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Incumbent in contentious O.C. supervisor race heads to fall runoff with razor-thin lead

Orange County Supervisor incumbent Andrew Do is facing challenger Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana councilwoman, for his 1st District seat.
Orange County Supervisor incumbent Andrew Do is facing challenger Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana councilwoman, for his 1st District seat.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The race to be the Orange County supervisor for the 1st District is likely to come down to the respective turnout in its large Vietnamese and Latino communities.

After Tuesday’s primary, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do will face challenger Michelle Martinez.

The two emerged as the top vote-getters in a heated contest, with Do winning 36% of the vote and Martinez 35.3%, according to the latest numbers from the county registrar of voters. Martinez, a Santa Ana councilwoman, is trying to become the first person from her city to represent the 1st District on the Board of Supervisors.

Phat Bui, a Garden Grove councilman, claimed 19.1% of the vote. Steve Rocco, a former Orange Unified School District board member, finished fourth with 9.6%.

From now until Nov. 8, Do and Martinez will both vie for voters and dollars from the vocal Vietnamese American electorate, along with Latinos, who could turn out in record numbers for the presidential election in response to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, experts say.

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Going into the primary, Do leaped ahead in fundraising, collecting more than $435,000 during the campaign cycle, compared to Martinez’s tally of nearly $70,000. The incumbent also outspent Martinez, buying air time and colorful ads in Vietnamese-language media, touting his qualifications “of making public safety our top budget priority” and working with homeless and mental health issues.

Martinez, who is serving her third term in Santa Ana, said her job is to “protect and strengthen the middle class,” and push for accountability at the highest levels of government. Late Tuesday, she celebrated advancing to the runoff at the Democratic Party of Orange County headquarters in Orange. If she defeats Do in the fall she would be the only Democrat in a currently all-Republican board.

“They each already have a base within the district. Martinez will undoubtedly try to reach women voters, while Do, who worked for someone in office before, will try to tap his wide network. But to win, the primary goal is to focus on folks most likely to vote for them,” said Lou DeSipio, a political science professor specializing in ethnic politics at UC Irvine.

DeSipio said he expects both candidates to try to cross over into each other’s core supporters, with Martinez reaching out to Vietnamese Americans and Do stumping for Latino support. But he said that Martinez could benefit in November from turnout related to the the high-profile U.S. Senate race between Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, who are trying to claim the seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer.

DeSipio said Do has the advantage of name recognition in the district.

Countywide, the 1st District is the most liberal district, with Democrats boasting a 13-percentage point lead over Republicans in voter registration, according to the Registrar of Voters.

The district spans Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Westminster and parts of Fountain Valley, and it includes 209,000 registered voters, according to Political Data Inc. Among them, 43% are Democrats and 30% are Republicans; 37% of the voters are Latinos and 25% are of Vietnamese descent.

For more news in Orange County, follow Anh Do on Twitter at @newsterrier. Or e-mail her at anh.do@latimes.com.

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UPDATES:

June 9, 6:50 a.m.: This article has been updated with the latest figures.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from UC Irvine political science professor Lou DeSipio, who specializes in ethnic politics.

10:39 a.m., June 8: This article was updated with the final vote count and other details.

This article was originally posted at 11:38 p.m., June 7.


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