4th Supe District: Nobody Can Beat Shawn Nelson (If Nobody Runs Against Shawn Nelson)

It’s a new year in politics, so let’s check in with the County Supervisors — with a little help from Ylvis:

The Todd says “DA”
The Moorlach says “Rep”
The Janet says “State Senate”
The Bates says “that goes for me too.”
Four of five
County Supes
Run for other offices
Only one
In the North,
Focused on his current job
But his district has changed
Adding Brea may not do-oo-00-00-00
Oo-oo-oo-oo oo-oo-oo-oo —

Perhaps I should flesh that out with a more prosaic introduction.

With Todd Spitzer (apparently) taking on Tony Rackauckas, John Moorlach fighting with Mimi Walters for John Campbell’s seat in Congress, Janet Nguyen taking on Jose Solorio (and apparently no one else) for Lou Correa’s State Senate seat, and incoming Board Chair Pat Bates taking on someone named Martin Garrick in the cartoon-slug shaped and mostly San Diego County-sited SD-36, a lot of the Board of Supervisors’ attention  is going to be diverted to other tasks this year.  Only Shawn Nelson of the 4th District runs for re-election this year, against — well, as of this moment, no one.

I looked at the January 1 registration numbers for North County yesterday and was caught by surprise — and by something that as the Democratic Party of Orange County Vice-Chair for this region is not supposed to take me by surprise:

As of January 1, the 4th Supervisorial District now has more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Not a whole lot more — 18, to be specific, out of a total of 237,126 registered voters — but … more.  (I had known that it was close, but not “36.4% for both major parties” close!  And I don’t remember us Dems leading in local registration before now.)  Here, take a look at the chart based on a snip from the OC Registrar of Voters site (which I’ve blown-up and fancied-up for your reading pleasure):

Statistics and possible projection of 4th Supe Race as of January 1, 2014

Supervisor Shawn Nelson is presumably in. Last time, La Habra’s Rose Espinoza and Buena Park’s Art Brown (shown here) were also in — as were Anaheim Democrat Lorri Galloway and Republican Harry Sidhu.  Nelson stomped Sidhu in the runoff by 22%.

Not only is the 4th Supe district the closest of all OC Supe districts — but the race for “closest” isn’t even close.  Democrats have a (fruitless) 10.6% advantage in the First District (sigh) and the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th respectively have GOP advantages of 15.4%, 13.9%, and 19.9%.  That the registration advantage in the 4th hasn’t gone deeper blue than this is due to Nelson’s shoring up the district’s conservative foundation after the 2011 redistricting by lopping off the city’s tail  — disproportionately Democratic southwestern Buena Park, which separates Southwest Anaheim from Cypress — in exchange for the 4000+ GOP registration advantage of Brea.  (Mrs. Nelson did not raise no fool.)

So, among Supe districts, this is clearly “where the action is” — which raises a critical question: where is the action?

I don’t usually do a lot of field reporting for this blog, but I checked to see which OC Democratic Party official has the primary responsibility for recruiting in this district — and that person appears to be me.  (I refused my own interview request for this story.)  The fact that I blog on county politics may be why anyone making secret plans to run would want to keep me “out of the loop,” for fear that I might spill the beans — so let this story be a lesson to everyone: if I’m not in the loop, I don’t know not to spill the beans.

I’ve certainly had the impression that the 2/3 of the 2010 Supe candidates who aren’t Lorri Galloway — they being Buena Park’s Art Brown and La Habra’s Rose Espinoza — were not planning on running.  I’ve spoken to both and got that impression — although, come to think of it, it was pretty much non-verbal, of the “finger-in-mouth” or “hands-around-neck” variety.  (As both of them are better behaved than I am, it was nothing quite so graphic, though.)  So I may have been steered awry a bit.  And, accordingly, I have no inside information about what’s going on as of the moment that I write this.  But here’s how I might game things out.

With Sharon Quirk-Silva engaged in a tough fight against former Ed Royce trophy staffer Young Kim, the appeal of Espinoza backing up Quirk-Silva in a district that is — wait, can this really be right?45.8% Latino is obvious.  West Anaheim, where people are not pleased with the antics of that city’s present City Council majority, is extremely voluble this year — and Espinoza can help to rally those voters to the polls.  (A vote for Espinoza would very likely mean one for Quirk-Silva as well.)

Would Espinoza run?  The biggest impediment would probably be money.  But: given the contribution that she could make to Quirk-Silva’s pivotal race, the State Party would be nuts not to throw some donors her way.  (Do you hear me, State Party?  NUTS!)  Nelson has made the tactical blunder of endorsing Kim — of “Asians are the popular majority and Hispanics don’t vote” fame (that’s a paraphrase), and now the bill for that decision may come due.

If Espinoza doesn’t run, then I’d like to see Brown take a shot at Nelson — but given the choice I’d rather see this old-style labor proponent take a shot at the more-vulnerable-than-you’d-think Rep. Ed Royce, using the crowbar of Royce’s unbelievable support for the egregious Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to mess up the little bugger.  (If Brown would agree run for Congress, then I would be willing to suspend my still-secret plans to recruit Matt Damon to run against Royce.  Hat-tip to the person who suggested this.)

We’re all still getting used to the idea that the old and venerable western region of North and Central County is now (or soon will be) Democratic territory.  I think that Shawn Nelson is a gifted politician — I’m just going to pretend that our celebrated commenter David Zenger isn’t reading this — and if I had to bet on who would take over either Bob Huff’s State Senate seat (for which I’m told La Habra’s Tim Shaw and Asmb. Curt Hagman both hunger) or Royce’s Congressional seat, if it stays in Republican hands, I’d probably place my money Nelson.  But, despite my respect for him, and without personal rancor, any 2014 “cease-fire agreement” became impossible when he endorsed Young Kim.  And, to my surprise, he really is more vulnerable than I might have thought.

That vulnerability extends to possible FBI findings of wrongdoing regarding Board of Supes activities — we still don’t know why they’re here, after all.  And while Nelson’s tenure only runs back to 2010, that’s no guarantee that he’s  not going to be splashed with any dirt that might be forthcoming.  That still stands to be the local political story of the year — and like everyone else, I just wish I knew when it would run.

So, while I once thought that Shawn Nelson might get a pass this year — I now doubt it.  Nobody can beat Nelson if nobody runs — but I think that someone is going to run.  It’s just a matter of who that is.

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. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)