OC Political reported earlier this week that Supervisor Shawn Nelson has filed to run Superior Court Judge Office No. 40, which is opening up due to the retirement of Judge Steve Perk. Nelson’s desire to be either be elected or appointed to a judgeship has been common knowledge in OC political circles for years.
Also running for the seat are Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin and litigator Fred Fascenelli (who also filed for Judge Office No. 3, and so must make a choice). Yellin is also the immediate past head of the Orange County Attorneys Association, the union which represents attorneys in the offices of the “District Attorney, Child Support Services, Public Defender, Alternate Defender, Associate Defender and County Counsel.”
From OC Political:
Nelson has $162,832 remaining in his Supervisorial account, all of which could be transferred into an account for judge. A Senior Deputy District Attorney, Yellin just opened his account for judge last month. However, the union he heads, the Orange County Attorneys Association, has $262,132 in its campaign accounts, though certainly, OCAA is not going to spend the majority of its treasury on a single judicial race when it’s top priority in spending will be County races.
Besides OCAA, Yellin is also endorsed by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which is the County’s largest union, and the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys (AOCDDA), which is the County prosecutors’ union. AOCDDA has a modest $20,843 in its coffers. OCEA has $312,372, but certainly has other priorities, particularly since Yellin is not a member of OCEA. It’s entirely possible the unions largely stay out of the race under the argument that they’d rather have Nelson off the Board of Supervisors.
Shirley Grindle and the Voice of OC have been raising questions about the fundraising Supervisor Nelson has been conducting via his supervisor campaign account, and there are conflicting accounts as to whether the law permits him to use a debt-free campaign account from his last supervisor campaign to raise funds when he cannot seek re-election to the Board of Supervisors.
A Nelson victory will trigger a special election to fill the balance of his term on the Board of Supervisors, which runs through 2018. Depending on whether such a win came in June or November, the special election would either be consolidated with the November general election or as a stand-alone special election in early 2017. Nelson himself was elected to the 4th District seat in a special election in 2010, defeating then-Anaheim Councilmembers Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway.
Such an outcome is by no means assured. Superior Court races are voted on county-wide. That is a huge voter pool that is expensive to reach. Nelson’s large warchest is obviously an advantage in this respect, and he has presumably already used it to lock up the slate mailers, which have a significant collective impact on these down-ballot races where voters know little about the various candidates. That dearth of knowledge tends to amplify the power of the “deputy district attorney” ballot title. In the minds of most voters, that’s the next best thing to a judge: both jobs involve putting criminals behind bars. Yellin’s presumed ballot title of “Senior Deputy District Attorney” is worth its weight in gold.
As for Facenelli, the question he has to answer is for which judicial post to run? In Office 40, he’s up against an incumbent county Supervisor and a senior deputy district attorney. In Office 3, it’s two deputy district attorneys. The answer lies in which race will there be the most votes for someone from the kind of voters who aren’t inclined to vote for DA’s or politicians.
As a side note, Fascenelli looks strikingly like the Observer characters on the Fox TV show “Fringe”: