Survey finds sizable election denial persists in O.C., which could sway key races

An Orange County Registrar of Voters election worker staffs a "Super Voter Center Site" in Anaheim back in 2020.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 1. Happy May Day! I’m Gabriel San Román, pinch hitting for the Daily Pilot’s executive editor Carol Cormaci in bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at some of the latest local news and events.

Check your calendar, folks. Forget about Halfway to Halloween or Christmas in July, it’s only 188 days until Election Day 2024!

Soon, political nominating conventions, stump speeches and an avalanche of ads, whether on screen or stuffed in mailboxes, will be in full swing.


In Orange County, voters are expected to decide on key congressional races that could determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Michelle Steel, a Republican incumbent, is set to square off against Democratic challenger Derek Tran in the 45th District.

In another race political observers expect to be tight, Republican Scott Baugh and Democrat Dave Min will vie for Rep. Katie Porter’s soon-to-be-vacated seat in the 47th District.

But how will lingering doubts about election integrity factor in with a Biden versus Trump rematch at the top of the ticket?

According to a recent UC Irvine poll, election denial could be critical.

Los Angeles Times reporter Hannah Fry delved into the “Orange County as Bellwether?” UCI School of Social Ecology poll in an article this week to find out why.

First off, O.C.’s political reputation as a place “where the good Republicans go before they die,” as the former Gipper-in-Chief Ronald Reagan once said, is largely a relic of the past.

The county today is much more diverse, paving the way for a purple political terrain.

That raises the stakes if election deniers see no point in casting their ballots come November in a “rigged” election.

“Distrust in the election system may very well convince some people not to participate, and what we’re seeing is that people who distrust it more tend to skew to the right, and so that would hurt Republicans,” Jon Gould, dean of the UCI School of Social Ecology, told The Times.

Just how deep does that distrust go?

Fry reports that 26% of O.C. adults surveyed for the UCI poll didn’t believe President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. Another 17% were unsure about the question.

Among the county’s Republicans, 55% believed Biden didn’t win the presidency fair and square. At 88%, an overwhelming majority of Democrats believed he did. Only 1% of Democrats said that Biden’s victory was illegitimate.

For independents, such election skepticism clocked in at 23% with the same percentage being unsure.

During the March primary election, more O.C. voters cast their ballots for Trump than Biden. With 49% voter turnout in the presidential primary, Republicans also bested Democrats by 13%.

But Gould recently told the Orange County Register that the primary election isn’t necessarily a bellwether of its own, with the general election expected to bring out a more broad-based electorate.

With six months to go, though, the UCI poll notes that the election in O.C. is “far from over” as many races remain “volatile” with no candidate polling above 50%.

A fading faith in free and fair elections may prove pivotal.

“By selling doubts in the election,” Gould told The Times, “there is an interesting question as to whether Republicans and Trump in particular are sowing the seeds for their own defeat.”


Gibran Stout with horse Finn at Costa Mesa City Hall Thursday to protest increased boarding rates at the OC fairgrounds.
Gibran Stout and horse Finn participate in a demonstration at Costa Mesa City Hall Thursday in protest of increased horse boarding fees at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
(Eric Licas)

• Local equestrians turned out in Costa Mesa on Thursday to protest planned rent increases for horse stalls at the Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center. As Daily Pilot reporter Sara Cardine noted in this article, fair officials looked at hiking rent from $644 per month to $1,130 per month by January 2025 — a stiff 75% increase — to help address annual six-figure losses. Last week, OC Fair & Event Center Chief Executive Michele Richards announced tempered rent increases, with a phased increase to $979 per month in January.

• After months of delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resumed overseeing a sand replenishment project which aims to boost San Clemente’s eroding coast. Beach nourishment began in December, but a dredge site in Oceanside pumped sediment that was too strewn with cobble and rock. A new dredge site at Surfside-Sunset Beach pumped smooth, beach-quality sand when the project resumed on Thursday. “We want to see a full beach with fresh sand ready for residents and tourists to lay down their towels, surf and swim,” said San Clemente Mayor Victor Cabral. “That’s our hope.”

• The Newport Beach City Council voted last week to approve several service fee hikes. Such fees, as Daily Pilot reporter Lily Nguyen points out in this article, are routinely reviewed on a rolling three- to five-year basis. Taking effect in July, fee hikes will impact the finance, harbor, public works and utilities departments. A proposed fee hike for the ADA accessible lift at Balboa Marina Public Dock drew public opposition from Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley. A council majority struck it from the approved hikes.

• Campaign funds are pouring into the recall election of Anaheim City Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava. Unite Here Local 11, a hotel workers union, spent more than $315,000 through 2023 in efforts to get the recall on the ballot. Now that the recall has qualified and is scheduled for June 4, a loose coalition of hoteliers, trade unions and public employee unions have raised nearly $200,000 in opposition to it. The recall election, itself, is expected to cost the city $700,000.


Wynne Lee of Costa Mesa.
Wynne Lee of Costa Mesa.
(Courtesy of Orange County D.A.’s office)

• Wynne Lee, the driver during a road-rage shooting on the 55 Freeway that killed a 6-year-old boy, pleaded guilty on Friday to being an accessory to the crime. Lee also admitted to carrying a concealed weapon. Marcus Anthony Eriz, Lee’s boyfriend at the time, was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison earlier this month for the second-degree murder of Aiden Leos in 2021. Lee, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced to four years in prison, but as City News Service reported, she has already served out the sentence through custody credits and home confinement.

• Costa Mesa police arrested a San Pedro man last week who is suspected of felony arson. Shaun Michael Cloonan, 45, was apprehended by authorities following reports of a person driving through several Costa Mesa neighborhoods and setting trash bins on fire. Surveillance videos and license plate readers led Costa Mesa police to Cloonan in San Pedro. He now faces felony arson to property charges as well as two additional misdemeanors for drug-related offenses.

• A Newport Beach woman was shot and killed at a Tucson house party over the weekend. Erin Jones, a former soccer standout at Corona del Mar High School, was a student at the University of Arizona. She attended the party when gunfire erupted at 1:40 a.m. Sunday morning, according to KOLD-TV, a CBS affiliate in Tucson. No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting. Tucson police said that details remain “extremely limited at this time.”


Corona del Mar's High School's Niels Hoffman serves during a 2023 CIF match
Corona del Mar’s High School’s Niels Hoffman serves against Woodbridge High School’s Avery Tallakson during the CIF Southern Section individuals boys’ tennis singles semifinals in 2023
(James Carbone)

• Over the weekend, Corona del Mar High School senior tennis standout Niels Hoffman won the 122nd annual Ojai Tennis Tournament CIF singles division title. As Daily Pilot reporter Matt Szabo noted, it’s the first time a CdM tennis player has won “The Ojai” since 1987. “It’s always been a tournament that you look up to, aspire to play at that level,” Hoffmann said. “It’s really cool to know that I’m going to be remembered here in some way.”

• During a recent trip to Philadelphia, Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano retraced the steps of late Lakers legend (and former Newport Beach resident) Kobe Bryant. From the halls of Lower Merion High School to the Larry’s Steaks sandwich shop, Bryant’s spirit is easy to find in the City of Brotherly Love four years after his death.


The Beef Bulgogi Burrito from Lucky Fortune Eatery for $13.99.
The Beef Bulgogi Burrito from Lucky Fortune Eatery for $13.99 is a filling meal that feels like you just ate at a taqueria and KBBQ in one sitting.
(Edwin Goei)

Ahead of summer, TimesOC’s Edwin Goei eats his way through Disney’s California Adventure one bite at a time in this listicle. Whether quesabirria tacos, shrimp katsu sandwiches or a chicken shawarma wrap, Goei breaks down the top ten meals that help make DCA the “foodiest” place at the Happiest Place on Earth. “You can spend all day eating and never taste the same thing twice,” he reports. Now, grab your mouse ears and get to grubbing!

'Peppermania' brings a wide variety of chiles to Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach
‘Peppermania’ brings a wide variety of chiles to Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach
(Courtesy Roger’s Gardens )

• Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach is turning up the heat with Peppermania! During the event, chile pepper enthusiasts can peruse through more than 100 different varieties of peppers through Sunday. The types of 4-inch pepper plants available for purchase range from the scorching Carolina Reaper to the sweeter Carmen pepper, which is Roger’s Gardens’ “pepper of the year.”

Wahoo’s Fish Taco celebrates 35 years in Southern California with a revamped store design and refreshed logo.
(Courtesy of Wahoo’s Fish Taco)

• Wahoo’s Fish Taco is marking 35 years in business with a refreshed logo and revamped store designs. Local patrons in Orange County can order their Hawaiian onion ring burritos or crispy fish tacos from already-renovated restaurants in Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Tustin, as Sarah Mosqueda reports. “We started Wahoo’s when we were much younger, and we’ve come to realize that our original ‘college dorm room’ aesthetic no longer fits the brand,” said Wing Lam, who first launched the business in 1988 with his two brothers.


Manic Hispanic is a legendary cover band from Orange County. They play punk classics with a humorous Chicano twist.
(Raul Roa)

• There’s no better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend than with Manic Hispanic, Orange County’s hilarious purveyors of refried punk classics! The cholo punk band has new cover songs like “Paisa,” which is its take on Rancid’s “Timebomb,” to stir up the mosh pits alongside their catalog of classics when they perform at Anaheim House of Blues on Friday night. Bust out a grito in memory of late Manic Hispanic founding members Mike “Gabby” Gaborno and Steve Soto. The show starts on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.75.

• The Diocese of Orange is currently displaying a relic of St. Jude the Apostle, the patron saint of impossible causes. St. Jude is said to be the cousin of Jesus. The relic, encased in a wooden reliquary carved in the form of an arm, is a bone fragment that was removed from St. Jude Thaddeus’ remains at St. Peter’s Basilica centuries ago, according to church officials. Having left Italy for the first time, the relic will be displayed on May 1 from 2 to 10 p.m. at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach and again on May 2 from 2 to 10 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Habra.

• Santa Ana’s Main Library is calling all Sith lords and rebel scum to celebrate its third annual “May the Fourth” Star Wars celebration with a free screening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Beverages, snacks and photo ops with guests from Rebel/501st Legion round out the event. Cosplay, of course, is encouraged. May the 4th: Star Wars Day Celebration takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Santa Ana Main Library, 26 Civic Center Plaza.

• Runners will line up for the Hoag OC Marathon this weekend on Sunday, May 5, beginning at 5:30 a.m. The 26.2-mile trek starts at the VEW Newport Beach on Newport Center Drive and runs by the Corona del Mar coastline before ending at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. To register and lace up for the race, visit


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