Former O.C. Supervisor John Moorlach holds lead in state Senate race

Former O.C. Supervisor John Moorlach holds lead in state Senate race
Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach leads the vote count for a state Senate seat. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A day after a special election for a state Senate seat, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach held a slight majority of the vote on Wednesday, but 3,400 ballots remain to be counted before he will know whether he won outright or will face a May runoff.

Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, had 50.3% of the vote the day after Tuesday’s election, which, if it holds, would win him the 37th Senate District seat and avoid a May 19 runoff with Republican Assemblyman Donald Wagner of Irvine. Wagner had received 44.1% of the vote.

Republican Naz Namazi was placed third and write-in candidate Louise Stewardson, a Democrat, finished last with 2% of the vote.

Moorlach was better known in the district than his opponents, and negative ads attacking him from law enforcement groups might actually have helped him gain sympathy, according to Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican strategist who publishes a nonpartisan election guide.

"I think the strong union, independent expenditures might have backfired," Hoffenblum said.

Moorlach, who also served as county treasurer to help Orange County recover from bankruptcy, said he has accomplished more than Wagner. "I'm not a glad-hander. I've been working hard and the voters knew it," he said, adding that the attack mail was a "major turnoff" to voters.