Jeez, Louise! I’ll Support Stewardson’s Tardy SD-37 Write-In Campaign — But Let’s Not Forget Mark Lopez!

What are the interests of Democrats and moderate NPPs (and, hell, moderate Republicans too) in the March 17 SD-37 race?  We’re not going to win SD-37; Steve Young was a decent candidate in 2012 and got stomped.  So what do we do?  Easy: we work for a May runoff.  If it contains a Democrat, great — but a Democratic candidate on the ballot probably wouldn’t even make the runoff in the absence of a third viable Republican.  (The primary in AD-55 is a good example of how that works.)  Even if it doesn’t. a runoff sucks up the resources of Republican donors and deprives them of a legislative vote for a couple of extra months.  More important in this case is that it moves the AD-68 election that would take place if Don Wagner beats John Moorlach from summer to fall, where Democrats will have more students and such around to work and vote for, I don’ t know, Sukhee Kang or someone like that.

Either Wagner or Moorlach could be a threat to capture 50% in the primary — which in a special election, unlike a normal legislative election, would end the race right there — so the obvious vote until a few days ago has been to vote for the third candidate on the ballot, Naz Namazi.  A vote for Naz was a vote for — well, subtract “N-A-Z” from “N-A-M-A-Z-I” and you’re left with “M-A-I.”  It’s almost like voting directly for “May!”

(Note that Vern would prefer that Democrats vote for Moorlach over Namazi if the choice in between them.  I don’t know whether Moorlach would really want Vern’s endorsement in a primary, but I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t want mine.  In a runoff, maybe a grudging endorsement wouldn’t be so awful for him.  For now, we just want to make that runoff happen.  Partly for the reasons above, partly because Wagner will probably spend out his account in March trying to get to 50%, and if doesn’t then he’ll just be so fun to watch as he tries to refill his tank with money as flop sweat overtakes him.)

Louise Stewardson

A May runoff just became either a little or a lot more likely.  A Democrat, Louise Stewardson, has entered the race — although too late to actually be. you know, on the ballot.

I like Louise.  Yes, for the past few years she’s been a firm progressive supporter of DPOC’s largely illiberal leadership, but she’s never been malicious about it and often tried to bring people together when she was a Vice-Chair.  She’d be a fine State Senator.  And I would support her unequivocally and enthusiastically except for one thing: did I mention that she’s not on the ballot?  (That’s the sort of inexcusable whiff by the County Party that makes OC Republicans giggle and smirk.  When I was in charge of recruitment in North OC — in effect, during in both the 2012 and 2014 cycles — we had every federal, state, and county legislative office covered, even if I had to run myself.)

While Idiot Boy over at Illiberal OC points to Alaska U.S. Senator Lisa Murkoswki as an example of how a write-in can win, that comparison is facile and ludicrous.  Stewardson’s situation is a lot closer to that of Mark Lopez — the Democratic write-in alternative to Lou Correa who garnered all of two votes out of the 48,000 or so cast in the past election.  Yes: two.

The 68th State Senate District is inhospitable to Democrats, so in a normal general election there would actually be a logical argument for sitting it out and letting Republicans bleed each other dry financially twice in one year.  In a special election, though, there’s no guarantee of a runoff — so you definitely want a Democrat, or more than one!, running.  (You’d also want Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Caveman, and Prohibition Party candidates as well — whatever brings people out to keep either of the two leading candidates — both Republicans, natch — from topping 50% on March 17 and thus cancelling the runoff.  When winning a seat in not an option, sometimes mischief-making still is.)

Alas, Democrats did not have anyone lined up in time to make the ballot.  (You really want to have a preferred candidate and a backup — which I had to arrange in 2014 when it looked like one North County candidate would drop out.  That sucked up an entire work day before it ultimately became clear that it would be unnecessary.)  Promoting a successful write-in campaign — even a successful protest write-in campaign — takes a lot of resources, which DPOC lacks — and even if it didn’t, DPOC’s money would better be spent elsewhere.  I admire Louise’s willingness to take up the cudgel, but I almost wish that she hadn’t simply because the potential for Democratic embarrassment — even if not likely Mark Lopez-level embarrassment — is pretty strong.  The more DPOC energetically and openly tries to rally the troops for her, the more potential there is for a huge faceplant.  But, DPOC apparently recruited Louise, so now it’s up to DPOC to turn out the votes through clubs and emails and, I don’t know, maybe they can get people to phone bank — so long as none of it costs money.  (See the problem?)

Given the low likelihood of mounting a write-in campaign capable of propelling a Democrat into five figures — I’d like to think that Louise will reach four figures, but I don’t know how high to set the bar — I’m afraid that a two-pronged strategy is in order.  The first message to Democrats and NPPs is:

IF YOU HAVE YOUR ACT TOGETHER WELL ENOUGH TO CAST A WRITE-IN VOTE, then Vote for Louise Stewardson!

But some people won’t.  (Seriously — Mark Lopez would have gotten a lot more than two votes if he had just been on the ballot.)  So if we really do want that runoff — and, despite the feebleness of some local Democratic political thinkers, we really do — then there needs to be a second message as well

IF YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR ACT TOGETHER WELL ENOUGH TO CAST A WRITE-IN VOTE FOR LOUISE STEWARDSON, and you find yourself staring at the three names on the ballot wondering what the hell to do, then VOTE FOR NAZ NAMAZI, because NAZ=MAI!

I’ve even come up with a catchy slogan for Naz:

“NAZ: THE SECOND CHOICE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, AFTER THE FIRST CHOICE OF WRITING IN ‘LOUISE STEWARDSON,’ WHOSE LAST NAME IS SPELLED WITH A ‘D’ AND AN ‘O’.”

Don’t worry — Naz is not going to make the runoff, especially now that even Dana Rohrabacher has declined to endorse his current or former (whichever) deputy campaign manager and staffer.

(Which reminds me: Dana, you’re an idiot and you know nothing about king-making.  If the primary vote had been 45% for Wagner, 45% for Moorlach, and 10% for Namazi after she got your endorsement, then, with your endorsement in the runoff, you potentially would have decided would have won this seat.  I guess your tactical brilliance is why you couldn’t get a medical cannabis bill through Congress until a central coast Democrat joined you to shepherd it through.)

Louise’s entry into the race helps bring out Democrats to vote against both Wagner and Moorlach more than it hurts the effort to generate a runoff by confusing the issue along the lines suggested above.  I’m almost tempted to do what Democrats would like me to do and drop even all contingent support for Naz — except that I can’t blind myself to the fact that very few people vote for write-ins, especially those without strong organizations and advertising behind them.

What Orange County Democrats want is to (1) pretend that they didn’t screw up by not getting a candidate onto the ballot and (2) have the pride of not casting a vote for someone they don’t like, like the (pretty darn conservative) Namazi.  Supporting Louise and only Louise is a “feel-good” position — but to the extent that it undermines what should be the Democratic strategy here of pushing the election to a runoff (and making AD-68 conceivably further in play if Republicans nominate a complete doofus), that “feel-good” approach undermines our actual interests.

I don’t know that OC Democrats do get that, or ever will get that.  Electoral politics demands strategy; Karl Rove worked hard to get Green Party candidates onto the ballot across the country, and it was not because he liked the Green Party.  It was because he liked splitting the vote and screwing up Democrats.  Until local Democrats learn to promote their interests rather than following their bliss, local Republicans can relax and smile.

Two postscripts:

P.S. By the way, to revisit a little strategy about the First Supervisorial race: without Chris Phan in the race, Lou Correa would have ended up nowhere even close to Andrew Do.  But, without Correa in the race, Phan — if he had had Democratic support (as Bao Nguyen would presumably have advised) — would have stomped Do.  If Democrats think that there was no different between Phan and Do, then they don’t need to care about this — but if they were paying attention and if they cared about strategy, they should regret that Democratic choices ended up electing the far-worse Republican.  But that’s another post for another time.)

P.P.S.  If Louise somehow failed to qualify as a write-in candidate — which I certainly HOPE is not the case — then I would have to encourage people to vote for Namazi because (as I understand it) Louise’s votes would no longer be votes against ending up the election in March, but would just be like voting for Snoopy or Barbara Boxer.  Please, please, please — don’t let it be the case that Louise’s votes would not even be counted.  I don’t want to have to explain to my fellow OC Democrats why supporting her would then become self-defeating.


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.)