Politics

Democrats aim to break GOP hold on OC Board of Supervisors

Voters and Orange County residents listen to candidates running for the O.C. Board of Supervisors District 1 seat at a special election voter forum held Tuesday in Santa Ana.
Voters and Orange County residents listen to candidates running for the O.C. Board of Supervisors District 1 seat at a special election voter forum held Tuesday in Santa Ana.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Democrats in Orange County are hoping to break an eight-year Republican stronghold on the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday when voters go to the polls to select a new First District supervisor.

Voters in the cities of Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley, and Santa Ana will cast ballots in a special election Tuesday to fill the open seat left vacant by now-State Senator Janet Nguyen.

The district has 613,490 residents, the most populated of the five county board districts, according to the 2010 Census.

The O.C. Board of Supervisors is a non-partisan government body but local party politics plays a role in the campaigns.

The Republican Party of Orange County is backing Andrew Do, the chief of staff to former county supervisor Janet Nguyen.  Officials with the Republican Party of Orange County were not available for an interview before deadline.

Former State Senator Lou Correa has won support from the O.C. Democratic Party. Correa served about two years on the Board of Supervisors in 2004.

Chris Phan, an O.C. deputy district attorney and current Garden Grove council member, is also running for supervisor. Other candidates include TV news anchor Chuyen Van Nguyen and health care office specialist Lupe Morfin-Moreno.

The First District is diverse and densely populated. Vietnamese Americans make up most of Garden Grove, Westminster and Fountain Valley and have traditionally voted Republican. In Santa Ana, 78 percent of the population is Latino, and tends to vote Democrat.

With 43 percent of the voters registered in the First District as Democrats, it would seem they have the advantage.  But O.C. Democratic Party chairman Henry Vandermeir said that’s no guarantee.

“We could have the best registration advantage but if we can’t get our people out to vote then we’re shot down anyway,” he said. “And that’s kind of been our issue in the past.”

About 31 percent of registered voters in the First District identified as Republican, according to statistics from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. But Vandermeir said voters who register as “no party preference” or “NPP” is a growing group, about 22 percent in this district. 

“It’s tough to find that combination in a (candidate) who can appeal to a large variety of voters,” Vandermeir said.

This year’s special election contest for District One is a repeat for central Orange County--sort of a musical chairs episode.

Then-county supervisor Lou Correa left his seat in 2006 to become a state senator and a special election was held in 2007 to fill the vacancy.

Janet Nguyen, who was a Garden Grove city council member at the time, ran for the seat in a contentious race decided by just seven votes. Her election secured an all-Republican county Board of Supervisors.

But she left the county board in November when she was elected to the state senate to fill the 34th District seat, left open by termed-out senator Correa.