Mansoor, Rush head to November election

Spoiling City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle's bid for Assembly, Newport Beach council critic Bob Rush will likely advance to the November general election.

He and incumbent Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) won the most votes in the 74th District primary race Tuesday.

Mansoor took 43% of ballots, and Democrat Rush, 33%, with all precincts counted Wednesday, according to the Orange County registrar of voters. The results are not official until all mail ballots and other paper ballots are tallied.

Daigle, a Republican, came in third with 24% in the new "top-two" primary system.

The results virtually ensure Mansoor a victory in November in the heavily Republican district. A more centrist Republican candidate like Daigle might have fared well in the redrawn district, which now includes Irvine and Laguna Beach, which are less reliably Republican than Newport.

But a Democrat faces tough odds throughout the territory: Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district 42% to 31%, with 22% declining to state a party preference.

Daigle's loss comes as a disappointment to the Newport Beach political establishment, which had mostly backed her.

"I think he was a spoiler," Councilman Rush Hill said of Rush. "It was pretty clear Leslie had a pretty good shot [in November] if she moved to the middle and not to the extreme right."

Rush, a real estate investor, is a political newcomer and was significantly outspent by wealthy Daigle supporters. But the cumulative effect of Mansoor and Rush's attacks against her may have paid off.

"The strategy was to distinguish between the real moderate and not the pseudo-moderate," Rush said Tuesday night.

Mansoor also had the backing of the Orange County Republican Party.

"To me it's clear that the voters want a fight against special interests and bigger government," Mansoor said Wednesday. "The status quo tried to buy this election and failed."

Daigle could have harmed her own chances with poor debate performances and minimal interaction with the media — at one point she stopped taking calls from most reporters and declined a second debate invitation. The result was a generally unflattering portrayal by columnists in the Orange County Register, Daily Pilot, Newport Beach Independent and other news outlets and blogs.

"Everyone came out against her in the media," said Hill, who called the coverage unfair.

Daigle said Wednesday that she plans to focus on her council duties, but seemed to leave open the possibility of a future run.

"It was positive learning experience," she said. "You get to see the cohesion of the district — education, infrastructure, arts and entertainment — and you look at how it all fits together."

She added: "It was my first look at the district."

As neophyte Rush watched the results roll in Tuesday, he reflected on the contest with Mansoor: "The battle was between the conservative view point and the centrist view point … I intend on beating Mansoor in the finals."

In Tuesday's race about 20% of registered voters turned out, compared to 55% in last November's mid-term election. Republicans had a four percentage-point lead in turnout compared to Democrats.

Twitter: @mreicher

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