UPDATED with number of ballots left to count.
It appears the Republican Mayor of Irvine, Don Wagner has overcome a fractured Republican candidate field to defeat former Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the lone Democrat in the 7 candidate field, in the special election for the 3rd Supervisor District vacancy.
Wagner led throughout the evening, his lead widening from 1,554 votes in the first update to 2,980 votes at the end of the night.
According to the OC Registrar of Voters, there 9,233 ballots left to be counted. the breakdown:
Vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots: 1,612
Vote-by-mail ballots returned at polling places: 5,520
Provisional ballots: 1,951
Election Day paper ballots: 137
Conditional Voter Registrations (i.e. same-day registration and voting): 13
There will also be an unknown number of VBM ballots mailed and postmarked on Election Day.
Even if all remaining ballots went to either Wagner or Sanchez, the latter would still have to win two-thirds of those remaining ballots to overtake Wagner. Since Kris Murray and other candidates will take a significant chunk of the remaining ballots, the necessary Sanchez win-ratio becomes impossibly high.
Dozens of pieces of mail, funded by more than $1.2 million in combined campaign spending, blanketed 3rd Supervisor District voters for the past month. Voter contact was dominated by Wagner and Sanchez and their allies.
If the results hold – and it’s hard to see the result changing – Wagner will be the first Republican candidate to ever defeat Loretta Sanchez.
This is a huge win for the Orange County Republican Party and affiliated GOP organizations that rallied behind Wagner. A Sanchez win in the Republican-leaning 3rd Supervisor District would have been a body blow to OC Republicans in the wake of the disastrous November election results that saw Democrats capture every OC congressional seat.
For their part, OC Democrats hoped to continue the momentum from last November’s Blue Wave. They cleared several other Democrats from the field, as opposed to the six Republicans candidates. Not an auspicious debut for new DPOC Chair Ada Briceno and the cadre of leftist Democrats who won control of the DPOC leadership earlier this year.
Orange County Democrats had also hoped a Sanchez win would position them to capture a majority on the OC Board of Supervisors next year by picking up the heavily-Democratic 1st Supervisor District. Wagner’s win makes a Democrat-controlled Board of Supervisors a near-impossibility.
SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES FROM FIRST RESULTS TO FINAL FOR EVENING
Irvine Mayor Don Wagner has taken a 3-point lead over former Rep. Loretta Sanchez in the initial vote returns in the 3rd Supervisor District special election:
This is good news for Wagner: given the Republican experience last November of late votes breaking heavily for Democrats, he’ll need a buffer to cinch a win if the late ballots follow a similar trend. Whether the margin is big enough is another question.
Both the OC GOP and the Democratic Party of OC have been heavily engaged in GOTV efforts. DPOC Vice Chair Victor Valladares proudly posted these photos of today’s Democrat ballot harvesting efforts on his Facebook page today:
UNITE-HERE Local 11 is the left-wing hotel workers union headed by Ada Briceno – who is also Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County. All those completed but unsecured ballots floating about in the hands of partisan political activists. What could go wrong?
9:00 p.m. update:
After the second update, Wagner picked up 840 votes while Sanchez gained 586 votes – slightly widening Wagner’s lead to 3.5%.
10:00 p.m. Update:
Another update and Wagner is maintaining his lead over Sanchez. The Irvine mayor gained 2,172 votes while Sanchez added 1,969 votes. Wagner still leads by 3.5% – 2,011 votes.
When the first round of returns was posted, 50,121 ballots had been counted, and Wagner led Sanchez by 1,554 votes.
By the third round, an additional 6,503 ballots had been counted, and Wagner’s lead increased by 457 votes – to 2,011. These are presumably still vote-by-mail ballots (that were actually mailed in) being counted. These will tend to favor Wagner, so this is where he needs to pad his lead as much as possible. Once the late ballots (harvested and otherwise) start being counted, Sanchez will likely start gaining.
Last November, after all precincts were counted but before the late ballots, provisional, etc., were counted, Harry Sidhu led Ashleigh Aitken by 3,007 votes. By the time all ballots were counted and the election was certified, Sidhu’s lead shrank to 478 votes.
It’s reasonable to assume there will be far fewer late ballots of all kinds in this election, given the low turnout – so Wagner has cause to be optimistic.
10:30 p.m. UPDATE:
Another 3,807 ballots were counted in the latest update and more than half – 2,050 – of those went to Don Wagner. His lead over Sanchez has widened to 2,980 votes – or a full 5%. Wagner has even more reason for optimism.