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Last minute upset in Anaheim race will change face, focus of city council

Jose Moreno narrowly won the race to represent Anaheim's District 3 on city council. He is one of three Anaheim residents who sued the city in 2012 under the California Voting Rights Act, arguing that at-large districts in Anaheim deprived Latino residents of representation. The city is 53 percent Latino.
Jose Moreno narrowly won the race to represent Anaheim's District 3 on city council. He is one of three Anaheim residents who sued the city in 2012 under the California Voting Rights Act, arguing that at-large districts in Anaheim deprived Latino residents of representation. The city is 53 percent Latino.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

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A last minute upset in an Anaheim city council race will bring a new face and likely a new focus to Anaheim city policy. Jose Moreno, who won on a platform of prioritizing neighborhoods over the the city's resort district, will represent District 3 on the new council.

Incumbent Jordan Brandman has conceded the race. He was ahead in the vote count up until Monday evening, when the Orange County Registrar of Voters posted its latest tally showing that Moreno had pulled ahead by 44 votes. 

Registrar Neal Kelley said that although a few ballots will trickle in up until he certifies the election in early December, the results for Anaheim's District 3 are unlikely to change. 
 
Moreno posted a victory message on his campaign Facebook page Monday evening, saying "the people have spoken." 

"Most importantly I want to thank everyone including our Anaheim youth, families, working people and organizations who took a risk on making 'this time Anaheim.' Si Se Pudo!"

Moreno, whose parents were immigrants, is the first Latino candidate to be elected under Anaheim's new by-district voting system. He was also the plaintiff named in the voting rights lawsuit that forced Anaheim to switch from at-large to by-district elections. 

The lawsuit alleged that Latinos' voting power was diluted in the at-large system. Latinos make up more than half of the population in Anaheim but, with a few exceptions, the city's elected leaders have been white. 

In District 3, which Moreno will represent, 72 percent of residents are Latino, the largest concentration of any of the new districts. 

"What our election I think shows is one, if you move to a smaller environment, then you really do empower the electorate that’s disenfranchised, so Latinos will engage, their vote will matter," Moreno told KPCC.

The council's new makeup could also mean a shift in focus away from the city's resort district, dominated by Disneyland, and towards its neighborhoods. Anaheim's leaders have approved or renewed several generous tax breaks for Disney and other businesses in the resort district in recent years, angering some residents and local leaders — including Mayor Tom Tait — who say the deals amount to corporate giveaways.

The new council makeup will almost certainly be less friendly to Disney. Along with Moreno, Denise Barnes, who also ran on a campaign of halting tax breaks for the resort district, claimed victory on Monday evening in District 1.

Moreno and Barnes will join Mayor Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt, both vocal opponents of the tax breaks.

Disney spent close to $1 million to support business-friendly city council candidates and to oppose Moreno and Barnes, according to campaign finance data collected by the online news site Voice of OC

The new City Council will be sworn in on Dec. 13.