Breaking: OC COO and Election Criminal Mark Denny no longer to Oversee Our Elections!

Breaking: Just as I was finishing up my story, I find out from Nick Berardino that everything has changed, and want to be the first to let you know: County CEO Mike Giancola has had second thoughts about putting County COO Mark Denny – who was convicted of election fraud in the 90’s – in charge of overseeing our elections. Now our fine Registrar Neal Kelley will be reporting directly to Giancola instead of Denny. Credit goes to the OCEA’s publicity campaign against the original very tone-deaf move, part of their “Real Supervisors of Orange County” campaign. And friends who were going to rally at 9 tomorrow morning at the County Hall of Administration … sounds like you don’t have to!  We’ll see you there anyway.


I was just about to make the point this way: would Supervisor Todd Spitzer hire me, Vern Nelson, as a driver?

I was planning to use Todd in my hypothetical question only because I know that preventing drunk driving is one of his top priorities, a  cause célèbre of his (and also because we’re all irritated at him for not running against an incumbent DA who he swore up and down was a corrupt scoundrel, and whom he could maybe have beaten without risking his supe seat.)  But it could have been a question for any and all our five Supervisors – would they have hired me, Vern Nelson, to be their chauffeur?

I mean, I WOULD do a good job, and I wouldn’t drink.  I have a good license, for three years now, and insurance. My last DUI was in 2008;  before that, over eleven years ago. So I’m sure I wouldn’t let them down.  But still… I could see how maybe I wouldn’t be the most intuitive choice for them.  You know?  And I wouldn’t blame them for passing me over for somebody who had NO DUI’s on their record.

It seemed a nice, self-deprecating comparison to the choice of Mark Denny, who was convicted of election fraud in 1996, to be the guy to oversee Orange County’s elections.  Mark Denny, the county’s current Chief Operating Officer (COO) had been put in charge, by the county’s CEO Mike Giancola, of supervising our fine registrar of voters Neal Kelley.  But sometime today (Monday) – day before a planned Tuessday morning protest – Giancola had second thoughts about how bad this whole thing looked, and has now decided that Kelley will report directly to him instead.

Credit goes to the OCEA for uncovering and publicizing this.  Any help behind the scenes from any of our five Supervisors?  I don’t know yet, but will report if that turns out to be the case.  (Hell, maybe it was even Spitzer.)  Surely not Moorlach, who was quite dismissive of everyone’s concerns in all the press reports earlier this month.  We are left with two things – an excuse to recap the old story of the Golden Age of OC GOP Election Fraud, AND a big question about how this fellow became our COO in the first place.

Okay, what exactly did Mark Denny and his friends do, anyway?

Mark Denny, Rhonda Carmony (later Rohrabacher), Curt Pringle – Original OC GOP Election Fraudsters

The dirty political trick that Mark Denny and three co-conspirators were involved in, described in this 1996 Times article, consisted of recruiting and running a fake Democrat to run along with the real Democrat in a 1995 special recall assembly race – the 67th, based in Huntington Beach – ensuring the victory of Republican candidate Scott Baugh, now OC GOP chairman.  Also convicted was Dana Rohrabacher aide Rhonda Carmony, who a little later married Crazy Dana.

This was actually, as Joe Biden would put it, a “big fucking deal.”  It gave the control of the assembly to the Republicans for two years (if you can picture that.) This led to Denny’s boss Curt Pringle – who professed to know NOTHING of the plot – becoming Speaker of the Assembly, an essential step in his ascendance to today’s “Master of the Universe.” 

No wonder, with such service to his Party, all was forgiven for Mark Denny when his three-year probation was over.  He slowly climbed back into the center of power, first working as chief of staff for hinky Supervisor Bill Campbell, before being named Parks Director and finally, last year, our county’s COO. 

Placing this apparently likeable but utterly partisan fellow in charge of our elections was a bridge too far, however, and kudos to the OCEA for blowing the lid off this, AND affording us a little glimpse at how our Republican-controlled county works when nobody’s paying attention!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.