The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday designated Feb. 6 as a winner-take-all election date to fill the board seat vacated by Lou Correa, who resigned Monday after being elected to the state Senate.
Dozens of names have been floated as potential replacements in the central Orange County district, which comprises Santa Ana, Westminster, part of Garden Grove and some unincorporated territory. Democrats had gained the supervisorial seat with Correa and hope to keep it, but Republicans vow to take it back. Correa was the lone Democrat on the five-member board.
Republicans hold a registration advantage of just 529 votes over Democrats in the district out of about 200,000 registered voters, and there are more than 36,000 registered independents, according to state records. That, combined with a large field of candidates, means the race is likely to be as fiercely competitive as Correa's Senate race against Republican Lynn Daucher was. Correa won by 1,392 votes, or 1.2%.
Among the early entrants to the race are Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Bustamante and Garden Grove Councilwoman Janet Nguyen.
There is no provision for a runoff in a special election under the county's charter, so the candidate who wins a plurality of votes will serve the remainder of the term, which ends in 2009.
The Feb. 6 date was the last Tuesday on which the election could be held under the charter, which requires an election 56 to 70 days after the vacancy occurs. The nomination period for the race begins today and continues through Dec. 26.
A new supervisor was sworn in Tuesday: John Moorlach, whose warnings about Orange County's risky investments presaged its 1994 bankruptcy and got him appointed treasurer to fix the county's finances.
Moorlach was administered the oath a month early because the seat he is filling was vacated by Jim Silva, who left office early to start his new job as a state assemblyman. The board will gain another new member next month, when Patricia Bates takes over for Tom Wilson.
Moorlach quickly fired an opening salvo at the county employees' unions, which spent heavily on a campaign to defeat him. He said it was time for the county to re-evaluate "one-size-fits-all" raises for employees and suggested examining merit pay increases instead. He also talked of hoping to repair the county's pension fund, which has a $2.3-billion deficit.
In one of his first votes as a supervisor, Moorlach opposed a contract extension for a law firm advising Sheriff Michael S. Carona in his effort to demote Lt. Bill Hunt, who ran against him in June. The firm has billed the county $33,000 under the one-year, $100,000 contract. Three supervisors voted to extend it.