Supervisor Don Wagner Seals Re-Election; Aitken Concedes

Supervisor Don Wagner has sealed his re-election campaign this week, garnering more than 52% of the vote to win a full four year term on the Orange County Board of Supervisors representing the 3rd Supervisor District. As of Saturday evening, Wagner led Aitken by 7,261 votes; county-wide, there remained only 1,749 ballots left to count.

A year ago, Wagner, a Republican, defeated former Democratic Representative Loretta Sanchez in a special election for the 3rd Supervisor District seat, which was vacant due to former Sup. Todd Spitzer’s election as OC District Attorney. Wagner defeated Sanchez 42% to 37%.

Wagner was mayor of Irvine at the time of the special election. Prior to that, he represented the 68th Assembly District, and was a member of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees before that.

Sanchez declared her candidacy for this year’s regular election, setting up a re-match with Wagner. However, she unexpectedly withdrew last November, prompting OC Fair Board member and attorney Ashleigh Aitken to jump into the race as the Democrat standard bearer.  Aitken ran for mayor of Anaheim in 2018, but was narrowly defeated by former Anaheim Councilman and businessman Harry Sidhu.

No other candidates entered the lists, making this a two-person race and eliminating the possibility of a November run-off.

Both candidates raised substantial campaign war chests, and independent expenditures weighed in heavily on both sides. Both the candidate campaigns and the independent expenditure committees landed some pretty harsh blows against both candidates.

Republicans and Democrats are at near-parity in voter registration in the district, at 34.7% v. 34.2% respectively, with Non Party Preference voters at 26.5%. Having a competitive Democratic presidential nomination contest on the same ballot, with national campaigns heavily in engaged in voter turnout activity, there was some concern in Republican circles that ballot harvesting, ballot parties and other collective voter turnout efforts by Democratic campaigns might give Aitken sufficient lift.

The OC Registrar of Voters breaks down the votes cast between Vote Centers (Election Day voting, ballot harvesting) and ballots that a mailed in.  Aitken, like nearly every other Democrat candidate in Orange County, bested Wagner at the Vote Centers, the incumbent won a majority of the far more numerous vote-by-mail ballots.

Aitken issued a public concession on Facebook on March 11:

“Thank you to all the voters that supported our campaign. Although the votes are still being counted, we know that the 3rd district voters have re-elected Supervisor Don Wagner. I have spoken to Supervisor Wagner and congratulated him and his team. I wish him luck as he continues to serve Orange County.”

You can read the whole concession here.

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