Candidates’ reaction to news of virus on campaign trail highlights pandemic’s impact on politics

Voters make their way to the Costa Mesa City Hall voting center in November. Four candidates in the March 9 O.C. Board of Supervisors race responded Wednesday when news broke that another candidate tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
(File Photo)

John Moorlach’s announcement Wednesday he’d tested positive for the coronavirus inspired well wishes from opponents in the race for an Orange County Board of Supervisors seat and further highlighted the pandemic’s ability to impact political aspirations.

The Republican former state senator broke the news he and wife Trina were self-isolating at their home in Costa Mesa and reaching out to those with whom they’d come in contact after learning Monday they’d been infected.

All members of Moorlach’s campaign team were reportedly tested following the news and received negative results, he confirmed.

And while politics isn’t typically a realm where friendships among contenders are forged, the four candidates challenging Moorlach in a March 9 special election expressed their desire for his recuperation and opened up about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley — a Democrat who challenged Moorlach’s bid for reelection in California’s 37th Assembly District but lost in the primary — is running a completely virtual campaign.

Sharing a household with her husband, mother, grandmother and son, Foley has yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and isn’t willing to risk exposure.

“I don’t do door knocking. We’re not doing in-person fundraising events,” she said, describing virtual dinners and wine tastings. “We’re just trying to be creative, under the circumstances, to keep everyone safe.”

The mayor gets tested whenever she’s learned of a possible exposure and has a sign on the door of her city hall office reminding visitors, “Wear a mask.” She wished Moorlach well, adding she wouldn’t wish the virus on anyone.

Candidates for an open 2nd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors
Candidates for an open 2nd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, from left, are Kevin Muldoon, Janet Rappaport, John Moorlach, Katrina Foley and Michael Vo.
(Collage by Sara Cardine)

Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon, a conservative who decided to run against Moorlach despite being urged by the Republican Party of Orange County to drop out, would not say Wednesday whether or how many times he may have gotten a COVID-19 test, but sent good thoughts to his opponent via email.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Moorlach family and his campaign team,” Muldoon wrote.

Candidate Janet Rappaport, an international tax attorney from Corona del Mar, said she was shocked to hear Moorlach was infected.

“I’ve been on a number of virtual panels with John and, although I don’t know him directly, I feel like I know him,” she said Wednesday. “I feel very concerned for him. Getting the virus, for anyone, is not a good event, and at this time it’s especially not good.”

Rappaport got tested at Costa Mesa’s OC fairgrounds in December, in part, to see how the process went firsthand and was pleased to learn how quickly her negative test result came back.

She signed up for the “CA Notify” COVID-19 exposure notification app and said she is structuring her life and campaign efforts around staying as safe as possible.

Fountain Valley Mayor Michael Vo, like Muldoon, is a conservative running for the board against the advice of Orange County Republicans. He wished Moorlach a full recovery and said he and his wife have been tested and that they don’t yet qualify for the vaccine.

He said more should be done to see vulnerable residents are vaccinated and recommended the formation of a countywide vaccine registration program to streamline the process.

“Too many qualified residents are waiting for weeks, even months to receive the vaccine. And even more residents are unaware of the resources available that may assist them in receiving the vaccine,” he wrote in an email. “If a resident is qualified and wants the vaccine, they should be able to receive it in a timely manner.”

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