MOORLACH UPDATE — Day Two — March 26, 2015

It’s my second full day here in Sacramento. I’ve already had a chance to greet Gov. Jerry Brown and obtain a new public e-mail address: Senator.Moorlach. My Senate website is

For those interested in a couple of campaign reviews, the Sacramento Bee shared its surprise at my victory at Of course, my surprise was not winning with a higher margin.

The FlashReport provides an analysis from my campaign consultant’s perspective at

During a break in my calendar yesterday, I was apprised of the Fairview Development Center’s legislative plight by Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan. This gave me a few minutes to do a little research before the Daily Pilot contacted me. The preliminary outlook is provided in the first piece below. Subsequent to the call, I had the chance to meet with Senator Jeff Stone and we agreed to meet on the bill in the near future. I’m hitting the ground running and the fun is covered in the first piece below

The second piece is from the OC Register and addresses the joys of dealing with independently elected countywide officials. I could provide a number of links to my blog, but this piece covers it well.

Orange County is getting closer to locating a year-round homeless shelter, which is great news. The Voice of OC covers this positive progress in the third piece below. The location is just a few yards north of my District, but I’m excited about the potential site, and stand ready to assist in any way possible.

Daily Pilot

State bills threaten to close developmental center

Legislations’ authors want the developmental facility in Costa Mesa and a second near Napa closed so funds can go elsewhere.

By Bradley Zint

Two state bills target the Fairview Developmental Center for closure so that funding can be diverted to other community-based disability programs.

The bills’ authors contend that the state-owned center in Costa Mesa and another in Northern California — which both provide 24-hour care to people with severe disabilities — have become too costly to run considering how few patients they serve.

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) said California taxpayers pay about $500,000 a year toward each patient’s care at Fairview and the Sonoma Developmental Center. Closing them and shifting funds to the state’s host of regional centers would cost much less, about $17,000 per person, he said.

"By shutting down these large and outdated state institutions and shifting the money to regional centers, those in need of state services will receive better care and more support," Stone said in a statement.

Stone’s bill, SB 639, aims to close Fairview by December 2018.

The second bill, AB 1405, introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), has similar provisions.

Both bills were introduced Feb. 27.

As of February, the 111-acre Fairview Developmental Center, off Harbor Boulevard, was caring for 289 people.

Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan, who first learned about the bills Wednesday, said he wants to see Fairview remain open and will petition the council for support.

"The state has a responsibility to help, and they’re basically saying, ‘Go pound sand,’" Monahan said.

The longtime councilman added that he doesn’t approve of SB 639’s proposal to relocate Fairview’s patients, who need constant care, into group residential settings that provide far less supervision.

In a group home, would they be "getting the services they need?" Monahan asked. "Or are they just thrown in front of a TV to whittle away until they die? … It’s about taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves."

Monahan was also critical of Stone and Grove for proposing legislation that doesn’t affect their constituents.

"Why are they putting bills forward to affect not only Orange County but Costa Mesa specific?" Monahan said. "It’s not even in their district."

When reached Wednesday, Costa Mesa’s representatives in Sacramento, Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) and Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), said they had just heard about the bills and were unable to provide comment.

"I haven’t decided in terms of the issue itself," Harper said. "Secondarily, the issues, before they even come to me, would have to go through significant legislative steps, which they may or may not even get through."

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Developmental Services, which runs Fairview and Sonoma, said the agency hasn’t taken a position yet because the legislation is pending.

A request for comment from Fairview Families and Friends Inc. — a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that supports the center — was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Fairview opened in 1959 and peaked in population in 1967 with 2,700 residents.

The idea of closing the 125-year-old Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge, about 20 miles northwest of Napa, has already been met with significant protest. The Press Democrat newspaper reported that a rally, staged earlier this month, attracted more than 200 people.



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A fight they won’t take on

Supervisors hesitant to act against D.A. over Dekraai case.


Todd Spitzer, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stood before TV cameras last week and vowed the board would hold accountable the District Attorney’s Office for the misconduct that has stalled the Scott Dekraai mass murder case.

But this week, Spitzer’s colleagues didn’t appear to have the same appetite for a fight with another elected official who has won his office five times.

“I don’t find one ruling by one judge to be a statement on the entire (District Attorney’s) Office,” said recently seated Supervisor Andrew Do, a former prosecutor. “We don’t have enough information.”

Spitzer went on the attack after a judge removed the District Attorney’s Office from the penalty phase for Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people in October 2011 at a Seal Beach salon. Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals handed the case over to the state Attorney General’s Office, which doesn’t want it and has appealed.

The attorney general also launched an investigation into allegations that prosecutors and police operated a secret network of paid jailhouse snitches to illegally harvest confessions from inmates. Evidence from the snitches also was withheld from defense attorneys.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she’s “concerned” about events at the D.A.’s office, but fell short of Spitzer’s enthusiasm for action at this time.

“I am … closely monitoring the most recent developments,” she said.

Supervisor Michelle Steel, who lives in Seal Beach, offered unqualified support for Rackauckas.

“I think he is an excellent district attorney, and I am confident that he takes responsibility for his department and will act to correct errors when they occur.”

Shawn Nelson did not return requests for comment made over three days.

With the Dekraai case tangled in the informant battle, the trial to decide his punishment could be delayed more than a year, frustrating victims’ families – and at least one locally elected official.

“How do you mess up a case like this?” asked former supervisor John Moorlach, whose district represented Seal Beach. “It’s unconscionable.”

Moorlach, now a state senator, said there is little Spitzer or anyone else on the board can do to punish or control an elected official, such as District Attorney Tony Rackauckas or Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“We as supervisors can’t tell you what to do, we can only suggest,” Moorlach said.

Spitzer told reporters the board could use its authority over the district attorney’s and sheriff’s budgets. Moorlach, however, said withholding money from law enforcement could be politically risky because voters might interpret the action as being “soft” on crime.

“It’s a tool, but it’s seldom used,” Moorlach said. “It can be dicey.”

Spitzer said the board could expand the county Office of Independent Review, which monitors the Sheriff’s Department, to include the District Attorney’s Office. But Moorlach noted the board can’t make Rauckauckas submit to the watchdog office.

Last fall, before he left the board, Moorlach said he met with county lawyers to see what the board could do to get involved in the Dekraai case.

He said they concluded the only thing the board could do was ask for state prosecutors to investigate, which already is being done.

Officials from the District Attorney’s Office said Spitzer is making empty promises.

“They can’t legislate our policies or decision making,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas’ chief of staff.

“Basically, what this is is Spitzer running for D.A. on the graves of eight murdered people.”

Rackauckas’ campaign team said last week that he’s running for re-election in 2018.

Contact the writer: tsaavedra

Spitzer Touts Possible Homeless Shelter Site in Anaheim

By Nick Gerda

Following years of failure by local officials to find a site for Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter, county supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer is expressing cautious optimism about a potential site in Anaheim.

Located in a light industrial section of North Anaheim, the site is far from any residential neighborhood and is actually located near a strip club, Spitzer said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, alluding to the fact that other locations have been shot down due to their proximity to schools.

“If you can’t put this shelter a half a block from an all-nude strip club…in an all-commercial area…not near any homes, not near any schools, completely separated from residences by the 91 freeway and the Santa Ana River, then you probably can’t build it anywhere,” Spitzer said.

“I really think it might be ideal,” Spitzer added, urging his colleagues to support negotiations for the property, which is located at 1000 N. Kraemer Pl.

Fullerton City Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald showed up to the supervisors meeting to tout the site, saying it “really brings together multiple cities…so a lot of good can be done there.”

The city councils of both Fullerton and Anaheim are expected to take up resolutions favoring the site at their next meetings.

In Anaheim’s case, the council is slated to also consider whether to chip in financially for the shelter.

Supervisor Michelle Steele said she would support the Anaheim site, but others were noncommittal. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, meanwhile, said she had a different shelter site in mind but wouldn’t be specific, citing possible property negotiations.

She said the location was on the “outskirts” of one of the supervisor’s districts, not near any schools or residential neighborhoods and is “probably not” in the first or third districts. She declined to identify it further.

Despite the lack of unanimous support for the Anaheim location, supervisors did direct county staff to pursue negotiations for any location that appears promising, while at the same time saying they expect community pushback.

“It’s the same exact arguments, just different people,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson.

“We just need leadership…We need somebody to step up, be big enough to accept” that arrows are going to go flying, Nelson added. “I’m ashamed that I haven’t fixed this.”

One faction already upset about a possible Anaheim location is the main lobbying group for homeless at the Santa Ana Civic Center. They remain disappointed that supervisors backed away from a proposed site in Santa Ana.

Several hundred homeless people live at a makeshift encampment outside Civic Center, a situation that has become a symbol of the county’s failure to address the problem.

“The chronically homeless, like the people we have here at the Civic Center…nothing’s been done for these people for a long time,” said Tim Houchen, a spokesman for the Civic Center Roundtable.

The group has proposed a triage center at Civic Center, Houchen said, with a kiosk where county officials and nonprofits could run an entry program the county has to do in order to not lose millions of dollars in funding.

“Even without the shelter, we can do it right here,” Houchen said, adding that the proposal is slated for discussion at Friday’s meeting of the county Commission to End Homelessness.

The homeless advocacy group has been trying to speak with their county elected representative, First District Supervisor Andrew Do, but their calls haven’t been returned, Houchen said.

Do didn’t return an email Wednesday evening seeking comment.

Orange County is among the few large metropolitan areas in the nation that does not have a permanent, year-round shelter.

The only options now are the current shelters at National Guard armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana that only operate from December to April.

The armories program, however, lacks the types of mental health, drug and job placement services that many advocates and officials say are critical for reducing homelessness.

Support for other permanent shelter proposals in recent years wilted in the face of community resistance.

The proposal to buy a building in central Santa Ana was the most recent victim of backlash from local residents and business owners.

Before that, a site in Fullerton was floated as a possibility, but that idea collapsed after a split Fullerton City Council rejected the plan in 2013.

And in 2012, county Supervisor John Moorlach’s effort to turn a shuttered Santa Ana bus depot lost steam after stiff resistance from top city officials. Then-City Manager Paul Walters strongly opposed the site because it was just blocks away from a dense cluster of downtown businesses, including a blossoming restaurants scene.

Funding has already been set aside by the county to buy and run a shelter, with over $6 million for facility costs and $3.6 million per year for operations.

Exactly who would run the shelter has yet to be decided, though it’s likely to involve non-profit providers.

Debate on Wednesday also centered on whether to develop multiple smaller shelters or a single, larger shelter.

“I think, based on the past experience, the communities do not seem to want a large shelter that is in their community,” said Paul Cho of the Illumination Foundation, a non-profit homeless services group. He suggested that multiple shelters would also allow one to be built in South County.

The county’s current contractor who runs the armories program disagreed.

Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House, said that last year over 2,000 people were served at the two armories for the first time ever.

“The data drives the issue that we need a big response to a big problem,” Haynes said, adding that there are “tremendous efficiencies” that come with larger scale facilities.

Ultimately, supervisors stood by the single shelter approach.

“I think you get the economies of scale” when you have a large shelter, said Bartlett.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, said a critical component is missing from the debate, which is the need for permanent supportive housing in addition to shelters.

Such housing is in short supply in Orange County but “has been shown to be the most cost effective and the most effective solution” for ending homelessness, said Eve Garrow, a policy analyst with the ACLU of Southern California.

Some of that potential housing supply is already owned by the city of Santa Ana, with many properties acquired by the city through receivership, said Houchen, the homeless lobby group’s spokesman.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

This e-mail has been sent by Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th Senate District.

MOORLACH UPDATE — First Full Day — March 25, 2015

It has been one week since the election. I was sworn in on Sunday, which is reported in the Daily Pilot piece at the bottom below.

I gave the County of Orange my Monday for a day long deposition for litigation that is in progress. On Tuesday, my wife and I loaded a SUV and drove up to Sacramento. I checked in yesterday evening and enjoyed my first full day today. I was welcomed by the Senate Minority Leader in the first piece below from the Orange County Breeze.

In my first session this afternoon, I had the privilege of voting on my first two bills. The Democrats were fast tracking both bills in order to show that something was being done concerning the drought. The printed bills were provided a couple of days ago and could not be amended.

Stating that the first bill, AB 91, was addressing the State’s urgent drought needs struck me as a misnomer. Of the $1 billion allocated to various water-related concerns, I could only find $27 million addressing the drought. And this amount was based on a liberal personal interpretation. Two-thirds of the total amount was focused on addressing flood protection needs (the opposite of a drought). This $660 million comes from general obligation bond proceeds, which means it will be paid by the State’s general fund, thus creating more debt and more principal and interest payment commitments.

Since this bill didn’t come close to its advertised intent, I cast a no vote. But, who can vote against something that is communicated as "drought relief?" I was the solitary "no" vote.

AB 92 establishes the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions. I did not come to Sacramento to create new bureaucracies. I’d like to eliminate a few of them. It also gave an inordinate amount of duties to the Department of Fish & Wildlife (DWR). While serving as a County Supervisor, the DWR was so thin and overburdened, it was nearly impossible to get them to even show up to critical meetings. I voted with my Republican colleagues in a 24-14 losing effort.

It only took my first two votes as a Senator to demonstrate how California got itself into deep financial debt, and exactly why we need more accountants and CPA’s in the State Capitol.

I will say that I received a warm welcome from my new colleagues. I also decided to observe the session and elected to not express my frustrations on the floor (give me time). But, window dressing is not my idea of leading. So, I dissented. Let’s hope there are bills that I can vote for in the months to come.

Orange County Breeze

Two new Republican State Senators welcomed by Minority Leader Bob Huff

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) officially welcomed two new Republican Senators to the State Senate Monday, fulfilling the promise of increasing Republican membership from twelve to fourteen members.

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach was officially sworn into office during a ceremony in Orange County after winning a special election for the 37th Senate District. Senator Sharon Runner has already taken the oath of office, after winning a special election for the 21st Senate District.

“I want to congratulate Sharon Runner and John Moorlach for their special election victories and welcome them to our Republican Caucus,” said Senator Huff. “We will continue to bring balance to the Legislature so we can enact legislation and policies that serve the interests of all California families at all income levels.

For Senator Runner, her special election victory caps a triumphant return to the Senate chambers, where she served previously for two years. She also served in the State Assembly from 2002-2008.

“Having previously represented the communities of the 21st District in the California State Assembly and Senate, I am confident in my ability to be an effective voice for my constituents in Sacramento,” said Senator Runner. “I am humbled by the faith they have placed in me.”

Runner’s priorities in the Senate will focus on creating jobs, protecting taxpayers, and ensuring that public safety remains a top priority of government.

“I plan to hit the ground running and work hard towards the goals I have set forth,” said Senator Runner. ”I know the needs of the community and I am blessed by this opportunity to once again serve in the Legislature.”

Senator Moorlach is a certified public accountant and formally served as Treasurer of Orange County, helping the municipality recover from bankruptcy. He indicates he will bring key job creation strategies to the Capitol and will also serve as a fiscal voice of reason.

“I look forward to joining my colleagues in the fight for a healthier economic climate and a fiscally sound future for our state,” said Senator Moorlach.

Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

The article above was released by Senator Bob Huff.

Daily Pilot

Moorlach sworn in as state senator and ready to get started in Sacramento


By Bradley Zint

John Moorlach was officially sworn in Sunday as state senator for the 37th District after receiving more than 50% of the vote in last week’s special election and thereby avoiding a run-off in May.

The ceremony for Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican and former county supervisor, was held at the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin.

Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) officiated.

The March 17 election results were certified Friday. Moorlach received 38,125 votes, or 50.3%.

"I really want to thank the voters for giving me enough votes to finish in the first round," Moorlach said in an interview Monday. "I’m looking forward to trying to make this state a better place."

Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) received 33,411 votes, or 44%. Behind the two men, both Republicans, were congressional aide Naz Namazi, a Republican Irvine resident, who got 2,621 votes, or 3.5%, and Louise Stewardson, a Democratic write-in candidate and nurse from Huntington Beach, who received 1,696, or 2.2%.

Voter turnout was 15.7%, or 77,147 ballots, of which about 66,000 were vote-by-mail.

Moorlach’s term lasts through December 2016. He replaces Mimi Walters, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

The 37th state Senate district includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach and portions of Huntington Beach.

Moorlach said he plans to travel to Sacramento this week to get acclimated. He said he is working on hiring his staff and finding a location for his 37th District office. He said he would like it to be in Costa Mesa.

Because his start date is just before the spring legislative recess, Moorlach said he will not be able to submit any legislation but will still have plenty to do.

"I see myself dealing with what’s already there and doing a lot of research on issues that I find to be hot-button topics," he said.

Those include controlling the costs of medical benefits for retired state employees and putting an end to the so-called underground economy — in which businesses do not report payroll information or follow workers’ compensation law — a topic recently explored by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency.

"I certainly have constituents here in my district that are concerned about that," Moorlach said. "We’re gonna try to level the playing field and make sure those who aren’t playing fairly are routed out and honest businesses aren’t going broke because of it."

Moorlach also plans to fight plans for a toll lane for portions of the 405 Freeway in Orange County and examine the complex issues surrounding sober-living homes — a particular source of frustration in Costa Mesa neighborhoods.

"I’ll be keeping my staff busy," Moorlach said.



This e-mail has been sent by Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th Senate District.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Sen. Bob Huff — March 23, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff donned a Reyn Spooner and officiated my swearing in into the California State Senate yesterday afternoon. A photo is provided below. Thanks to all who were able to attend and pack out the Village of Hope auditorium. It was a very special and memorable ceremony and it provided a great venue to thank so many of our friends and supporters.

Speaking of Sen. Bob Huff, he leads the OC Register‘s "The Buzz" column, followed by statistics on the 37th Senatorial District race, in the article below.

From left to right are Monika Teuffel, her boyfriend Caleb Moorlach, Daniel Moorlach, myself, my wife, Trina, and Sen. Bob Huff at the Orange County Rescue Mission.

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GOP leader stays close to home to award ‘Woman of the Year’


State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff didn’t have to look far for the winner of his “Woman of the Year” award.

In fact, he only had to gaze across the dinner table.

The Diamond Bar legislator, whose district reaches into northeast Orange County, announced on St. Patrick’s Day that his choice was Mei Mei Huff.

“It’s my honor to select my wife as the Woman of the Year for the 29th Senate District, a tribute that she so richly deserves,” Huff said in a news release. “The contributions she has made to my Senate district and the state of California are well-documented and deserve recognition.”

Many state legislators name a woman of the year in March as part of Women’s History Month. The volume of releases threatens to clog my email box. But this is the first time I can recall a lawmaker honoring his own bride.

Huff’s release touts his wife as the “principal but non-paid liaison” from his office to the Chinese community and mentions Senate resolutions she played a role in – the recognition of the importance of Lunar New Year celebrations by Asian communities and a call on Congress to formally apologize for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

She has an MBA from St. John’s University and is a certified public accountant.

That’s a lot of talent for one household. And it reminded me that two GOP Asian American women were elected from Orange County to the Assembly this year, and two more were elected to the county Board of Supervisors, victories some portray as a trend. Huff is termed out in 2016. Think we might see a woman of the year run to succeed him?


Even by the benchmarks of recent record-setting low voter turnout, Tuesday’s special election for state Senate District 37 – won by former county Supervisor John ‍Moorlach – was dismal.

Both Orange County and the state set records for low turnout for a general election in November, at 45 percent and 42 percent respectively.

Special elections have far lower turnout, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that just 22.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the Jan. 27 race to fill a vacant county supervisor’s seat.

But even that number dropped considerably for Tuesday’s race, with just 15.7 percent of the district’s registered voters casting ballots. And most of those voted from home, with 86 percent casting mail ballots — up slightly from 84 percent in the January special election.

Thanks to an analysis by newsroom colleague Keegan Kyle, I can also report that Laguna Woods and Newport Beach were the only cities where voter turnout exceeded 25 percent in multiple precincts.

By comparison, Irvine and Costa Mesa reported the most precincts with turnout below 10 percent.


Catching up on a couple recent appointments of Orange County folks by Gov. Jerry Brown:

› Richard Harris, 71, of Villa Park has been reappointed to the California Apprenticeship Council, where he has served since 2007. Harris has been president at the Residential Contractors’ Association since 1987. Harris is a Republican.

› Paul Von Berg, 69, of Newport Coast also has been reappointed to the California Apprenticeship Council, where he has served since 2011. Von Berg was executive vice president at Brutoco Engineering and Construction from 1992 to 2012. Von Berg is registered without party preference. Compensation for California Apprentice Council members is a $100 per diem.

CONTACT THE WRITER: mwisckol; @martinwisckol

This e-mail was sent out by Senator John M. W. Moorlach.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Invitation for Sunday March 22

The election has been certified by Neal Kelley, the Orange County Registrar of Voters, and the Orange County Breeze covers it in the first piece below.

The LA Times also provides the news in the second piece below.

But the big news is the pace of activity since election night. I am receiving so many calls, texts and e-mails, that I’m having difficulty responding immediately. I’m hoping I can catch up a little today.

Tomorrow we will hold a swearing in ceremony in the District. This is your invitation to attend in person or view it with live streaming at if you are not able to be there due to distance. I’ll repeat this invitation in the BONUS section below.


You are invited to attend my swearing in ceremony this Sunday at 4 p.m.

The event will be held at the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope (see

There will be a small reception following the program. The dress code is Sunday afternoon casual, which means that Reyn Spooner shirts are recommended for the men.

Orange County Breeze

OC Registrar of Voters certifies election of John Moorlach in 37th Senate District special primary election

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach makes a point while speaking to members of the Cypress Chamber of Commerce on November 11, 2014. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

File photo by C.E.H. Wiedel of newly-elected California State Senator John Moorlach speaking to members of the Cypress Chamber of Commerce prior to the end of his term as Second District Orange County Supervisor.

Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley has just certified the official results of the 37th Senate District Special Primary Election held on March 17, 2015.

Total turnout from the election was 15.7% with 13.6% of voters casting their ballot by mail and 2.1% of voters voting in their polling place. Vote-by-mail voters represented 86.5% of the overall vote. In the 2009 72nd Assembly District Special Primary Election overall turnout was 18.3%, vote-by-mail voting was 14.0% and polling place voting was 4.3%.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters produces detailed reports focusing on overall turnout, turnout by precinct, turnout by districts, turnout by cities, and more. These detailed reports can be found by visiting in the “Results” section.

The article above was released by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.


Moorlach wins O.C. state Senate seat

By Patrick McGreevey

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has declared victory in the special election held two days earlier for a vacant state Senate seat after a final tally of ballots gave him 50.3% of the vote.

“I have a real love for this state and I’m looking forward to making it a better one,” Moorlach said late Thursday.

A Republican from Costa Mesa, Moorlach won the majority vote in the 37th Senate District required to win the seat outright, avoiding a May runoff with the second-place finisher, Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine). Wagner received 44.1% of the vote in the count released late Thursday.

Republican Naz Namazi placed third with 3.5% of the vote and write-in candidate Louise Stewardson, a Democrat, finished last.

The district includes the cities of Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Orange, Tustin and part of Anaheim. The seat was vacated after former Sen. Mimi Walters was elected to U.S. Congress in November.

Earlier Thursday, Sharon Runner took the oath of office to join the state Senate representing the 21st District after she was elected Tuesday as the sole candidate for the seat.

This e-mail was sent out by the successful Moorlach for Senate campaign.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Senator Elect — March 20, 2015

All of the votes have been counted. Here is the final shot from the Orange County Registrar of Voters website:

Registration and Turnout
Completed Precincts: 248 of 248
Reg/Turnout Percentage
Total Registered Voters 491,852
Precinct Registration 491,852
Precinct Ballots Cast 10,375 2.1%
Early Ballots Cast 0 0.0%
Vote-by-Mail Ballots Cast 66,746 13.6%
Total Ballots Cast 77,121 15.7%
STATE SENATOR 37th District, Short Term
Completed Precincts: 248 of 248
Vote Count Percentage
JOHN M. W. MOORLACH (REP) 38,111 50.3%
DONALD P. WAGNER (REP) 33,403 44.1%
NAZ NAMAZI (REP) 2,619 3.5%
Louise Stewardson (W) 1,695 2.2%

My opponent, Don Wagner, posted something conciliatory on his Facebook page today.

It looks like we can now move forward and go about the job of State Senator! I’m looking forward to working with my opponent and the rest of the Republicans in the Legislature.


You are invited to attend my swearing in ceremony this Sunday at 4 p.m.

The event will be at the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope (see

Our Master of Ceremonies will be former Tustin City Councilman, and the Rescue Mission’s CEO, Jim Palmer. The invocation will be led by Kindred Community Church Senior Pastor Philip De Courcy. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait will lead the pledge of allegiance. And the Honorable State Senator Bob Huff, California’s State Senate Minority Leader, will officiate the swearing in. There will be a small reception following the program. The dress code is Sunday afternoon casual, which means that Reyn Spooner shirts are recommended for the men.

The OC Register covers the final vote count in the firs piece below. It is followed by a kind letter to the editor. The Daily Pilot provides a closing column by Barbara Venecia on the campaign in the third piece. And we close with a recap by The Sacramento Bee, a newspaper I’m sure I’ll be more involved with in the months and years to come.

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John Moorlach prevails in race to fill state Senate seat




John Moorlach’s successful bid to fill Orange County’s vacant state Senate seat became a mathematical certainty Thursday evening, with all ballots on hand tallied by election workers and only a smattering of late mail ballots expected to arrive today.

The former county supervisor took 50.3 percent of the vote, winning the majority needed to avoid a runoff in the four-person race. He had 4,600 more votes than Assemblyman Don Wagner, who had 44.1 percent. Both are Republicans and were running in a heavily GOP district.

Moorlach was all business after Thursday’s results were posted.

“I’ve been working getting ready, going through emails looking at people who want to work for me and so forth,” said Moorlach, who had expressed confidence of victory after Wednesday’s tally.

He said he planned a quiet celebration with his wife, Trina, and would hold a public swearing-in ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday at Orange County Rescue Mission auditorium in Tustin.

The Costa Mesa resident gained attention in 1994, when he predicted the county’s bankruptcy and then as he helped the county recover while serving as county treasurer. He said he was eager to get to work in Sacramento, despite being in the minority party.

“I have no illusions of grandeur,” said Moorlach, 59. “But I have 20 years of experience and I do have relationships. I’ve had a relationship with the governor since he was attorney general, and he understands my concerns. I look forward to working with him and to doing what I can to improve the state.”

Wagner, who will be termed out of the Assembly next year, could not immediately be reached for comment.


Moorlach the right choice for Orange County

Re: “‍Moorlach closing in on win” [Local, March 19]: The political scene in Orange County is just fraught with disappointment nowadays, but the election of John ‍Moorlach to the 37th District State Senate seat gives me such hope for the future. Those who voted for John ‍Moorlach were not deterred by his opposition’s deceptive ads, big bankroll (how much was union money?) or the fact that most, if not all, of the county’s elected officials endorsed him – that alone sends a message. With John ‍Moorlach, we elected principled, honest, industrious, great family man who will make a difference in Sacramento.

Betty Robinson


Daily Pilot

Moorlach’s steady record of accomplishment

By Barbara Venezia

Taking my little rescue dog, Stasha, for a walk Tuesday night, I decided to stop into John Moorlach’s state Senate campaign headquarters, since it was right down the street in Santa Ana Heights.

About six weeks ago, the former county supervisor set up shop on the grounds next door to the Village Crean, an estate owned by Jim and Johanna Townsend.

The Townsends go way back with Moorlach, to his days before public office when he worked as a certified public accountant. They were his clients and grew into friends.

"Jim actually drove me to the registrar’s office the first time I ran against Citron," Moorlach told me. Bob Citron was Orange County’s treasurer-tax collector when it declared bankruptcy in 1994.

The Townsends gave the recent Moorlach campaign use of office space and a conference room on the property.

"It was an in-kind donation, and I reported it," Moorlach made sure he told me.

It’s kind of interesting that he set up in Santa Ana Heights, because that’s really where his career as supervisor began.

In the months before then-Supervisor Jim Silva left office in 2006, I contacted Moorlach since he was the heir apparent to the seat.

I urged him to get involved with the Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency, since redevelopment agency projects had been belabored for decades.

As chairwoman of that organization’s project advisory committee, I explained the bureaucratic roadblocks we’d experienced, some of which Silva had created.

Moorlach jumped in with both feet.

During his time as supervisor, the redevelopment agency would close, but not before he achieved eastern and western Santa Ana Heights annexation to Newport Beach, construction of the Santa Ana fire station and Mesa Birch park, the undergrounding of wires, a partial Mesa/Cypress Street recreational trail and more.

Tuesday night, in this same neighborhood, Moorlach took the lead to become our next senator and opened a new chapter. About 3,000 ballots remain to be counted, but at this writing he had enough of an edge to avoid a runoff against state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine.)

Eagerly anticipating election results, Moorlach was surrounded by supporters from all over the county, including Supervisor Shawn Nelson, county Treasurer Shari Freidenrich, former Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill, Newport Councilman Scott Peotter and former Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, to name a few.

When I got there the place was packed, and excitement was high as first results came in at 8:30 p.m.

Though Moorlach was happy he had a lead of 49%, and guests were congratulating him on the early returns, if that number didn’t get to 50%, plus 1, this race was far from over and he’d still have to face Wagner in a runoff.

"I was dreading two more months of this," he told me later.

As the night progressed, and Moorlach inched up every round, the energy at campaign headquarters was electric.

And when the last tally showed he’d achieved over 50%, cheering and yelling erupted. Though outstanding ballots remain, and a runoff remains technically possible, my hunch is he will pull this through.

The next morning I called Moorlach to see how he was faring.

He says he and his wife, Trina, were up till the wee hours talking and were excited about the likely win.

Wednesday morning he was overwhelmed with texts, emails and calls from well-wishers.

I asked if he’d heard from Wagner.

He said no and added, "If he’d won I would have called him."

I’m not surprised. Wagner’s attack mailers were ferocious.

After that sort of behavior, what can the guy say?

Gee, no hard feelings, it’s only politics?

Even hardcore politicos I have talked to behind the scenes were uncomfortable with the level of nastiness exhibited by Wagner’s campaign. In the end, it would be a strategy that apparently didn’t work.

But that’s all water under the bridge.

Moolrach, if his lead holds, will have to figure out everything from when and where he’s sworn into office, to new digs in Sacramento. He also has to hire staff. He’s already getting resumes for the 10 positions he’ll need to fill.

He tells me he’d like to be sworn into office in Orange County, rather than in Sacramento, and will contact the county to see if an appropriate place is available.

"Maybe the Muth Center or some place more centrally located in the district," he said.

As we spoke, I could sense he was experiencing many different emotions.

He was happy and deeply appreciative to everyone who helped, relieved the campaign was over and eager to get to work fixing our state.

A little bit of trivia about Moorlach – he’s a California history buff.

He loves this stuff and is like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the state.

Now he finds himself in a unique position.

"I’m sitting here pinching myself," he said. "I’m now part of California history…. And after reading all the history, this is incredible."

It certainly is.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1.

Republican declares victory in Orange County Senate race

By Christopher Cadelago

Republican John Moorlach claimed victory Thursday in the state Senate special election held Tuesday to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of recently elected Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

Moorlach, a former supervisor in Orange County, drew 50.3 percent of the vote in the four-person race, just enough to avoid a May runoff with Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, who drew 44 percent in an updated tally released late Thursday.

Wagner lost despite forging political alliances with most of the region’s leaders and influential donors in Sacramento. Republican Naz Namazi and Democrat Louise Stewardson, a write-in candidate, rounded out the field.

Moorlach, 59, is well-known in the district that stretches across Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Orange for his decades in local office. A fiscal hawk, he famously predicted the fiscal morass that gripped the county in the mid-1990s would lead to bankruptcy.

Tim Clark, Moorlach’s strategist, said all of the remaining votes from Tuesday’s special election have been counted. Moorlach plans to be sworn in Sunday at a ceremony held in the 37th District, Clark said.

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538.

Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.

This e-mail was sent out by the successful Moorlach for Senate campaign.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Victory at 50.3 — March 19, 2015

At 5:00 p.m. today, the Orange County Registrar of Voters counted the final 3,486 ballots. The final count shows me at 50.3 percent! I am claiming victory at 50.3!

I can now focus on getting sworn in and starting my civic duty as a California State Senator!

Since a roundtrip ticket to Sacramento is $500 per person out of John Wayne Airport, I thought it would be more special to hold my swearing in ceremony here in the 37th District. It will be on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Village of Hope’s Chapel at 1 Hope Drive in Tustin. You are officially invited. Please come.

I’ll try to send out a separate invitation in an e-mail and through our social media accounts. And I will remind you in my UPDATES through Sunday morning.

The OC Register provides the details of yesterday evening’s count in the first piece below. It also includes a quote from yesterday’s UPDATE! It is followed by the LA Times and the Orange County Breeze, which made a bold and accurate prediction six weeks ago (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Next Move — February 2, 2015). The fourth and final piece is from the Associated Press, which was published around the nation.

OC Register Logo

John Moorlach closes in on state Senate win


John Moorlach has begun packing for the job of Orange County’s newest member of the state Senate. A runoff is still mathematically possible, though, and opponent Don Wagner is holding out hope that uncounted ballots will swing dramatically in his favor.

Moorlach, a former county supervisor, needs a majority of all votes to avoid a runoff between the top two candidates. At the end of Tuesday’s election-night tallies, he stood at 50.4 percent. The 4,491 paper ballots counted Wednesday brought that total down just slightly, to 50.3 percent, with fellow Republican Wagner remaining at 44.1 percent.

There are 3,424 uncounted ballots in the elections office, with a few hundred more mail ballots expected to be delivered with Election Day postmarks. Moorlach needs about 44 percent of the remaining ballots to avoid a runoff.

Final results are expected by Friday.

“We think it’s getting difficult for us to fall below 50 percent,” Moorlach said Wednesday evening. “I’m operating as if I’ve won and I’m getting packed to go.”

However, he’s stopping short of flying to Sacramento on Thursday to be sworn in, despite an invitation from Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff.

“I wanted to wait for everything to settle,” said Moorlach, who is seeking to fill the seat vacated after Mimi Walters was elected to Congress in November. The Senate district extends from Anaheim Hills to Newport Beach.

Wagner, a Republican assemblyman, isn’t giving up yet.

“Anything can happen so we remain optimistic,” said Wagner consultant Jason Cabel Roe.

Late Tuesday night, a fair bit of celebrating by Moorlach and his supporters erupted when the day’s final results were posted, showing him over 50 percent for the first time.

“Everyone was screaming and had their hands stretched out to the ceiling with joy,” he recounted in a Wednesday email to supporters. “You would have thought someone scored a goal in the last few minutes of a World Cup soccer championship game. It was glorious. And it was an answer to many prayers.”

A win would mean Moorlach, 59, will continue a run in public office that began in 1995 when he was appointed county treasurer. He first garnered public attention the prior year when he warned of the likelihood of a county bankruptcy. His predictions were largely disregarded until bankruptcy was imminent.

Moorlach was subsequently elected and reelected treasurer and then elected to the county Board of Supervisors, where he served until being termed-out last year. The Dutch-born Costa Mesa resident’s tenure as supervisor is perhaps most notable for efforts to rein in public employee unions, particularly when it comes to pension expenses.

Moorlach’s campaign raised a relatively modest $185,000 to Wagner’s $494,000 through Election Day. He was buoyed from the outset by being better known in the district. And his campaign is reminiscent of a win by another financial underdog.

In November, Huntington Beach Councilman Matthew Harper upset Newport Beach Councilman Keith Curry in a race for Assembly, despite being outspent $181,000 to $566,000. Both Moorlach and Harper are known for their idealism, which sometimes takes precedence over pragmatism. Both faced vicious attacks from their opponents.

Harper thinks the hit pieces backfired in both cases.

“Voters don’t like negative campaigns that go over the top,” said Harper, who has praised both Moorlach and Wagner. “Money doesn’t always win, especially when you have voters who read the paper, go online, study the ballot statements.”


Former O.C. Supervisor John Moorlach holds lead in state Senate race

Supervisor John Moorlach

Supervisor John Moorlach
Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach leads the vote count for a state Senate seat.

By Patrick McGreevy

A day after a special election for a state Senate seat, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach held a slight majority of the vote on Wednesday, but 3,400 ballots remain to be counted before he will know whether he won outright or will face a May runoff.

Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, had 50.3% of the vote the day after Tuesday’s election, which, if it holds, would win him the 37th Senate District seat and avoid a May 19 runoff with Republican Assemblyman Donald Wagner of Irvine. Wagner had received 44.1% of the vote.

Republican Naz Namazi was placed third and write-in candidate Louise Stewardson, a Democrat, finished last with 2% of the vote.

Moorlach was better known in the district than his opponents, and negative ads attacking him from law enforcement groups might actually have helped him gain sympathy, according to Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican strategist who publishes a nonpartisan election guide.

“I think the strong union, independent expenditures might have backfired,” Hoffenblum said.

Moorlach, who also served as county treasurer to help Orange County recover from bankruptcy, said he has accomplished more than Wagner. “I’m not a glad-hander. I’ve been working hard and the voters knew it,” he said, adding that the attack mail was a “major turnoff” to voters.

Orange County Breeze

Moorlach takes initial lead in special election to fill empty State Senate seat

La Palma Days Parade, District 2 Supervisor John Moorlach

File photo by C.E.H. Wiedel at a prior year’s La Palma Days Parade, of District 2 County Supervisor John Moorlach waving to parade onlookers.

According to results released by the Orange County Registrar of Voters, as of about 10:30 a.m. this morning, John Moorlach leads Donald Wagner by 4221 votes in the special election held yesterday to fill the 37th District State Senate seat vacated by Mimi Walters after her successful Congressional campaign.

According to that tally, Moorlach received 34,208 votes (50.4%) and Donald Wagner received 29,987 votes (44.1%).

Naz Namazi received 2,359 votes (3.5%) and Louise Sewardson 1,368 votes (2.0%).

Of the total of 491,852 registered voters, only 69,071 (14%) cast any sort of ballot. Most (59,568) voted by mail, the remainder by precinct.

Once the count is certified, it would appear that Mr. Moorlach is going to Sacramento.

Cover art

Glazer, Bonilla appear headed to runoff for Senate seat

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - John Moorlach has maintained his majority-vote lead over fellow Republican Don Wagner in a special election for state Senate as more ballots are counted in Orange County.

Moorlach had 50.3 percent of the vote Wednesday after officials reported the results of nearly 4,500 additional ballots. Moorlach would avoid a runoff and win the 37th state Senate District seat outright if he clears the 50 percent threshold.

Wagner, a state assemblyman, had 44.1 percent despite a major fundraising advantage.

There are at least 2,200 mail-in ballots and provisional votes left to count in Orange County.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Democrats Steve Glazer and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla appeared headed to a May runoff in a divisive state Senate contest that saw special interest groups pour in more than $2.1 million.

This e-mail was sent by the successful Moorlach for Senate campaign.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Fifty Percent Plus One — March 18, 2015

I ran for State Senate because so many people said three things to me. "You did a great job as County Supervisor — Thank you!" "We’re going to miss you." "Can’t you run for something else?"

By yesterday afternoon, a fourth phrase started repeating over and over: "We’re praying for you!"

How to describe last night? All I can say is that it proved the power of prayer. People could not believe the onslaught of negativity being thrown my way. We decided to take the high road and the voters responded.

Let me share some campaign analysis. We knew we’d be attacked and that we would be heavily outspent. So, we launched our communications at a point in time when we knew we could have the best chance of matching the other side. That meant giving up the first 10 days or so.

The absentee ballots were released at 8:05 p.m. and had me at 49.7 percent. Coming in under 50 percent would mean another two months of continued balderdash from my main opponent and his labor union allies. That’s when I had my conversation with the OC Register, which was under a deadline, followed by the Daily Pilot.

At 9:30 p.m., the first one-third of the polling results were released and I moved up to 49.8 percent. Those that voted at the polls were favoring me by a strong margin. At 10:00 p.m., the next one-third of the votes moved me up to 49.9 percent.

Our strategy played itself out, as the early returns gave us 49.7% of the vote, but everything that came in thereafter gave us an average of 54.5% of the vote, putting us over-the-top. At 10:30 p.m., with the last one-third of the precincts reporting, I went over 50 percent plus one.

My headquarters was packed with supporters that stayed until this final release. The reaction was a loud cheer of approval. Everyone was screaming and had their hands stretched out to the ceiling with joy. You would have thought someone scored a goal in the last few minutes of a World Cup Soccer Championship game. It was glorious. And, it was an answer to many prayers.

After thanking my family and supporters and taking photos, I finally had a chance to be interviewed by the Voice of OC. What a night!

The number of texts I received was incredible. And the phone calls continue to come in. I’ll attack my e-mails soon.

The next chapter of my life started last night. It should be fun to see what happens next. I want to thank you for your thoughts and prayers, for your contributions and your volunteering to write your friends, to walk precincts, to address envelopes, and to call voters. Everyone played a critical role in this victory and you have ownership in the results. We did it and I am most grateful.

The first piece is from the Daily Pilot, which has the correct headline. It is followed by the Voice of OC, the OC Register, the Lake Forest Patch, and the LA Times, respectively. (There are more pieces, but this is enough for today.)

Daily Pilot

Moorlach overtakes rivals in special election

Former supervisor gets more than 50% of the vote, suggesting no runoff with closest competitor, attorney Don Wagner.

By Bradley Zint

Former county Supervisor John Moorlach appeared to have won Tuesday’s special election for the 37th state Senate district, defeating three challengers, including his closest rival, state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine).

With all 248 precincts reporting, Moorlach — termed-out earlier this year after two four-year terms on the Orange County Board of Supervisors — had 34,208 votes to 29,987 for Wagner, an attorney and assemblyman since 2010 for the 68th District. This gives Moorlach 50.4% to Wagner’s 44.1%.

Turnout was 14% of the nearly 492,000 registered voters in the 37th District, according to information provided by the registrar of voters.

Trailing the two men, both Republicans, were challengers Naz Namazi, a Republican from Irvine and congressional aide, and Louise Stewardson, a nurse and Democratic write-in candidate from Huntington Beach.

As of 10:30 p.m., Namazi had 3.5% of the votes to Stewardson’s 2%.

Moorlach, speaking from his campaign reception at an Upper Newport Bay home, said he was shooting to get at least 50% of the vote, which would end the election this week and avoid a runoff May 19.

“We just worked really hard,” he said of his campaign. “We had a great grassroots. We had to deal with an opponent who just couldn’t tell a straight story. It showed desperation. Thankfully, the voters so far could see through it.”

Earlier in the evening, Wagner said he remained “cautiously optimistic.”

“If we can get to a May runoff,” he said, “I feel good about my chances.”

Republican infighting marked much of the 37th election, with Moorlach taking the brunt of negative campaigning from Wagner and his supporters. Wagner, who called himself the conservative choice, was critical of Moorlach’s terms as supervisor, which included raising various fees and redecorating his office at a cost of about $200,000.

Wagner also managed to stay far ahead of his challengers in terms of fundraising: $371,000, according to the latest campaign filing date.

Moorlach, who raised about a third of that, touted his financial acumen as a certified public accountant and predictor of Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy. He was also critical of Wagner’s acceptance of campaign funds from labor unions.

“We were hammered by the union crowd,” Moorlach said. “They told a lot of falsehoods. We were just hoping the voters could see through the nonsense that they were receiving in the mail.”

More than 1,000 poll workers manned 189 polling stations Tuesday throughout the district, which includes a large swath of Orange County from Laguna Beach to Anaheim Hills. Of the 491,852 registered voters, about 42% are Republicans and nearly 29% are Democrats.

The 37th seat was vacated earlier this year by Mimi Walters, who left after being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

The state Senate term lasts through December 2016.


Moorlach Appears to Have Won 37th State Senate District Seat

By Norberto Santana Jr.

Despite having far less campaign cash and endorsements than his main opponent, former County Supervisor John Moorlach appears to have won a state Senate seat representing much of coastal and southern Orange County.

Moorlach maintained a sizable lead over state Assemblyman Don Wagner for most of the election night return updates posted late Tuesday after a St. Patrick’s Day special election to fill an office vacated when Congresswoman Mimi Walters won her seat back in November.

In the 10:30 p.m. update from the county Registrar of Voters, Moorlach was out in front with 50.4 percent in the contest for the 37th State Senate District. Wagner was behind with 44.1 percent.

Another candidate, Republican Naz Namazi, garnered 3.5 percent. Write-in candidate Louise Stewardson got 2.0 percent.

The latest results show vote-by-mail ballots and votes cast at all precincts on Election Day. It’s unclear how many ballots remain to be counted.

If Moorlach retains more than 50 percent of the vote after all ballots are counted, he’ll win outright and avoid a May runoff.

Tuesday’s special election is the latest in a series of intensifying election clashes between moderate, pro big-business factions and more fiscally conservative, libertarian-leaning wings of the OC GOP.

The political hit mail in the 37th State Senate race was particularly nasty.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs weighed in heavily on the race, leading a contingent of public safety unions and a few other labor groups who spent in excess of a six-figure sum to oppose Moorlach through independent mailers attacking him. Moorlach earned law enforcement union officials’ ire after unsuccessfully waging a lawsuit against retroactive pension benefits for deputies.

That effort bolstered Wagner’s 4-1 fundraising advantage over Moorlach, with more than $371,000 for campaign operations and mailers.

Just like November’s mayoral election in Anaheim – where Mayor Tom Tait stood in stark contrast to an array of business interests like Disney and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas – Moorlach found himself standing up against just about every member of Orange County’s political establishment with nearly every countywide and state official endorsing Wagner.

Wagner slammed Moorlach, 59, as an ideologue who can’t work with others and sees nearly every public policy initiative through the lens of an accountant who concludes that virtually all government is a boondoggle.

He criticized the former CPA – credited with pointing out the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy – for running “a scurrilous, negative campaign based on the principle that ‘everybody is wrong except me, John Moorlach.’ "

“That’s how he has conducted his public career,” Wagner said. “You either agree with John or you are stupid, and bad and a sellout.”

Wagner, 54, offered himself as a sensible conservative that can work with business and unions and others with the aim of crafting broad-based policy.

“I can vote no without voting ‘hell no’ or poking you in the eye,” said Wagner, a former school board member and Irvine resident who has served two terms in the state Assembly.

Moorlach – who has indeed always kept a fairly independent profile since taking over the treasurer-tax collector’s office after the county bankruptcy – summed up the mountain of endorsements arrayed against him simply.

“Crony capitalism,” said Moorlach, taking aim at much of Orange County’s political establishment.

Independent, libertarian-minded Republican candidates like Moorlach, Tait and Supervisor Shawn Nelson are increasingly running against establishment interests.

The three are all largely opposed to business subsidies and the rising costs of public sector pensions.

Both Tait and Nelson, who are Moorlach’s main endorsements, won their contests against the establishment handily.

Policy battles between the libertarian and big-business OC GOP factions in recent years have centered around subsidies for large public sector projects like Anaheim’s multi-million dollar transportation center called ARTIC, a street car system in Santa Ana, subsidized sports stadiums and installing toll lanes on Interstate 405.

On most of those issues, Tait, Nelson and Moorlach have found themselves as lone no-votes slamming subsidies while their colleagues have supported the projects.

OC Register Logo

Moorlach leads in O.C. state Senate race


Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach was leading Assemblyman Don Wagner by more than 6 percentage points after the first round of vote counting in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant state Senate District 37 seat.

That tally included most mail ballots and all the precincts. It’s possible uncounted paper ballots could alter the results.

Moorlach had 50.4 percent and Wagner had 44.1 percent, despite Wagner raising three times as much money. Naz Namazi had 3.5 percent. All three are Republicans. Write-in Democrat Louise Stewardson was named on 2 percent of ballots tallied.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote after all the votes are counted, the top two will vie in a May 19 run off.

Moorlach was subdued after the early returns, despite leading.

"I would prefer to be above 50 percent," Moorlach said. "It would be nice to get this over with tonight. We have to wait and see and enjoy the nail biter."

Wagner was similarly low key.

"We may have to go to May," Wagner said. "I know I started with a significant disadvantage in name ID. John is very well known in the district. But I’m not crestfallen. Worst-case scenario is I finish out my term in the Assembly and go back to private life."

Wagner was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and is termed out next year. Moorlach was forced to step down as supervisor last year because of term limits.

The vacancy in the district, which extends from Anaheim Hills to Laguna Beach, was created after Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, was elected to Congress in November.

Moorlach and Wagner share similar positions on most issues, including advocacy for small government and low taxes. But their campaigns were shaped by distinctly different dynamics.

Wagner began preparing for a possible Senate bid in early 2014, lining up donations and key GOP endorsements long before others began openly considering a run.

Moorlach’s entry into the race in January landed him immediately on top in terms of name identification, thanks to notoriety gained when he warned of the county’s 1994 bankruptcy and his subsequent stints as county treasurer and county supervisor.

He’s also made headlines as a leading advocate for reining in public employee pension costs.

Wagner’s campaign countered with superior fundraising, bringing in $371,000 to Moorlach’s $118,000 through the most recent reporting period.

Wagner was also boosted by the endorsements of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, three local members of Congress and 23 state legislators.

Also helping Wagner were public safety unions, which spent more than $100,000 in independent expenditures on his behalf.

Moorlach pointed to that union spending in an effort to portray Wagner as a tool of the unions, while Wagner said he did nothing to solicit the help.

With Republicans voters holding a 13 percentage point advantage in the district’s voter registration, Democrats did not mount a competitive campaign.

The first round of mail and precinct ballots showed Moorlach receiving 34,208 votes, Wagner getting 29,987, Namazi at 2,359 and Stewardson bringing in 1,368.

Moorlach Wins State Senate Race, Avoids Runoff By a Hair

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach will represent Lake Forest, elected with a 50.4 percent majority.

By Paul Anderson

Moorlach Wins State Senate Race, Avoids Runoff By a Hair

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach won today’s special election in the 37th Senate District, drawing slightly more than half the vote to avoid a runoff.

Moorlach had 50.4 percent of the vote, with all 248 precincts counted, according to figures released by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, was second with 44.1 percent and Naz Namazi, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, third at 3.5 percent.

All three candidates on the ballot are Republicans.

Democrat Louise Stewardson, a registered nurse and small business owner, was a certified write-in candidate, receiving 2 percent of the vote.

The special election was necessitated by the election of Mimi Walters to Congress.

The district includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, Lake Forest, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Newport Beach, Tustin and Villa Park as well as portions of Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach and most of Orange.

Moorlach, who once unsuccessfully tried to persuade his colleagues on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to change its term limits so he could run for a third term, told City News Service he decided to run for the Senate seat because so many of his well-wishers asked him to do it.

Wagner was endorsed by Walters.

  • City News Service


By Patrick McGreevy

Voters send Republican Sharon Runner back to state Senate

Voters on Tuesday sent Republican Sharon Runner back to the state Senate three years after she underwent a double lung transplant. She was the only candidate on the ballot for a special election in a district representing parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

There was more drama in two other special elections held Tuesday for Senate seats.

With all precincts reporting in the 37th Senate District, former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach of Costa Mesa won 50.4% of the vote over fellow Republican and Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner of Irvine, who had 44.1%. If the numbers hold after counting of provisional ballots, Moorlach will win the Senate seat outright, avoiding a May runoff election.

Congressional aide Naz Namazi, a Republican from Irvine, finished third in that race.

In a special election for a third open Senate seat in the Bay Area, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer garnered 32.8% of the vote while fellow Democrat and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord received 24.9% of the vote, setting up a runoff contest in May.

Glazer, a former advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, was targetted for defeat by organized labor after he previously opposed strikes by transit workers and worked for candidates that competed with labor-backed contenders.

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo placed third, while Republican candidate Michaela Hertle was in fourth place, with a significant number of votes, even though she had dropped her candidacy and endorsed Glazer. Scientist Terry Kremin, a Democrat from Concord placed a distant last.

The three Senate seats were vacated after incumbents Mimi Walters, Steve Knight and Mark DeSaulnier won election to Congress in November.

The election does not affect the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority of seats, having lost their former supermajority in the November elections.

Runner, who left the Senate in 2012, was the only candidate on the ballot in the 21st Senate District, where her only opposition came from a half-dozen lesser known write-in candidates who received small numbers of votes.

“I feel great,” Runner said from her victory party at the Lemon Leaf Café in her hometown of Lancaster. Her election caps a remarkable comeback from a rare auto-immune disease that required her to undergoing a double lung transplant in February 2012.

“It’s pretty miraculous to be able to come back again and serve,” Runner said. “I’m kind of a comeback story. I’m excited that I am getting back there” to Sacramento.

Runner, 60, had served in the Assembly and was elected to the Senate in 2011 in a special election but decided not to run for reelection the next year so she could devote herself to recovering her health.


Twitter: @mcgreevy99

This e-mail was sent to you from the successful Moorlach for Senate campaign.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Truth Teller — March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My two adorable grandchildren have a St. Patrick’s greeting for you at MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Vote on Tuesday — March 15, 2015.

The election is finally here! It’s time to vote. There are many media stories today announcing the obligation. I’m providing three of them below.

The first piece is from the OC Register. It’s editorial board has endorsed me. One sentence I want to emphasize is that I possess a "track record as a knowledgeable truth teller." I have been in the public eye for more than 25 years. I have provided most of the media articles that I have been in on my blog, see I can safely say that I have always told you the truth.

The disappointment in this campaign is that my opponent has no problem telling falsehoods about me. I never raised a tax. I don’t receive a defined benefit pension of more than $100,000 a year. And I could go on.

I don’t believe that anything that I’ve said or printed about my opponent was untrue. When reporters try to find a distinction between the two of us, as the Voice of OC does in the second piece below, I can tell you that I have always told the truth.

No matter the outcome of tonight’s vote — win, lose or draw — I have kept my integrity intact. It would be great to win and serve this wonderful District, but I did not stoop to falsehoods and smear tactics in order to do so. And, if the voters have been fooled by the negative hit pieces of my opponent and his public safety employee union supporters, I can rest in the closing sentence of the OC Register‘s editorial in that I have accomplished a great deal on behalf of those I have represented.

With that, I want to thank all of my volunteers and contributors. We have walked nearly all of the precincts that were identified for a personal touch. We hoped to raise $200,000 in order to get our message out, and we exceeded that. I am most grateful. If you can come by the headquarters this evening, I would love to share my gratitude in person.

My News LA provides a third overview of the campaign in the third and final piece below.

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John Moorlach for state Senate

In today’s 37th state Senate District special election, former Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, Assemblyman Don Wagner and Naz Namazi look to replace Mimi Walters, now in Congress.

Mr. Moorlach possesses a track record as a knowledgeable truth teller willing to rock the boat on behalf of the taxpayer. He has our endorsement to represent a district that includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, Lake Forest, Laguna Woods, Tustin, Villa Park and sizeable portions of Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Orange.

Mr. Moorlach entered politics in the early 1990s in an attempt to avert looming financial disaster, predicting Orange County’s 1994 insolvency, the largest municipal bankruptcy in history at that time. He lost the race for treasurer-tax collector but was appointed to the job when the crisis he predicted arrived.

Mr. Moorlach was instrumental in putting the county back on an even fiscal footing, serving nearly 12 years as treasurer-tax collector before joining the supervisors.

On the board, Mr. Moorlach was a reliable voice for good fiscal stewardship and instituting much-needed pension reforms, including championing a Civic Openness in Negotiation ordinance for new contracts with the county’s employee unions.

Now, Mr. Moorlach can bring those talents to Sacramento, which is much in need of his style of fiscally prudent governance. There is much to do to reform employee pensions and retiree health care costs, lower taxes, reduce regulations, improve the state’s business climate, foster school choice and more local control of schools and audit state spending, he told us.

Mr. Moorlach also told us he will be an unwavering voice for the county, and will work to secure a fairer formula for state funding of county government, which has seen our county give far more to the state than it has received for decades.

John Moorlach has accomplished a great deal for those he has represented, and we think he can achieve a great deal more as a state senator.

State Senate Election Pits Republicans Against Themselves

The candidates for the upcoming state Senate election for the 37th district: Former county supervisor John Moorlach (left) and Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Tustin). (Photos by Nick Gerda and Norberto Santana Jr.)

The candidates for the upcoming state Senate election for the 37th district: Former county supervisor John Moorlach (left) and Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Tustin). (Photos by Nick Gerda and Norberto Santana Jr.)

By Norberto Santana Jr.

On it’s face, Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacant state Senate seat representing a good chunk of coastal and South Orange County could be expected to be pretty bland, given that both of the Republican front runners’ voting patterns aren’t very different on most conservative, bread and butter issues.

But underneath that veneer, the race between state Assemblyman Don Wagner and former County Supervisor John Moorlach features the latest in a series of intensifying election clashes between moderate, pro big-business factions and more fiscally conservative, libertarian-leaning wings of the OC GOP.

Judging from the political hit mail, the race for the 37th State Senate District seat is shaping up to be one of the nastiest ones yet.

Just like last November’s mayoral election in Anaheim – where Mayor Tom Tait stood in stark contrast to an array of business interests like Disney and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas – Moorlach finds himself standing up against just about every member of Orange County’s political establishment.

Wagner slams Moorlach, 59, as an ideologue who can’t work with others and sees nearly every public policy initiative through the lens of an accountant who concludes that virtually all government is a boondoggle.

He criticizes the former CPA – credited with pointing out the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy – for running “a scurrilous, negative campaign based on the principle that ‘everybody is wrong except me, John Moorlach.’ "

“That’s how he has conducted his public career,” Wagner said. “You either agree with John or you are stupid, and bad and a sellout.”

Wagner, 54, sees himself as a sensible conservative that can work with business and unions and others with the aim of crafting broad-based policy.

“I can vote no without voting ‘hell no’ or poking you in the eye,” said Wagner, a former school board member and Irvine resident who has served two terms in the state Assembly.

Moorlach – who has indeed always kept a fairly independent profile since taking over the treasurer-tax collector’s office after the county bankruptcy – sums up the mountain of endorsements arrayed against him simply.

“Crony capitalism,” said Moorlach, taking aim at much of Orange County’s political establishment.

Orange County Republican candidates like Moorlach – independent, libertarian-minded ideologues – much like Tait before him and Supervisor Shawn Nelson before both of them, are increasingly running against establishment interests.

Moorlach, Tait and Nelson are all largely opposed to business subsidies and the rising costs of public sector pensions.

So far, both Tait and Nelson have won their contests against the establishment handily. Moorlach hopes to do the same.

Tait and Nelson are Moorlach’s main endorsements.

Policy battles between the libertarian and business OC GOP factions in recent years have centered around subsidies for large public sector projects like Anaheim’s multi-million dollar transportation center called ARTIC, a street car system in Santa Ana, subsidized sports stadiums and installing toll lanes on Interstate 405.

On most of those issues, Tait, Nelson and Moorlach have found themselves as lone no-votes slamming subsidies while their colleagues have supported the projects.

Moorlach argues that special interests have little impact on him because he hasn’t had to cut any deals with them to get into office.

“It is very difficult and very intimidating,” to go up against the Orange County Business Council and their interests, Moorlach said. “But it’s also rewarding that I’m running a campaign funded by individuals…friends are stepping up. I have no PAC (political action committee) money. I have no union money. I’m an independent, free spirit. That’s comforting. Win, lose or draw, I’m not in anyone’s pocket. And that’s what frustrates the crowd I’m up against. A lot of these electeds are concerned about being in elective office. I’m concerned about doing elective office.”

On this front, Wagner is the exact opposite.

“All of the folks that I’m working with up in Sacramento are backing me and all of the folks that John is working with in Orange County are backing me,” Wagner said. “That tells you something.”

Wagner has the support of Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. He’s also got endorsements from just about every single countywide elected colleague that has served with Moorlach on the Board of Supervisors along with most of the elected class currently serving in Sacramento.

In addition to that, Wagner has attracted significant independent spending against Moorlach from his old foes at the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs – who were engaged in years of litigation against the County of Orange because of efforts by Moorlach to question the legality of retroactive pension benefits.

AOCDS and another statewide law enforcement group have spent more than $100,000 against Moorlach on mail, robo calls and Facebook advertising. Moorlach, in turn, has been supported by about $25,000 in mailers funded by Howard Ahmanson, Jr.

Direct fundraising tells a similar tale.

Wagner has outraised Moorlach more than four to one.

According to the latest disclosures filed with the California Secretary of State, Wagner had raised just over $371,000 while Moorlach’s fundraising didn’t break the six-figure mark.

While Moorlach has made much of his name off opposing pensions, much of the traditional labor foes that would be expected to raise money against him appear to be sitting this one out, even though Moorlach has attempted to frame the race as one against big unions, with Wagner being portrayed as a beholden to labor interests.

Yet Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, summed up his organization’s approach simply: “Regarding this race, my money and time will be spent buying popcorn to watch these two right wingers beat the shit out of each other.”

Judging from the ferocity and quantity of independent last-minute hit mail against Moorlach, most observers agree it indicates that the former county supervisor and treasurer-tax collector has high name ID.

Wagner readily acknowledges Moorlach’s name ID advantage as well as his efforts to cast Moorlach’s populist, and apparently popular, record in a different light.

“John thinks his record is a lot more positive than I do,” Wagner said.

He has hit Moorlach on his support of fee increases during his tenure as a county supervisor. Wagner said those are tax increases. Moorlach said those votes kept taxpayers from having to subsidize specific interests that should be supported by their own fees.

Wagner also has hit Moorlach as pro-amnesty for undocumented immigrants, a charge that Moorlach scoffs at.

He’s also made a point of hitting Moorlach on his steadfast support for his own government pension. According to Wagner, Moorlach’s former colleague Pat Bates, who is no now in the state Senate, slams Moorlach, saying he could have refused a government pension as a county supervisor just like she and Nelson did.

Moorlach counters that he’s never opposed the concept of public pensions, only that employees need to pay into them and that the benefit structure is too high. While he was slammed for years for not paying into his own pension, Moorlach counters that he started paying into it just when other managers agreed to do so.

The two men are likely to bring a very different game to Sacramento.

Moorlach said he’s sharpening his accountant’s pencil.

“I want to dig. I want to play with numbers. Work with the state auditor. Follow up on reports. Do my own analysis,” Moorlach said, noting that he’s worried about a mountain of debt affecting the state and is unafraid to sound alarm bells.

Wagner said that kind of approach shows why Moorlach won’t be successful in Sacramento on behalf of his constituents.

“He has no idea how it works up there,” Wagner said. “We have tons of accountants up here.”

Being a red county in a blue state requires lots of careful work on establishing priorities and getting legislation passed, Wagner said. In addition to that, he said other challenges include helping your area get what it needs from the state, along with trying to get sensible, conservative policies adopted.

Ironically, neither candidate has any kind of concrete plan for moving Orange County out of the bottom of the pile when it comes to property tax equity – given that OC gets one of the lowest percentages of property tax dollars of any major county back from Sacramento.

County officials recently adopted a legislative platform that makes this their number-one priority when it comes to Sacramento, arguing that every problem in Orange County is related to poor tax equity from the state.

The 37th District includes eastern Anaheim, Orange, Villa Park, Tustin, North Tustin, Costa Mesa, Irvine, part of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Lake Forest and unincorporated areas.

Norberto Santana Jr. can be contacted at nsantana.


Special election being held in O.C. state senate district

A special election will be held Tuesday in the 37th Senate District to fill the vacancy caused by Mimi Walters’ election to Congress.

All three candidates on the ballot are Republicans — former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, and Naz Namazi, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

Democrat Louise Stewardson, a registered nurse and small business owner, is a certified write-in candidate.

The district includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, Lake Forest, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Newport Beach, Tustin and Villa Park as well as portions of Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach and most of Orange.

Moorlach, who once unsuccessfully tried to persuade his colleagues on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to change its term limits so he could run for a third term, told City News Service he decided to run for the Senate seat because so many of his well-wishers asked him to do it.

Wagner, who represents the 68th Assembly District, could not be immediately reached for comment. He represents Lake Forest, Tustin, North Tustin, Villa Park, most of Orange and portions of Anaheim and Irvine.

Wagner, who was endorsed by Walters, said in his candidate statement that he will “strongly support a balanced budget, with no new taxes.” He also criticized the state’s “over-regulation and over-taxation,” which he says can “stifle business success and economic growth.”

Moorlach’s rationale for running is much the same. In an interview with City News Service, he recalled having lunch with a chief executive of a large company a few years ago in its La Jolla headquarters.

When it came time to build a larger facility, the CEO said he heard from representatives of several western states, but not California.

“Within a short time after that they had their plant up and running in Phoenix, Arizona,” Moorlach said. “We’ve got to find a good balance between trying to protect our air and water and keeping jobs here in California.”

Moorlach, long a champion of pension reform, called the new law pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown ” a good start” but said he would push for more in Sacramento.

Namazi, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social ecology from UC Irvine, calls herself a “Reagan Republican,” whose family fled Iran during the revolution in 1979, according to her website.

Turnout is expected to reach about 22 to 25 percent, said Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley.

Kelley’s office received nearly 57,600 absentee ballots as of Monday, Kelley said. Turnout on election day is expected to be about 8 percent, Kelley said.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If no candidate receives a majority, a runoff with the top two finishers will be held May 19.

—Staff and wire reports

This e-mail was sent by the Moorlach for Senate campaign —

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Reasons to Vote Tomorrow — March 16, 2015

If I haven’t given you enough reasons to vote for me tomorrow, the OC Register provides several more in the piece below. Note — I am honored to have received the OC Register‘s endorsement in this race (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — OC Register Endorsement — February 15, 2015).

If I obtain enough votes to achieve a majority of 50 percent, plus one, then the taxpayers will not have to underwrite the general election scheduled for May 19. The taxpayers would also not have to underwrite the special primary and/or general election(s) needed to replace my opponent.

Here’s another way to look at it. For those of you in the District that are annoyed by the robo-calls (even though they are a customary tool in campaigns), you could stop them tomorrow by voting for me.

If you’re a registered voter in the 37th Senate District, and you have not voted already with an absentee ballot, please go to the polls tomorrow and vote.

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Wave of fresh legislators in Orange County likely to subside

Now it will be several years before most incumbents will be termed out.



Orange County’s big turnover of state legislators last year could continue well into this summer, depending on the outcome of the St. Patrick’s Day special election for state Senate District 37.

But it could be at least 2024 before the county sees much change again.

With the November election, incumbents vacated all but three of the county’s 12 state legislative seats. That could shrink to two if Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, prevails over former Supervisor John Moorlach in Tuesday’s Senate race and leaves his current post.

Term limits are a key reason for the recent volatility. But term limits will force only one or two of the current incumbents out in the next four election cycles, depending on the fate of Wagner. Wagner is termed out of the Assembly in 2016.

Orange County is hardly alone in this phenomenon.

Statewide, 20 of 120 legislators are termed out in 2016, according to Paul Mitchell at Political Data Inc. That drops to six in 2018, 10 in 2020 and eight in 2022. The Assembly could prove particularly stable during that period, as none of its 80 members are termed out in 2018, 2020 or 2022.

Given the insurmountable advantage incumbents often have, the campaign business could suffer a blow.

“Your political consultant may need a hug after seeing this chart,” Mitchell quipped in his tweet of a graphic detailing the statistics.

The dip in term-limited legislators stems in part from the 2012 passage of Proposition 28, which allows lawmakers to serve 12 years total in either chamber. Previously, officials could serve a maximum of six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

As for the county’s legislative elections extending into the summer, here’s one way that could happen:

Nobody receives more than 50 percent in the Moorlach-Wagner contest, provided two long-shot candidates draw enough votes from the two top contenders. That would mean a May 19 runoff. If Wagner wins that, a special election for his Assembly seat would probably be held in early July. And if nobody wins a majority in that race, we’re probably looking at a September runoff.

Contact the writer: mwisckol

This e-mail was sent by the Moorlach for Senate campaign —

Those willing to assist financially can go to, call Phyllis Schneider at 714-368-0260, or mail a check made out to Moorlach for Senate 2015, and mail it to 360 E. 1st Street, #736, Tustin, CA, 92780.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Vote on Tuesday — March 15, 2015

The election is Tuesday, March 17th, and the media is ramping up for the big day.

Displaying IMG_4557.JPG

The Daily Pilot provides a letter to the editor from Gene Hutchins in the first piece below. Gene does not comment often, but when he does, he is usually right (see MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — May 10, 2010). The letter also made it to the OC Register‘s Commentary section. The second piece is also from the Daily Pilot and it announces Tuesday’s election. The OC Register has its perspective on the race and it is provided in the third piece below.

The OC Register also has a review of inspections done by County personnel in the fourth and final piece. I want to remind you that I have not raised any of your taxes (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Missed the Mark — March 2, 2015). However, I have voted for raising certain fees (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Restuarant Inspections — November 26, 2014). This responsibility comes with an executive position. Holding to a strident opposition to raising fees can lead a municipality into willful neglect, such as failing to adequately monitor restaurants for potential food borne diseases.

So, by doing right in protecting your personal safety, I am being attacked by my opponent for raising fees. Let’s hope that the voters have enough discernment and good judgment to see that my fiscal stewardship at the County of Orange was focused on doing the right thing and not focused on avoiding "hit pieces."

BONUS: I want to invite all of our campaign volunteers and donors to the headquarters Tuesday night at 8 p.m. to watch the vote results. The absentee ballot results will be provided by the Registrar of Votes at 8:05 p.m. Let me thank you, once again, for all of your hard work. I am most grateful.

DOUBLE BONUS: Your polling place may not be at the usual location for this Tuesday’s Special Election, as the ballot only contains one item. Consequently, the Registrar of Voters is not providing as many polling locations.

How can you find your polling place?

1) Look on your Sample Ballot. It is on the front of your booklet.

Don’t have your Sample Ballot?

2) Go to

Type in your street number and then the street name (do NOT include Circle, Street, Drive, etc.) and click "Submit." Click on the address that matches yours and your polling location will be provided.

You may also hand deliver your completed Absentee Ballot to any polling place in the 37th Senate District.

It is critical that you vote. Thank you.

Daily Pilot

Why are unions spending on Wagner?

Why are public employee unions spending hundreds of thousands trying to elect Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) to the California Senate? Because one of his opponents, former Supervisor John Moorlach, is a certified public accountant who fully understands how major increases in public employee pensions have created huge unfunded liabilities for California and all Orange County cities. Increases as much as 50% have allowed pensions to be higher than regular pay. These liabilities will be paid by current and future generations over the next 30 years.

Laws promoted by public employee union money created this pension mess, and legislation is now needed to limit the damage to California and our cities. Unions do not want Moorlach’s financial expertise and voice in the state Senate, and that is why they are funding Wagner’s campaign.

Gene Hutchins

Costa Mesa

The writer is a member of the Costa Mesa Pension Oversight Committee.

Special election set for Tuesday

A special election to fill the vacant seat for the 37th state Senate district is being held Tuesday.

Throughout the district — a wide swath of Orange County from Laguna Beach to Anaheim Hills — nearly 1,000 poll workers are scheduled to man 189 polling stations, according to county registrar data.

Voters will have four candidates to choose from: state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine); former county Supervisor John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa; Naz Namazi, a Republican congressional aide from Irvine; and Democratic write-in candidate Louise Stewardson, a nurse from Huntington Beach.

The winner will take the seat vacated by Mimi Walters, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last fall. The term lasts through December 2016.

The district is made up of nearly 500,000 registered voters, about 42% of them Republicans and 28.6% Democrats.

As of Friday, registrar officials said they’ve received 56,388 mail-in ballots, an 11.45% turnout so far.

The 37th state Senate district includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and portions of Anaheim and Huntington Beach.

For more information on finding polling places and candidates, visit

—Bradley Zint

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District 37 seen as being down to John ‍Moorlach, Don Wagner.



The biggest difference between Don Wagner and John ‍Moorlach, the top candidates in Tuesday’s special election for state Senate, can’t be found in the campaign mailers and automated phone calls besieging voters in recent weeks.

Despite back-and-forth attacks regarding unions, public pensions and immigration, the veteran conservatives have virtually identical positions on those – and most other – issues.

But ‍Moorlach, a former county supervisor and treasurer, and Wagner, an assemblyman, approach their work in the political arena in ways that offer voters a distinct choice.

“‍Moorlach is more of an idealist,” said Fred Smoller, a Chapman University political scientist. “He doesn’t do the political calculations – he does what he believes. He certainly will be more independent. He goes after big, important issues even if he loses.

“Wagner is a better politician. He networks. He is more pragmatic. He would rather win on less critical issues than fight the good fight with no real accomplishment.”

Wagner, 54, and ‍Moor‍‍lach, 59, are joined by two other candidates vying to represent Senate District 37, which reaches from Anaheim Hills to Laguna Beach. The seat was vacated by Republican Mimi Walters after she was elected to Congress in November.

Garnering less attention is first-time candidate Naz Namazi, an Irvine Republican and aide to GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher – though Rohrabacher has endorsed Wagner. The sole Democrat running is registered nurse Louise Stewardson, a write-in hopeful from Huntington Beach facing Republicans’ daunting 13-point edge in voter registration.

Neither Namazi, 47, nor Stewardson, 60, are expected to be strong challengers. But they could draw enough votes to keep the leading candidates from winning more than 50 percent. Without that majority, the top two finishers advance to a May 19 runoff.


Moorlach‍’‍s independent streak landed him in the public spotlight in 1994, when the accountant and candidate for county treasurer trumpeted his belief that the county was on the brink of bankruptcy. He was ridiculed, called Chicken Little. Then came the bankruptcy, his appointment as treasurer, and a vanity plate for his Impala SS that read “SKYFELL.”

Moorlach went on to serve on the Board of Supervisors from 2006 to 2014, when he stepped down because of term limits. While on the board, he attracted headlines for efforts to roll back public employee union pensions. He was largely unsuccessful, but became a leading champion of the cause. Those efforts have earned him the enmity of public employee unions in the county and across the state. Those unions have spent more than $100,000 in independent expenditures to defeat him.

Republican Assemblyman Matthew Harper, whose district is nestled within Senate District 37, concurs with Smoller’s assessment of the two candidates, noting ‍Moorlach‍’‍s idealism and Wagner’s superior efforts at helping the GOP in local races. Wagner’s district reaches from Anaheim to Mission Viejo.

“Wagner’s also very much a team player up here in Sacramento,” said Harper, who had not decided who he was voting for when interviewed last week.

Wagner’s ability to build bridges with Sacramento Democrats as well as Republicans and his willingness to labor over low-profile issues has resulted in successful bills that don’t get much press but are important to those affected. One such effort by the Irvine attorney helped ease the mandated dissolution of Lake Forest’s redevelopment district. Another helps victims of real estate title scams regain clear possession of their property.

‍Moorlach, who lives in Costa Mesa, didn’t dispute the characterizations of Harper and Smoller.

“I’m not the one who goes out all the time and schmoozes,” he said. “I’d rather go home and spend time with my family.”


Moorlach‍’‍s relatively prominent local profile allowed him to start the race as the better known candidate. But Wagner’s ambitious networking and early entry into the contest have helped him gain a huge edge in fundraising and endorsements.

As of the most recent filing period, he’d raised $371,000 to ‍Moorlach‍’‍s $118,000 and Namazi’s $11,000. Stewardson did not report raising money. Wagner’s endorsements include the county sheriff and district attorney, three local members of Congress and 23 state legislators.

Of ‍Moorlach‍’‍s former colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, three are backing Wagner and one is supporting ‍Moorlach.

Public employee unions’ support of Wagner has left him vulnerable to attacks that he’s a union candidate – a political pejorative in the predominantly GOP district.

But the union spending is more aimed at defeating ‍Moorlach than helping Wagner, who shares ‍Moor‍‍lach‍’‍s support of a proposed statewide ballot measure that would allow local governments to negotiate reduced pension benefits for unions.

The two also share an advocacy for smaller government and lower taxes, and both oppose the state’s high-speed rail project.

Wagner generally agrees with the characterizations of Smoller and Harper, but he disagrees that he doesn’t tackle big issues. He points to bills seeking tort and regulatory reform he’s sponsored. “What ends up happening is they die,” he said. “But they help keep the issue alive.”

Harper says he’ll be satisfied with either man in office.

“Both would represent Orange County well,” he said.


O.C. consumer inspections come up short


Above a chilled tray of pork chorizo, Seth Birenbaum set another cast iron weight on a grocery scale and scrutinized its digital control panel. The weights equaled precisely 15 pounds but the panel showed nearly an ounce less.

“That’s out of tolerance,” Birenbaum said, walking to the nearest store clerk. “This one, it’s weighing light so you’re losing money on it. You need to get it re-calibrated.”

The difference, tiny to the untrained eye, meant the scale failed to meet industry standards and the store was getting shorted in each sale. Patrons unknowingly saved pennies per sausage and quarters on artisan meats and cheeses.

The clerk thanked Birenbaum, a county-paid inspector whose job is like a sports referee in the marketplace. He calls out when consumers and businesses are being short-changed with false advertising or incorrect measurements.

But only nine inspectors check gas station pumps, retail barcode scanners, grocery scales and other devices in Orange County. That’s the same number as 26 years ago, despite the area’s explosive growth. Routine inspections often go ignored here because the local office receives little funding compared with other counties.

“We’re busy,” Birenbaum said. “We’re always busy.”

The grocery store didn’t ask Birenbaum to check the honesty of its scale. His visit was an unannounced routine check, which happens far less here than much of the state. Many of the county’s 145,000 registered measuring devices get overlooked each year because of budget and staffing levels.

The Register reached those findings by analyzing four years of county-level inspection and spending data from the state Department of Food and Agriculture. The department oversees the inspections of measuring devices and compiles data from counties for statutorily required reports. The Register’s analysis and interviews showed:

• On average, Orange County inspects about 26 percent of businesses using price scanners – a rate below the county’s internal goals and below the rates of most large counties. About 63 percent of businesses statewide are inspected annually for price accuracy.

• Gas station pumps are inspected for accuracy less often in Orange County than elsewhere. While Orange County typically checks about half of its 700 stations annually, inspectors in other large counties check every station once and some stations multiple times.

• Orange County inspects taxi, ambulance and other vehicle meters more often than other large counties, because local regulatory agencies require annual inspections. Orange County lags in many other device categories where inspection frequency is more discretionary.

• Money drives the differences. Orange County spends far less per capita to inspect its machines than any other county in the state. About $16,000 per 10,000 residents funds the inspections here compared to about $42,000 per capita statewide.

Officials have historically justified inspecting gas pumps, grocery scales and other machines less often here because the county receives few consumer complaints and finds good compliance rates. Despite fewer inspections the vast majority of devices are still found to meet industry standards – about 19 in every 20.

It’s unknown how much those few bad devices are costing consumers and businesses each year. County officials don’t track that level of detail.

Consumers get hit

What is clear, though, is that consumers are far more likely to be on the losing side. In four years of price check inspections reviewed by the Register, the county logged about 1,400 cases where consumers were charged differently than the advertised amount – and 75 percent of those cases were overcharges.

The Register’s analysis found at least one indicator of broad problems, too. Among the state’s 10 largest counties, Orange County inspectors have logged the highest rate of violations at gas stations for false advertising, improper labeling or poor gas quality. For every five inspections, about two notices of violation were written.

Given that information, county officials and business advocates said it may be time to revisit how often Orange County monitors the accuracy of devices that consumers trust to be honest and competitive businesses rely on to be fair. Consumer advocates also urged greater oversight.

Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, was stunned to learn of the gaps between Orange County and the rest of the state. He urged state lawmakers to investigate and county officials to reevaluate their budget priorities.

Laissez-faire reputation

The county has historically set aside less than $1.6 million of its $3 billion annual operating budget for weights and measures inspections, not including overhead costs.

“Orange County has a reputation for being laissez-faire but this is an egregious abuse of the duty that the public has entrusted them with,” Court said. “Cheaters have a way of knowing when there are no cops on the beat.”

Court and business advocates disagree whether doing more inspections would result in a fairer marketplace. Lucy Dunn, head of the Orange County Business Council, said over-enforcement would risk impeding economic growth and job creation.

“Just because you increase the inspections does not necessarily mean you increase the number of catches,” she said. “The whole system shouldn’t be revamped because of one alleged hole in the dyke.”

Some neglected devices have cost Orange County businesses thousands though. Birenbaum said he once found a gas station pump that spit out a gallon and a half more than was shown on the meter. The station’s owners knew they were losing money but weren’t sure why.

“They thought someone was stealing from them,” Birenbaum said. “They were giving it away.”

Uphill climb

The county’s inspections are overseen by Mike Bennett, agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures. Bennett said he would like to boost staffing levels, the number of inspections and stagnant inspector wages, but it would be hard to convince the elected Board of Supervisors.

“It’s a borderline nightmare scenario,” said Bennett, who the supervisors appointed last year. “I’ve seen other people go in without their ducks in a row and get their heads chopped off.”

Bennett said expanding the program would require hiking fees paid by business owners or drawing more funds from the county’s operational budget – both of which the supervisors have been reluctant to entertain following the economic recession and budget cuts.

In November last year, the county’s health department requested more funding so it could continue inspecting restaurants and other food establishments at least twice a year. The supervisors rejected the proposal 4-1, downplaying concerns about greater risk to consumer safety.

“They really don’t want people over-regulating local businesses,” Bennett said. “We have been operating at this very basic level of minimum standards for decades, and I would like to see it increase, but in order to increase our presence we’d have to get the funding.”

Still, Bennett added, “Maybe at some point it’s my job to lobby for that.”

‘Good luck’

The Register requested interviews with the county’s five supervisors for this story but none responded. Two former supervisors, Pat Bates and John Moorlach, said the board has historically resisted increasing fees or inspections without evidence to back up the greater scrutiny.

Moorlach, the sole supporter last year to increase fees for restaurant inspections, said he once advised Bennett to prepare a data-driven case if he wanted to propose more inspections, but the idea never gained traction.

“I don’t think I told him to pound sand. I think I told him good luck with getting the other two votes,” Moorlach said. “It’s up to Mr. Bennett to make that argument.”

A preliminary proposal to increase weights and measure fees landed on the board’s agenda in November at the same time as the restaurant vote. But it was tabled for three months and then withdrawn, minutes show. A staff memo said fees were last updated in 2007 and the number of registered devices in the county has grown by 46 percent in the past decade.

Nick Berardino, head of the employee union that represents the county’s inspectors, said he would support boosting annual device registration fees that business owners pay. Orange County’s fees are currently some of the lowest in the state, weights and measures officials said.

Aging software

The county keeps track of its inspections with a computer program that can help pinpoint a pattern of violations and allow supervisors to quickly answer a business owner’s questions while inspectors are in the field.

But Jeff Croy, a supervisor in the weights and measures office, said the program was designed in-house to cut costs and is now due for a major upgrade. It can’t perform some basic tasks, such as print a to-do list of inspections and share data with other programs, or complete more sophisticated tasks like track overall performance. The office does not routinely track its compliance with internal goals and state laws.

Croy said he believes the office operates efficiently but even minor changes in staffing – vacations, retirements and vacant positions – can significantly disrupt its ability to conduct inspections. In recent weeks, for example, part of Birenbaum’s time has been devoted to training a newly hired inspector.

“Literally, one employee leaves and we’re hurting,” Croy said. “It’s amazing what these inspectors do and I’m very proud of them.”

Familiar faces

Croy said he started working in the weights and measures office in 1989. Though Orange County’s population has grown by 25 percent since then, Croy said the number of inspectors has stayed the same.

Birenbaum said the number of inspectors makes it difficult for the county to investigate possible cheats through undercover operations as well. Business owners know each of the nine inspectors’ faces since they split routine check-up duties.

“Priorities shift very quickly when there’s only nine inspectors,” Birenbaum said. “I inspect recyclers once a year. Or I should say, I try to inspect them once a year.”

Contact the writer: kkyle or on Twitter @keegankyle

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