Blue Wave Hopes Dashed in Orange County Board Race

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Don Wagner, the Republican mayor of Irvine, California, holds an insurmountable lead in the race for the open seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, dashing any hope of an electoral Blue Wave repeat in the former conservative stronghold.

The county’s Third District election results Friday show Wagner fended off a challenge from five fellow Republicans and maintained his more than 3,000-vote lead over his closest competitor, former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat.

Wagner – who received 42 percent of the vote and already declared victory at a Wednesday night campaign event – is well-positioned to take up the 21-month position on the board, an unglamorous political body with power over a $6 billion budget.

Sanchez – who served in Congress for 10 terms but lost her 2016 bid for a U.S. Senate seat to current U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris – received 37 percent of votes. She has conceded with more than 1,500 ballots still uncounted.

Neither camp responded to requests for comment.

If county officials certify the results, Wagner would begin his term representing the Third District, encompassing the cities of Irvine, Anaheim Hills, Tustin, Orange, Yorba Linda and Villa Park, in either late March or early April.

Third District voters will head to the polls again in 2020 to select a supervisor to serve a full four-year term.

The seat up for grabs in the race was vacated by Todd Spitzer, who won his election for district attorney this past November. Spitzer beat out 20-year incumbent Tony Rackauckas.

Though the Board of Supervisors is technically nonpartisan, the board has been dominated for decades by Republicans.

Wagner campaigned on promises to enhance public safety, expand housing development, improve transportation infrastructure and stand as a check against the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

A shift in the county’s political leanings appeared on the horizon with Sanchez running months after fellow Democrat Doug Chaffee secured victory in the Fourth District race in November, the first board victory for a Democrat in more than a decade.

Sanchez, who was backed financially in the race by local unions, positioned herself as an experienced political leader with the connections in Congress needed to secure federal funding for large transit infrastructure and housing projects.

A Democratic victory in the race would have still left the balance of power tipped in favor of Republicans, who hold three seats on the five-member board.

A bit over 21 percent of the nearly 340,000 voters registered in the district cast ballots and the majority were mailed in, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

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