overlapping (smaller) AD-55 and (larger) SD-39 races?

Andrew Rodriguez won LA by 1,300 votes (2.0%) on his way to a 10.0% loss overall — after getting hammered by 10,000 votes in OC.  Josh Newman won a similar (perhaps a bit more conservative) LA county district by 3,000 votes (4.4%), but won OC by a resounding 10,000 (3.2%) votes on his way to a 10,500 (3.6%) victory.

So Gil’s margin in LA was better than Josh’s — we’ll have to compare votes city by city when that information comes out, which could well change this analysis — but he got hammered in OC!  One would suspect that the other half of his Senate District, mostly AD-65 (Quirk-Silva’s district) went dramatically for their hometown boy Josh.  We can get an approximation by seeing how Sharon Q-S did against token competition — and hoo-wee, she won by 32,000 votes!  (Of course, that was against fifth-rate competition.)

I should note that Gil was scorched by horrific and (so far as I can tell) misleading-to-blatantly-lying text messages in the last week of the campaign. Did that make the difference?  At some point, we’ll be able to look at the votes counted early (mostly early absentee and in person)  versus those that we know came in later, and maybe form an opinion.

(A piece blasting those ads was on the list of things that I wanted to get to but didn’t have time to start — though I did reach out to various others imploring them to write a piece.  No one did so.  Y’all have to start looking at this as your site for rapid response — critical at times when I’m, for example, trying to convince people statewide and nationally to take Arizona, Nevada, and Omaha more seriously.)

So what should Gil do?  I should say that I didn’t always like Gil, but now I think that he’s been quite a good member of Congress.  (He’s just living in an area that doesn’t much like Democrats.)  So this is meant as an honest and constructive analysis.

Gil clearly likes government service — though I don’t know that he relishes being a back-bench junior Representative all that much.  But it could get worse: 2022 is expected to be a Republican year —  some forecasters expect Republicans to take the House, though I’m dubious — and if Trumpmania remains virulent, 2024 could be one as well.  If Gil had taken my advice and run for and won Lou Correa’s seat, it wouldn’t much matter, as he’d have a free ride forever. But barring substantial redistricting, he will be a target in CA-39, even if he wins it back, for the rest of the decade.

I think that Gil should perhaps aim for a much more chill position, one with greater relative influence and far less travel, in the State Assembly.  Yes: AD-55.  Gregg Fritchle lost AD-55 by 27.5% to Ling Ling Chang in 2014; and lost to Phillip Chen by 15.5% in 2016 and 10% in the “Blue Wave” year of 2018.  Rodriguez, a little less underfunded, lost by the same 10% in a non-Blue Wave year.  Could Gil win it?

Of course!  I don’t think that Republicans care enough about keeping AD-55, which is still trending blue, to fight Gil as hard and dirty as they have in CA-39.  (After all, Dems already have a super-majority.)  If Gil served from 2022 to 2034, he’d still be only 63 when he termed out, with lots of options open — and he’d have more say on urban policy in the Assembly that he would in Congress.

CA 45

In the first of the three wholly OC districts, Katie Porter  defeated Greg Raths with a not-so-great 53.46%.  That’s an improvement over her 4% win over Mimi Walters in 2018, but Raths was not that level of competition.  (He also hurt himself by tying himself so tightly to Trump — but if that’s who he is, so be it.)

If Porter is tapped by Gov. Newsom to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate — and I hope she won’t be, because I want a placeholder named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the first Muslim U.S. Senator — this district will likely go Republican.  It would be a lower turnout race, with too many Democrats likely grabbing at it. Republicans have more plausible candidates in Don Wagner, Steven Choi, John Moorlach, and even, alas, Harry Sidhu — but are better at brokering ways not to split the vote as badly.

So, congratulations to Katie — but if she moves on to the Senate or the Biden Administration, we lose another seat.  But that may happen even if Katie stays here — which suggests that she might well leave.  (Had Melissa Fox beaten Choi, she might have had a shot.  Dave Min might try, but I still consider him mostly hapless.)  Katrina Foley may eye such a race as well, and I urge all of her friends to tell her not to do so: she has a pretty big job to do right now in Costa Mesa, and she needs to build the credibility that comes with  not jumping onto whatever higher position comes along.

CA-46: Lou Correa ran against a Republican too extreme for us even to endorse as a protest vote.  He got 68.6% with the low turnout that he inspired.  This year’s Anaheim races proved that the combination of the resort businesses and the Building Trades can win pretty much any time they want to — though the Trades haven’t faced the sort of bruising opposition that, say, SAPOA has in Santa Ana.  That may change — and then perhaps Lou’s replacement may be as good as a Vince Sarmiento or Dr. Moreno rather than a Brandman or Tom Daly or Avelino.

*CA-47: Alan Lowenthal won OC with 51.9% so far.  Including the LA portion, he has 63.3%.  He among the happy class of electeds that doesn’t have to worry one bit about redistricting.

CA-48: This is very sad.  For a while, Michelle Steel led Harley Rouda by margin of less than 2,851 votes, with the blue shift just waiting to come in.  It didn’t come in.  In fact, the red shift came in instead, as Steel’s lead grew to 6,000 — and ultimately over 8,000 votes.  That was a 2.0% lead.

However, two instances of astonishing fraud in the district — the fake ballot drop box issue and the fake voting center issue.  Both can foster the illegal sort of “ballot harvesting” — and thus to ballot box stuffing — could (and to my mind should) allow the House of Representatives to challenge Steel’s credentials pending a full investigation of what happened.  That investigation will be glorious — and perhaps what allows for the generational change in Vietnamese leadership that largely failed to take place this year.

CA-49:  After a red shift that shaved 5,000 votes off of his lead,  Mike Levin leads Brian Maryott by 24,000 votes and 6.2%.  (He’s losing the OC portion of his district by 12,500 votes and 43.9%, but San Diego has the larger say.)  If this district keeps its current composition, South OC would keep its Democratic representation in Congress for as long as San Diego keeps up its end of the load.

But Levin is in the opposite position as Lowenthal in CA-47: a redistricting that moved his district up the coast into what is now CA-48 could lead to a safe Republican space from San Clemente to Newport Beach.  Levin, who has been quite good in Congress, could still win in the district’s  San Diego portion — but he’d have lots of competition for that spot, especially being from South OC.

Creating a Republican sinkhole that guaranteed them a position in South County for what may be a decade, while making Democratic victories more likely elsewhere, might not look great to them now — and definitely would not have looked good to them in 2017 — but in 2019, after the 2018 blue wave, it might have looked great.

State Senate

SD 29 Josh Newman is cruising to victory with 51.3% and a 10,670-vote margin over Ling-Ling Chang in this three-county race.  He’s almost a point higher than that in LA.  Chang is beating him by 4% in little Chino Hills — and in OC Newman has 51.6%, slightly better than the district total.

SD-37:  Dave Min leads John Moorlach by 12,000 votes, a 2.4% margin.  If Katie Porter does graduate to a higher position in either the Senate or a Biden Administration, these two names could well figure in filling her Congressional seat — but they’d likely have lots of company seeking one of the few positions without term limits.  I don’t have a good sense of how redistricting might affect this, but gaining Yorba Linda and losing northern Irvine is one possibility.  What does Moorlach do next?  Supervisor, Congress, State Controller?  Bet on running his for Supervisor first, then Congress, then Controller … or Treasurer, or Governor.  (How he’d pay for that, I don’t know, but he’s got a big wing of the GOP behind him.)

State Assembly

AD-55:  Phillip Chen beat Andrew Rodriguez by exactly 10% (22,400 votes).  About 20,700 of those votes came from OC.  This tells the tale of how North Orange County votes: the more of it you bind to Los Angeles County, the better Democrats do.

That comparison tells you what you need to know about this district, which is actually an extremely competitive district glued to local behemoth Yorba Linda.  I’ll say again what I said in the 2011 redistricting hearings: Yorba Linda belongs with the Anaheim Hills, and other hilly and conservative points south.  (And sure, throw in Brea too, if you really want to hurt me, though only Brea east of the 57 really fits that bill.)

Rodriguez was better funded than Gregg Fritchle, the nominee for the previous three cycles, though by no means sufficiently well-funded.  He matched Fritchle’s margin of a 10% loss, but did so in a so-so year rather than a great one, and faced some distorting ads as well.  So he could try again, but it would be better if there were a wealthy moderate Democrat from Yorba Linda available to run.  Let me know if you can find one!

AD-65: Sharon Quirk-Silva jumped out to an early lead to beat Cynthia Thacker by 32,000 votes and 16.5%.  (What happened to all the election right drama, Sharon?  How do you expect me to keep the readers entertained?)  With Anthony Rend’n barely squeaking by his radical bullhorn-wielding Democratic opponent by less than 8%, I’d say that she’s ready to take over as Speaker now — she’s in a safer district!

AD-68: In the district where Yorba Linda really belongs, Steve Choi beat Melissa Fox by 6.2% (just over 15,800 votes).  This puts Fox out of office for the first time in a while; she may have to accept a nice assistant secretary position in either the Biden or Newsom Administrations.  (No inside information here; it just makes sense to me.)  This is not such a red district in terms of registration, but it sure tends to vote like one.  A bit of Democratic disunity here?  We’ll get to that when we discuss the City of Irvine.

AD-69: If Republicans really wanted to get rid of Tom Daly — and I doubt that they do — they should stop putting up hapless, offensive candidates like Jon Paul White (who received a resounding 27.1% of the vote), vote for a progressive Dem who could pry him out of office, and then go after that person two years later.  Instead, Daly now enters his fifth term, and will complete his 12-year limit in 2024, after which … he runs against Lou Correa?  (Nah — I’d bet on a lucrative lobbying career.)

AD-72: Janet Nguyen beat OJB fave Diedre Nguyen by over 18,000 votes, or 8.2%.  Normally, that would be the story’s end– but this is the other portion of the crazy cheating caper discussed in the CA-48 race above.  I hope (maybe even expect) that the OCDA will do a really thorough investigation, with lots of people having to submit sworn testimony about what they do and do not know, with real consequences for whoever’s lying.  The new generation of Vietnamese political leaders (like Diedre and Kim Bernice Nguyen) deserve a Little Saigon that is not starkly and persistently corrupt.

AD-73: Laurie Davies walloped Scott Rhinehart by 47,000 votes (15%.)  (I guess the brilliant South County Dems are waiting for their Great Blue Hope Chris Duncan here.)

AD-74: Cottie Petrie-Norris beat Diane Dixon here by 2,650 votes (1.0%), after suffering through a huge onslaught of negative advertising.  (Read our story on “the Ethicals” if you haven’t, to learn more about funding of this race.)


Potentially scandal-tainted incumbent Andrew Do leads Sergio Contreras by about 7,300 votes (3.6%).  I recognize my bias here, but I think that Contreras lost largely by failing to activate young activists — and that his refusal to give a loud and robust repudiation of the Poseidon project.  He’ll be fine in his current spot on the Westminster City Council, and we’ll surely hear from him again.  But if he doesn’t establish more credibility with those outside of the donor class, I don’t know whether he’ll go further.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) 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. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. 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. One of his daughters 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.)