The speculation that District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno might run for mayor next year won’t go away – in part because Moreno himself feeds it.
Mayor Tom Tait is termed out in 2018, and Moreno is also up for re-election to a full term. He drew the figurative short straw to determine which of the four councilmembers elected in 2016 would serve a two-year term.
In an interview with the OC Register published on January 23, Moreno signaled he might run for mayor next year:
Q. What are your future political goals? Do you see yourself as more than just an Anaheim councilman? Is there a chance you could run for mayor or beyond?
A. There’s a silver lining for getting the short straw, or in my case chip, I have a choice in two years to run for mayor or City Council. I just think that to run for any at-large seat takes so much money – an extraordinary amount of money that’s why we fought for district elections. I’m not thinking about the mayor’s seat. We have a great mayor. I’m looking forward to working with him and creating a change in culture. I’m focused on District 3.
The talk hasn’t died down. Just today, a plugged-in source reported Moreno had told a mutual acquaintance he was leaning toward running for mayor.
A city-wide would be a tough row to hoe for Moreno, a left-wing Democrat. His first council campaign, in 2014, was at-large. Despite raising a healthy warchest and having Tait’s tacit support, he finished in 4th place.
Like other north and central OC cities, Democratic registration in Anaheim has been on the upswing. The partisan balance in the city currently stands at 41.8% Democratic, 30.9% Republican and 23.2% No Party Preference. Notwithstanding the 11-point Democratic registration advantage, 2018 will be an off-year election with lower turnout and a more conservative electorate – like in 2014. Democrat council candidates were rarely successful during the at-large era – which was a major reason for the million-dollar-plus progressive political campaign to shift to by-district elections.
It’s hard to see Moreno’s leftist politics – such as support for sanctuary city status, repealing the anti-camping ordinance, sympathy with anti-police activists and most recently for allowing non-citizens to serve on city commissions – playing well with an off-year electorate in which a growing number of voters are increasingly fed up with rising crime and a growing homeless problem.
Another question is whether the political bromance between Moreno and Mayor Tait would extend to latter supporting a Moreno bid for mayor. Tait remains popular with voters and his endorsement would be a significant plus if Moreno ran. And the mayor demonstrated last year that he won’t hesitate to endorse leftist Democrat candidates. Still, helping enthrone the most left-wing elected official in Orange County as mayor of OC’s largest city would be a big gamble – as Tait’s own mayoral experience has demonstrated, there’s no guarantee that one’s chosen successor will preserve or honor one’s legacy.