Primary Results, Run 1: What the Absentee Ballots Had to Say




The signs out at Cigarette Plaza at the Fullerton-Brea border the weekend before Election Day

The signs out at Cigarette Plaza at the Fullerton-Brea border the weekend before Election Day

The first tranche of ballots that the OC Registrar of voters puts out  on the evening of a major election are marked “0 precincts of N” (N, the number in all of Orange County, being 1597.)  Yet, despite representing 0 precincts, they are filled with data.  That’s because these include all of the absentee ballots (more properly called “Vote-by-Mail” or VBM ballots, which for some reason is less fun) that arrived in time for the first count — which I believe means ones that arrived by Monday’s mail drop.

This year, the absentees have some tales to tell.  Those tales may not show up, because “earlier” absentees are different from other voters — older, usually whiter, a higher percentage of party regulars, tending someone more conservative, and containing the efforts of unexpected trends (or maybe it’s the effects of surreptitious campaigns), like the one in Anaheim’s Council election that put Kris Murray about 1000 votes ahead of her “slate-mate” Gail Eastman.  (The omission of Eastman from so many Murray ballots elected James Vanderbilt to the City Council.  Thanks, Kris!)

Some of the results of the absentee ballots are unsurprising.  “Absentee OC” is, for example, a Hillary Clinton county, by a margin of about 63% to 36% over Bernie Sanders.  And for Republicans it’s a Donald Trump county — by a margin of about 79.5% to 10.5% over John Kasich.  Other results are quite surprising.  “Absentee OC” prefers Kamala Harris to hometown girl Loretta Sanchez by a margin of 25.7% to 24.9%, with Republican Duf Sondheim  pulling in 15,4%.  [Full disclosure: I’m the Orange County Coordinator for Kamala Harris.  I can’t take all of the credit for this unexpected lead, but they did get what I think this confirms was some pretty good advice.]

In Absentee OC, Mimi Walters has about 45% of the vote in CA-45 and Ron Varasteh leads Greg Raths by 6.5% for second place.  Lou Correa has just over 40% of the vote, while Bob Peterson (a Republican), Bao Nguyen, and Joe Dunn are bunched between 17.9% and 11.9%.  Suzanne Savary has twice the votes as Robert Banuelos as they compete to run against Dana Rohrabacher, who has almost 61% of the vote in CA-48.

Absentee OC offers a surprise in the 29th State Senate District race, where Ling-Ling Chang had about 49% and Josh Newman ran 4.8% ahead of Sukhee Kang for second place, 27.9% to 23.1%.  Those convinced that Kang was inevitable and Newman was doomed are already proven foolish, whoever ends up winning.  (Now, of course, this is a tri-county race, with the eastern San Gabriel Valley in LA County and Chino Hills in San Berdoo County making up about a quarter of the precincts — though about half the population.  This makes it hard to predict and hard to tabulate!)  While this post is supposed to address only absentees, we’ll leak the news that with with about a quarter of the whole district counted, including the absentees, Newman is up 3.0% over Kang.  Expect this to narrow, as LA and SB are a little behind OC, but a linear projection would still show Newman ahead.  (Of course, I don’t know if a linear projection is appropriate because I don’t know which OC precincts are in.  I could check, I suppose, but it’s late in the day for such exertions.)

In AD-55, Democrat Gregg Fritchle was the absentee winner with about 30%.  (Teaser: he did even better “day-of.”)  Phillip Chen of, I don’t know, I think it’s Rowland Heights (he keeps sort of quiet about it) and Mike Spence of West Covina are battling it out for the second slot; in OC absentees Chen was about 3% ahead, but that has narrowed.  Young Kim was about 5% ahead of Sharon Quirk-Silva in absentees for AD-65.  That has narrowed sharply, then reversed.

In AD-68, Democrat Sean Panahi got the traditional Democratic 30% or so of absentees and wins the right to be the sacrificial lamb in November.  But sacrificed to whom?  Harry Sidhu led Steven Choi by a third of a percentage point in absentees.  More on this in the next post.

We’ll skip the basically uninteresting ADs 69, 72, and 73.  In AD-74, incumbent Matt Harper led Karina Onofre by 5% right out the gate — and then you’ll see what happened.   Katherine Daigle trailed badly with about 18%.

On to Judges!  In 3, 40, and 49, Megan Wagner had 69%, Larry Yellin had 71%, and Mike Murray had 76%.  In the marquee match-up, Judge Scott Steiner had 58% over Karen Schatzle.

In School Board District 1, absentees went to Robert Hammond over Beckie Gomez, 48.6% to 34.7%.  (That tightened.)  In District 3, Ken Williams led Michael Parham 40.2% to 36.1%, with Margaret Brown at a respectable 23.7%.  In District 4, Jack Bedell led Chris Norby 48% to 32.4%.  (That also tightened.)

Finally, among what we’ll cover, in the 1st Supervisorial race Andrew Do fended off a challenge by Phat Bui among absentees. 41.3% to 21%, which Michelle Martinez in between them at 29%.  Steve Rocco trailed.

In part 2, we’ll look at the final results as of the 1:00 a.m. count.  Of course, absentee ballots have until Friday to arrive and Democratic Crossover ballots have to be rescued from provisional ballot envelopes and provisional ballots need to be researched, so the “day of” vote won’t be finalized for quite a while.




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.)