SD-37 Watch: Possible Re-match Between John Moorlach and Don Wagner

OC Political reports that the potential John Moorlach-Don Wagner re-match that has been talked about for months has taken a significant step toward becoming reality:

Rumors had swirled for months that Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) would challenge Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) for the 37th Senate District this year.  Former Supervisor Moorlach had defeated Assemblyman Wagner for the seat just ten months ago by a margin of 50.3%-44.0% in the March 2015 special election to complete the unexpired term of State Senator Mimi Walters, who had been elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Wagner has taken a very public step toward challenging Moorlach to a rematch in 2016.  On December 7, Moorlach had submitted his application to the Republican Party of Orange County for an endorsement for re-election for the 37th Senate District. Then, yesterday, January 4, Wagner submitted his application for an OC GOP endorsement for the 37th Senate District.

Both applications will be considered at the OC GOP Central Committee meeting on January 18.  The OC GOP states: “All Republican candidates running for election in [the 37th Senate District] are invited to participate in a candidate forum that will be held during the January Central Committee meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 PM.”

The format will be: “Each candidate will be allowed three (3) minutes to present why they should be endorsed. And, in keeping with tradition, we will allow three speakers in favor and three opposed to speak for one (1) minute. The candidate will be allowed one (1) minute to address any issues raised by opponents of the endorsement.”

You can read the entire post here.

While this would certainly be a slugfest, defeating Moorlach would be a tall order for Assemblyman Wagner – or anyone else. For starters, Moorlach is now running as the incumbent state senator; I can’t recall any instance of an incumbent OC Republican legislator failing to win the Republican nomination. It’s highly unlikely this race would extend to a Wagner v. Moorlach contest in November unless no Democratic candidate files.

A veteran insider recently made a salient point to me: Moorlach not only has name ID – he’s a brand. Voters may not necessarily know a lot about him (despite 20-plus years in elected office), but they all know the same thing: predicted the bankruptcy, anti-tax, tough on public employee pensions. That brand has trumped individual votes that conflict with it: his push to extend supervisorial term limits so he could continue serving on the Board of Supervisors; taking the full pension available to him while battling to scale back county employee pensions. It doesn’t seem to stick.

I’m fairly confident there is polling on this race and this match, although I’m not privy to any. Don Wagner is a thoughtful, deliberate man and I don’t believe he would embark on this endeavor unless he discerned a path to victory. I’ll post more as I find out more.

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