After Democrats swept Orange County’s congressional races in last year’s midterms, the party is hoping to extend the blue wave into next week’s Board of Supervisors special election for the third district.
Residents will vote Tuesday to replace Todd Spitzer, who became Orange County’s district attorney, which some Orange Coast College students say could be another pivotal moment for county politics and a board of supervisors that has historically been Republican-dominated.
“Are Democrats going to keep up the momentum they had during the midterm and show that not only can they take congressional seats away, but can they take a local seat away?” Noah Ritter, a 21-year-old political science major and president of OCC’s Omega Psi Sigma political honors society said.
Ritter served as deputy campaign manager for Spitzer’s 2018 bid for district attorney.
Seven candidates are running for the board’s third district seat, one Democrat, former U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and six Republicans, including Irvine Mayor Don Wagner and former Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray. For the past 12 years the board has been made up entirely of Republicans, until this year when Doug Chaffey was elected to represent the fourth district.
If Sanchez, who gave up her congressional seat in 2016 to run for U.S. Senate — which she lost to Kamala Harris — wins this year, Democrats will have the opportunity to become the majority in 2020.
The election will impact OCC students living in the third district — which includes Yorba Linda, Villa Park, Orange, Tustin, Irvine, and Anaheim Hills — but also on all of Orange County.
“We need a good fire suppression plan and evacuation system, a plan for housing affordability, and CalOptima,” Sanchez said of the system that administers health insurance programs for low-income residents in Orange County. “The county is responsible for that and it hasn’t been doing a good job.”
The growing homelessness epidemic is another issue Sanchez said that she’d tackle.
“It took a federal court judge to go to the Santa Ana Riverbed and tell the Board of Supervisors to put a roof over homeless occupants’ heads,” she said of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over lawsuits related to the county’s shelter shortage. “What the judge found was there was about $700 million sitting in a bank account they were supposed to spend on housing and mental health and they never did.”
The board of supervisors is also responsible for regional transportation, air quality and water, social welfare and healthcare, mental health, airports, coastal lands, harbors and rural areas and parks. The money for county projects is primarily received from state and federal funding.
“It’s really vital that people are able to make their voices heard when it comes to issues that influence our lives,” Erin Roberts, a 29-year-old political science major and vice president of the OCC Young Democrats said. “We have this money — why aren’t we using it to help improve people’s everyday lives? There is a perspective the board of supervisors has not seen.”
Ritter said it’s important for all students to vote.
“What’s at stake, ultimately, is who is governing various aspects of your life,” he said. “If that’s not important enough to get off the couch and fill out a ballot, I don’t know what is.”