OC Results #6: Santa Ana, Westminster, Unincorps




Santa Ana

Santa Ana’s election results this year are as exhilarating as Anaheim’s were devastating.  Everything went right for reformers.  There’s only one problem: voters were only able to lock the barn door after the horse was gone.

The horse, in this case, is last year’s massive pay increase for Santa Ana Police officers, which despite lack of funding, the Council largely left untouched this year.  The results may perhaps best be read as punishing SAPOA for their pre-dawn robbery, under the complicit Miguel Pulido regime, of the city’s financial future — but it’s too late for a referendum and I don’t know of any basis for a Brown Act suit.  (Then again, I haven’t looked for one.)

Voter punishment was scattershot: a 2019 advocate for the raise, Vicente “Vince”  Sarmiento, was elected Mayor over one of the Council’s two detractors; the other detractor, Juan Villegas, lost to a fellow police critic.  But Sarmiento has come around; he was not the race’s SAPOA candidate.  Go back to our contributor Zorro’s pre-election handicapping of he races for more (and likely better) than I can provide here; then let’s take a closer look at the races.


The performance of Sarmiento (whom Zorro likens to Gavin Newsom) is more impressive than his 33% percent of the vote suggests.  He also beat his closest competitor, Claudia Alvarez, by over 10,000 votes.  He beat his closest realistic competitors — Alvarez, Cecilia “Cece” Iglesias and Jose Solorio — by 11.5%, 12%, and 16.5%.  We won’t say more about George Collins (under 6%) and Mark I Lopez (just over 2%) because there’s nothing much to say about them; they muddied, but did not spoil, the race.

Sarmiento ran as a mainstream progressive reformist candidate with, by Santa Ana standards, an especially clean reputation.  The other major candidate who could most clearly claim such a clean reputation was Iglesias but she was hampered by being (1) a Republican in Santa Ana, (2) the prime target of SAPOA, and (3) competing for Republican votes with Solorio.

Alvarez, says Zorro, is the Teamsters, Building Trades, and Firefighters candidate).  Not knowing that, I considered supporting her (because Vicente wouldn’t detail his opposition to Poseidon) before learning that SAPOA was behind Solorio — and then I got off the fence, because he has to be stopped.  Alvarez has neither Iglesias’s Republican bent nor Solorio’s unctuous scaly Brandmanism, so he seemed a possibly OK candidate.  Her pitch, apart from her previous Council service, was largely based on her time as an Assistant District Attorney under disgraced former DA Tony Rackauckas (who endorsed her) — and I really have to wonder if that was the right pitch for Santa Ana this time.  To a large extent, though, I think that Sarmiento’s and Alvarez’s votes would mostly have gone to each other if either were not in the race.  Solorio likely took votes from both Iglesias and Alvarez, but not enough to make a difference.

I’d defer to regular City Council watchers like Zorro in this, but I think that Sarmiento should have a governing majority from the start.  The returning Council members are David Penaloza, Phil Bacerra, and Nelida Mendoza — three Democrats with faults, and perhaps the least inclined to stand up to SAPOA and the Building Trades — but even they may take a look at these election results and wonder whether that is still the path to victory.  God knows that, after the SAPOA-foisted raise, Santana can’t spend much time screwing around with office politics.

Ward 1  (VOTE FOR 1)

Thai Viet Phan (whom Zorro likens to Penaloza) won this race with just over 40%, almost 11.5% and 2,000 votes over Tony Adamé (Zorro: a good looking businessman trying too hard to win over Trumpists), with almost 29%.  He soundly beat two people whom I had thought would outpoll him.  Thomas Anthony Gordon was, as I recall, the Republican choice in a district where that wasn’t good enough for more than 12%.  Cynthia Contreras, though, was the Pulido y SAPOA candidate — and won a surprisingly paltry 19% vote.  Wow!  Zorra doubted Phan’s commitment to reform, etc., especially on development, but we’ll see how she acts on Council.  So for those like Vern who were lukewarm on Phan running against Mendoza in the at-large race rather than in this district, this is a happy result.

Ward 3  (VOTE FOR 1)

Mark McLoughlin was the SAPOA candidate here.  Democrats looked likely to be split between Jessie Lopez and Janelle Welker, of Supervisor Doug Chaffee’s office, who also had Beatriz Mendoza’s support.  Well, Democrats didn’t split.  They went overwhelmingly for Lopez, whom Zorro groups with  Carolyn Torres, giving her just over 34% of the vote to  Welker’s just over 7%.  That combined total was less than the total vote share of McLoughlin (over 26%) and Jeffrey Katz (a little under 21%), whom Zorro says divided the wealthy white vote in Florcal Park.  Zorro calls Danny Vega a right-wing populist outsider; he got a bit under 12%.  Republicans in OC rarely lose by splitting the vote — but it looks like that’s what happened here.  It’s an ironic outcome for Floral Park — but an enjoyable one!

Ward 5  (VOTE FOR 1)

When Jonathan Ryan Hernandez (Zorro: supported by, and much like, Roman Reyna) and Laura Perez (Zorro: even more like Carolyn Torres) starting sniping heavily at each other on social media, I thought that incumbent Juan Villegas (much like Ceci Iglesias, including drawing a SAPOA recall) had this in the bag.  I’m still not sure how that didn’t come to pass.

Villegas finished with a bit over 32% — enough to win if Perez and Hernandez had split the vote evenly.  But the vote split was not at all even: Hernandez ended up with over 41% — over 9% over Villegas — while Perez, the only woman in the race!, finished over 12% behind Villegas.  A fourth candidate, Vic Mendez (Zorro: SAPOA support) was never a factor.  I don’t know what happened here, but I’m wondering if the Chicanxs Unidxs attack backfired.  I haven’t checked the final report on donations; that may shed some light on this; I may update this after I’ve done so.  (Or … you can comment!)

Westminster  (1 from Each District)

District 2

This district was, as I recall, drawn to be competitive for a Latino candidate.  And damned if that didn’t happen!  Carlos Manzo, a Vern favorite and OJB-endorsee, picked up a plurality of the vote (45.6%) against two Vietnamese competitors, becoming (if I’m not mistaken) Westminster’s first-ever Latino Council member.

Namquan Nguyen finished 10.6% and exactly 800 votes behind Manzo.  Trung Ta finished further behind with 19.4%.

A question obviously arises: if one or the other of them were not in the race, would Manzo have still won?  One answer to that is: you, our commenters, should give us your thoughts on that.  A second answer is: Westminster finally elected a Latino to Council!  It is especially delicious that this happened in the same election that Thai Viet Phan became the first-ever Viet elected to Santa Ana’s City Council!  I don’t know about your heart, but that warms mine.

District 3

Kimberly Ho was one of the Westminster incumbents who were subjected to a recall.  It didn’t work — and neither did removing her through an election: she received almost 65% of the vote over Tai Do, whom Vern and I endorsed knowing only that he was not Ho.  However, Ho was also caught up in scandal, with the fake (though marked “official”) vote center set up purportedly in her name.  We’ll leave that further fact-gathering to DA Todd Spitzer, but if anyone knows anything you’re welcome to drop us (or the Voice of OC!) a line.

Unincorporated Governance Boards

Finally, let’s run through the elections to the unincorporated governance boards, who have limited authority over their areas.  (These are the general ones; it’s not the water or sewer or geologic or library ones.)  Three boards that held elections — i.e., not Three Arch Bay, Emerald Bay, and two others. — fall into this category.

Capistrano Bay Community Services District

Two seats were open.  We didn’t endorse.  None of the three candidates had ballot statements.  Brad Jenkins listed his ballot designation as “Entrepreneur.”  Yuri Cramer listed hers as “Property Manager/Housewife.”  William Wiersig offered no designation.  Cramer lost with 33 votes (20.6%) to Jenkins’s 72 (45%) and Wiersig’s 55 (34.4%).  An misogynist repudiation of the female candidate?  A feminist repudiation of the term “housewife”?  Or a small community where everyone knows everyone and made decisions based on their personal knowledge?  Hard to say!  We’d invite CapisBayers to write in with their own explanations, but we seriously doubt that anyone there reads us.

Rossmoor Community Services District

Rossmoor’s short-term seat was decided in August when only one person filed.  We wanted two things out of this race between five candidates for three positions: for Idiot Doctor Jeffrey Barke to lose, and for smart progressive Nathan Searles to win.  Win some, lease some.

Idiot Dr. Barke — the charter school owner whose wife is the second-worst person on the OC Board of Education and who was brandishing his gun on a video saying that it, rather than a mask, was his protection against Covid-19 — got the most votes (3,242, or 24.7%), while Searles finished third with 2,929 (22.3%).  Incumbent Tony De Marco finished between them with 23.6%; incumbent Michael Maynard lost, to my surprise, with 20.2%; and Joyce Bloom garnered 9.2%.

If you’re wondering whether a community of elderly people that votes in a nonsensical Covid-denier who either plans on shooting viruses or shooting anyone who sniffles within ten feet of him should just be absorbed into Los Alamitos because it obviously can’t govern itself — well, we understand that reaction, but do bear two things in mind: (1) they also elected Searles, and (2) the Idiot Doctor — through killing himself or someone else — seems not to be the best bet to serve out his term.  (And if anyone knows how his school is doing Covid-wise, please let us know.  I’m asking as a citizen-journalist, not as a lawyer — though of course I am one….)

Silverado-Modjeska Recreation & Park District

This doesn’t look like a general local governance district, but I’m informed that it is one, and the Registrar’s offices groups it with the above two — so we will too!

Three womwn ran for two open seats.

Small Businesswoman Michele Grace Agopian, finished first with 36%, retired teacher Julie Morris finished second with 34.3%, and Medical Staff Director Celeste Goff Veerkamp finished out of the money by 70 votes with 29.7%.

By the way, many of these reports are deliberately written as to pose algebra problems that you can pose to your late elementary and middle school kids!  OJB is always thinking of your welfare!

We will get to schools boards and water districts yet, but generally in less detail.  Remember that if you just want to see who won a race, you can check this post here.

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.)