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OC Politicians Use Public Resources to Campaign

Orange County supervisors are bringing out into the open a debate that’s long hung over them:

Do they use taxpayer dollars to campaign?

They’ve acknowledged they do.

In fact, this week, supervisors detailed how it works as they tried to block one of their colleagues from holding the kind of public events they’ve long done in the communities that elected them.

This week, an audio recording surfaced from a GOP event detailing efforts by two Republican supervisors to box in Democrat Supervisor Katrina Foley.

The recording is from the March meeting of the Orange County Young Republicans with Supervisor Don Wagner and Diane Harkey, who is the OC Republican Party-endorsed candidate running against Foley this year.

[Click here to listen to the recording, which was provided by Foley’s campaign.]

An attendee asked how Republicans can beat Foley’s incumbency advantage in the election.

“This gentleman [Don Wagner] and [Supervisor] Andrew [Do] and the other supervisors have pretty much kept her boxed, so that she cannot work outside of [the new] District 2, which is now Santa Ana and what?” Harkey said in her response, according to the audio.

“It’s Santa Ana and basically the central part of the county,” Wagner said.

“We are watching her like a hawk. She’s been spending money in the [new] 5th District – county money,” Wagner added.

“And I’ve brought an item to the board to put a stop to that. So we’re watching her.”

Last week, that’s what he did.

Wagner and Do successfully brought forward a proposal banning county supervisors from using county resources outside the cities they currently represent, unless they get permission from the supervisor whose district they want to use county resources in.

County supervisors have gotten in trouble before for using tax dollars to promote themselves during their re-elections.

When Supervisor Andrew Do spent over $246,000 on county-funded mailers featuring himself ahead of his 2016 re-election, the county’s then-Auditor Controller Eric Woolery halted the payments over concerns about a state law meant to block campaigning with tax dollars.

County records obtained by Voice of OC showed Supervisor Andrew Do used voter registration information to target up to a million taxpayer-funded mailers featuring his name as he ran for re-election.

Woolery later allowed the payments after an intervention by county attorneys who report to the Board of Supervisors.

Local election watchdog Shirley Grindle then pressed state lawmakers to take action to block such self-promotions by supervisors using tax dollars.

Sacramento responded by passing a new law banning such mailers within 60 days of elections.

Then, in 2018 a majority of the board challenged their then-colleague Michelle Steel for using county tax money to send 16,000 mailers featuring herself to voters during her 2018 re-election.

“This was Campaign Mail 101,” said DA Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who at the time was a county supervisor.

OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett also raised eyebrows from her colleagues over a four-hour grand opening event for a road extension that featured her, which the county paid over $100,000 for in 2016.

Now, such questions are emerging again as supervisors use tax dollars to host events that promote their names.

This week, four of the five supervisors criticized Foley – whom they often clash with – for using county resources on event booths and concerts that feature her name in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

Do and Wagner said Foley was campaigning with taxpayer resources, noting the events are outside the new Santa Ana and Anaheim-focused district she’s now representing but are within the district she’s running for re-election in.

“Your tax dollars should go to help you, in your district, where you are represented. And should not be allowed outside of the district – perhaps to campaign for an office,” Wagner said at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting after pointing to events county staff helped organize or attend in Newport and Costa Mesa on Foley’s behalf.

“That’s an abuse,” Wagner said. 

Organizing events with county dollars provides “a lot of power to have to reach out to our constituents, but in the process to get our name out there and to some degree promote ourselves,” Do added.

“And when we do events within our own district, it’s easy. There’s no question there. The people we speak to are by definition our constituents. But when we do events that reach [out] to residents in cities that do not touch our district, then it leans more in the direction of self-promotion. And in an election cycle, maybe even campaigning.”

Wagner and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett pointed to a recent photo of Foley and a county booth featuring her name at community events in Costa Mesa.

But Foley says she’s simply doing what all of the supervisors do – and that her colleagues have tried to make her the only supervisor who can’t host events in the area that elected her.

“I’m doing the same thing every board office is doing,” Foley said in a phone interview when contacted by a reporter after Tuesday’s meeting, which she didn’t attend while she recovers from a COVID infection.

“We learned how to order the booths, how to make the brochures…from [Supervisor] Lisa Bartlett’s office, Don Wagner’s office and Doug Chaffee’s office. That’s where we got the templates. We’re doing what everyone else is doing.”

OC Supervisor Katrina Foley

The other supervisors publicly noted they love to do pet adoption events outside their district – which promote their name – and were willing to make exceptions for themselves on it.

“I agree we do need to have some flexibility” to allow that, said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett after Supervisor Doug Chaffee asked if such events would violate the rules they’re trying to apply to Foley.

“Most of the board offices get involved with the pet adoption days. And it takes some funding from the board offices to pay for the pet adoptions. But it’s something that a lot of us like to do. Even though our animal care city is in one city,” Bartlett added, calling again for “flexibility” to allow that.

As for hosting events in Newport and Costa Mesa, Foley noted these cities are in the district that elected her last year to a term that runs through the end of this year.

And she said the concerts had been planned last fall, well in advance of the redistricting process in which the other supervisors opted to have her represent a completely different area from the district that elected her – and for it to take effect immediately this past January, as opposed to after the election.

“There’s no other [supervisor] that had complete disruption and their entire district taken away from them – including the city [of Costa Mesa] in which I live,” Foley said.

She disputes that it’s campaigning, saying she’s merely connecting with constituents and handing out educational information about county services such as recycling. And she says she strictly keeps her campaign away from any events that use county resources.

It was the discussion of Wagner and Do’s proposal on Tuesday when Wagner and Do publicly said Foley was campaigning with taxpayer resources

If supervisors say what Foley’s doing is campaigning – and they themselves in their districts – doesn’t that mean all of the supervisors are campaigning with tax dollars?

Not at all, says Wagner.

“Each of us spends resources in our districts for the benefit of the residents of our districts. She is NOT spending resources in her district (D2) for the benefit of the residents of her district,” he said in a text message to Voice of OC.

“She is spending them in D5 only because she is running for election there. So the residents of D5 get extra county resources while the residents of D2 get fewer.”

Do, Bartlett and Chaffee didn’t respond to text messages asking the same question.

The decision by Foley’s colleagues to shift those supervisorial district boundaries early – at the beginning of this year – is now being challenged by her.

Pointing to recent legal analyses from the state Attorney General and Sacramento City Attorney, Foley says state law now bans changing district boundaries in the middle of a supervisor’s term, as OC supervisors did.

That new law – put into effect by the Fair Maps Act enacted in 2019 – states:

“The term of office of any supervisor who has been elected and whose term of office has not expired shall not be affected by any change in the boundaries of the district from which the supervisor was elected.”

Foley has added an agenda item to the May 10 supervisors meeting asking the board to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General on whether it was legal to have the new districts take effect before the election.

State Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) also is weighing in, penning a letter last week to California Attorney General Rob Bonta – who authored the Fair Maps Act – asking him to weigh in on whether OC supervisors improperly made the new new district lines take effect immediately.

The county’s lawyers see it differently, with County Counsel Leon Page saying at a December supervisors’ meeting that the new boundaries would in fact take effect in January.

Wagner says it’s wrong for Foley to “short change” her new temporary constituents in Santa Ana and Anaheim by spending her office’s resources in her old district where she’s now running for re-election.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to abuse and short change taxpayers in your district, even if you just consider yourself, as she said, a ‘caretaker,’ ” he said in a text message to Voice of OC.

“And you certainly should not be allowed to campaign using county tax resources.”

Foley says her colleagues are playing games, by trying to deprive her and her constituents of the same county-funded activities the rest of the supervisors get to do.

“The county’s position is nonsensical. Respectfully,” Foley said.

“Since the [district] number 2 is now assigned to Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Tustin and Orange, I now move with that number. On what planet does that make sense?” Foley said.

“Nobody in number 2 voted for me. You are elected by the people who voted for you. That is what democracy is. I mean, this is just insane,” she added.

“Everything we’re doing is service-oriented. If they don’t like that I have a team of people who are willing to serve, I mean I’m sorry, that’s what I was elected to do.”

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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Tom Daly Won’t Seek Reelection

Longtime California State Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) announced Thursday he won’t seek reelection this year, leaving an office that represents the heart of central Orange County’s interests in Sacramento up for grabs.

That means a more progressive voice in town – Santa Ana activist Bulmero “Boomer” Vicente could have an advantage in the 68th Assembly District, where Democrats hold a strong advantage in voter registration. 

But there’s still time for other candidates to enter the race. 

In fact, moments after the original publication of this story, Democratic Anaheim City Councilmember Avelino Valencia announced he would run for the seat. Valencia also serves as Daly’s district director. 

Tomorrow is the official candidate deadline for filing paperwork for the June election. 

“After much consideration, I’ve decided not to seek a sixth term in the State Assembly. It’s been a deep honor serving the residents and businesses of Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. This is my tenth year,” Daly said in a Thursday news release.

Daly’s Thursday announcement marks an end to his roughly 36-career in politics, which started at the Anaheim Union High School Board of Trustees in 1986. 

Now there’s potentially four candidates 68th Assembly District – Vicente, Valencia, Mike Tardif and James Wallace. 

Democrats have a major voter registration advantage in the district. 

Of the district’s roughly 205,000 registered voters, nearly 51% are Democrats, 21% are Republicans and 24% are no party preference voters, according to data from the OC Registrar of Voters. 

And a majority of residents eligible to vote in the district are Latino, according to data from the state’s redistricting commission

Of all the eligible voters in the district, 56% are Latino, 28% are white, 12% are Asian and 2% are Black. 

Vicente, a Santa Ana resident, is the only candidate in the 68th Assembly District that had a campaign website, as of Thursday afternoon. 

Valencia, Tardif and Wallce don’t yet appear to have campaign websites. 

Wallace released a YouTube video promoting charter schools a few days ago. 

Tardif, while endorsed by the OC Republican Party, seemingly doesn’t have a social media presence or campaign videos online. 

He most recently filed a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office in an effort to get OC Board of Education member and Tustin City Council member Beckie Gomez to drop one of her two elected seats.

[Read: Another OC Board of Education Member Faces Legal Threat for Holding Two Elected Offices]

In Santa Ana, he’s been a conservative resident voice in a majority liberal town. 

But as recent years have demonstrated, that doesn’t always discount one’s electoral chances. 

Tardif was a supporter of former Councilmember Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias, a Republican whose unique base got her the needed votes to hold a seat on the dais until 2019, when she was ousted in a recall election that came after a campaign funded primarily by the police union. 

Iglesias sparred with the union intensely and publicly during her time in office, centered on enhanced pay raises granted to police officers in 2019, raises which some City Hall observers have called fiscally irresponsible.

Tardif has similarly criticized the union, from the public’s podium during council meetings.

One can also count Vicente as a police union critic, though for likely different reasons. 

Vicente’s an advocate for a reimagined system of public safety in central county, a vision where more taxpayer dollars go to parks and libraries than to police – a vision more or less shared by those in town further left-leaning than some of the city’s current council members. 

The reverse is currently the case under the city’s annual budget. 

That also involves advocating for resources in central county communities which Vicente and supporters say better improves public safety – handball courts and after school programs. 

He’s also been a strong proponent of the city’s rent control ordinance. 

Valencia was elected to the Anaheim City Council in 2020, and has asked a few questions publicly about the council-approved Angel Stadium land sale’s Surplus Land Act violations.

This story was updated to include Avelino Valencia’s Assembly candidate announcement.

•••

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3 OC supervisor seats up in June

A majority of Orange County voters will get to choose their county supervisors in June, and they’re soon going to find out who will be on the ballot.

The filing period opened this week for candidates seeking seats in the newly drawn Districts 2, 4 and 5, and whoever wants to be on the June 7 primary ballot has until March 11 to turn in paperwork to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

A combination of recent redistricting (which changed district boundaries), and term limits for supervisors, has created a rare situation – two supervisor seats that are essentially wide open.

Supervisor Katrina Foley won a special election last year in the old District 2. But the new version of that seat doesn’t include Costa Mesa, where she lives. So, to stay on the board, she’s hoping to win in the newly drawn District 5, where Supervisor Lisa Bartlett is ineligible for reelection due to term limits.

While the District 5 race is expected to be highly contested, Foley’s move leaves the new District 2 – OC’s first-ever Latino majority voting district – up for grabs. At the same time, the new District 4, where current Supervisor Doug Chaffee is running again with a self-funded war chest of about $300,000, is expected to draw several opponents.

“I can’t remember the last time we had two open supervisor seats at the same time,” said Democratic political consultant George Urch.

While county supervisor seats technically are nonpartisan, the Republican and Democratic parties in Orange County back candidates and grapple for control of the five-member board. For decades, the battle was something of a David vs. Goliath fight. Until 2019, voter registration numbers showed the GOP with an advantage over Democrats in Orange County – and the GOP held a virtual lock on county supervisor seats. Some critics said the redistricting of 2011 was shaped to help the GOP hold that advantage.

This time around, the landscape is different. Orange County voter registration data now shows Democrats with a small but growing advantage over Republicans. And this year’s board, with two of the five supervisors (Foley and Chaffee) Democrats, crafted new districts that show Republicans holding slim registration advantages in Districts 1, 3 and 5, and Democrats with bigger advantages in Districts 2 and 4, according to Political Data Inc., a company that tracks voter registration throughout California.

“I think the redistricting maps came out fair,” said Republican consultant Lou Penrose. “They’re fair fights.”

While the Democrat advantage in District 2 appears the biggest in the county – with the party preferred by 48.1% of registered voters vs. 22.5% who are registered with the GOP – Penrose suggests party affiliation won’t necessarily be the determining factor.

“I would encourage a Republican candidate to run hard in any of them,” Penrose said of the supervisor seats.

Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen (both Democrats) have announced they’re running in District 2, which includes all of Santa Ana and portions of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Orange and Tustin.

In District 4 – which covers northern Orange County, including west Anaheim, Fullerton and Placentia – Chaffee will have to contend with at least one other Democrat, Buena Park Councilwoman Sunny Park, and there’s plenty of time for other candidates to jump in. Democrats in the district hold a roughly 12 point registration advantage over the GOP – 41.9% to 29.3% – according to Political Data Inc.

In District 5, where the GOP advantage over Democrats is slight, 37.4% to 33.4%, the race could get crowded.

Foley is expected to face several Republican opponents, including Diane Harkey, who has held local and state offices, and state Senator Pat Bates, who is also a former county supervisor. Several people who planned to run before the district lines changed still have open campaign accounts, and Urch said he wouldn’t be surprised if a couple more candidates actually file to get on the ballot.

Penrose considers the reconfigured District 5 a powerful seat because it brings together the county’s key revenue-generating assets, John Wayne Airport and Dana Point Harbor, and it also includes the (state-owned) OC Fair & Events Center and (city-owned) Newport Harbor

While Penrose thinks voters’ concerns about crime and quality of life issues could drive them to support GOP candidates (he’s backing Harkey in District 5), Urch sees a chance for Democrats to pick up a third seat and take the board majority for the first time in decades.

One challenge for everybody running for supervisor may be getting the public to notice them.

Most of the state-level races on the June 7 ballot are incumbents seeking reelection, and there will be no statewide initiatives — something Urch suggested voters could find boring.

“Everybody’s going to be scrambling for limited campaign dollars and attention for their campaigns,” he said.

Potential candidates for OC supervisors seats in District 2, 4 and 5 have until March 11 to file paperwork to get on the June ballot. If any race has more than two candidates and no one receives at least 50% plus one vote, the top two vote getters will face off again in a two-person runoff in November.

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Newport Beach police feared ‘cover-up’ by DA Spitzer

A Newport Beach police supervisor raised concerns several weeks ago that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was trying to “cover-up” racially charged comments made by DA Todd Spitzer, according to a newly-released memo he sent to a judge.

Court Depweg, an acting lieutenant in the police department’s detective division, informed a judge in a Feb. 3 memo that he had warned the head of the DA’s homicide division that “the actions by his office would affect our working relationship moving forward and it was disappointing that he and so many of his colleagues would try and cover this matter up, as we all know ‘the cover-up is always worse than the crime.’ “

In the memo, the lieutenant described the DA’s office as going behind the back of the victims and police by informing the court and the defense that they would not seek the death penalty against Jamon Buggs, a Black man who is accused of killing a White couple in Newport Beach. The memo also cites what the lieutenant described at the time as “information from multiple sources” that DA Todd Spitzer had made “an unsolicited, derogatory and racist comment about Black men/persons.”

Police and prosecutors work as partners on the prosecution team during a criminal case, and it is highly unusual for a police official to reach out directly to a judge to criticize the DA office’s actions or to weigh in outside of the DA’s office on what information should be shared with the court or the defense. Newport Beach police on Thursday declined to comment further on the memo.

Spitzer said at the time the police memo was written, his office was “very limited in what we could say because we had already gone to the judge and the issue was being litigated in court.” Spitzer previously said he was misquoted and taken out of context regarding the racial comments.

“It is completely understandable that there would be some confusion by other parties because the ongoing litigation prevented us from discussing details of the proceedings,” Spitzer said.

“When my head of homicide expressed to me that Newport Beach police had questions about the status of the case and asked if I would take a phone call, I told him they could call me anytime,” Spitzer added. “No one ever called me.”

DA spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said they had already reached out to the judge the day before the police memo was sent and met with the judge the day after that.

The formerly sealed memo was sent to Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett, who released it on Thursday, a day after internal memos outlining the racially charged comments made by Spitzer were leaked to the media. The Register had previously requested that the filings in the case be unsealed, citing the potential significant public interest.

In a memo about an Oct. 1 meeting regarding whether to seek the death penalty in the Buggs case, former Senior Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh wrote that Spitzer inquired about the race of Buggs’ previous girlfriends.

According to Baytieh’s memo, others in the room told Spitzer the question was irrelevant and inappropriate to consider during a discussion of the death penalty, but Spitzer disagreed and “said he knows many black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating ‘white women.” Baytieh later penned a correction amending the line to say Spitzer “knows many black people who enhance their status by only dating ‘white women.’”

Baytieh in the initial memo also alleged that Spitzer said he knew a Black student in college who dated only White women to get himself out of his “bad circumstances and situations,” a quote later amended to say Spitzer said he knew a Black student who dated only White women to “enhance his status.”

In his own memo to the judge, Spitzer defended himself by writing he was trying to determine the potential racial overtones in the Buggs case and other mitigating factors. According to the memo, Buggs wanted to kill the man he believed was dating his former girlfriend, who is White. And the female victim’s appearance was similar to Buggs’ estranged girlfriend’s, the DA added, raising questions about whether he misidentified the woman prior to allegedly killing her.

Spitzer fired Baytieh a week ago, publicly saying the dismissal was the result of an investigation into whether Baytieh withheld evidence in a 2010 murder case, resulting in the conviction being overturned. But Baytieh’s defenders contend he was actually fired for acting as a whistleblower regarding the racial comments.

In his memo, Baytieh contended that Buggs’ defense attorney should have been informed of Spitzer’s comments under the recent Racial Justice Act, which allows lawyers to challenge a conviction based on racial bias. Spitzer disagreed, and removed everyone at the meeting – including himself – from handing the case.

That changeover in the prosecution team appears to be what prompted Depweg, the acting lieutenant in the Newport Beach detective division, to write his memo to Judge Prickett, who is presiding over the Buggs case. Depweg in the memo expressed concern that the case had been assigned to a prosecutor who was not in the DA’s homicide division, and that the previous prosecutor told him that they could no longer speak to them about Buggs’ criminal case.

Depweg wrote that he expressed his concerns about a potential cover-up during a lunch with Steve McGreevy, head of the DA’s homicide unit. McGreevy responded that “he completely understood my position,” Depweg wrote.

Buggs, a personal trainer from Huntington Beach, was arrested several days after the bodies of 48-year-old Wendi Miller and 38-year-old Darren Partch were found at Partch’s home in the 2100 block of East 15th Street in Newport Beach. He is currently awaiting trial.

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Did District Attorney Spitzer Fire a Top Prosecutor to Protect Himself?

Orange County’s District Attorney’s office continues to be plagued by mounting allegations that local prosecutors don’t play by the rules.

This week, the scandal shook the very core of the top prosecutor’s inner circle with Spitzer firing a top assistant he once called his ethical North Star, raising questions himself publicly about ongoing cheating on prosecutions and whether Spitzer’s own department has fully cooperated with an ongoing Department of Justice probe. 

It all stems from a 2010 murder conviction when Brahim Baytieh reportedly withheld evidence from defense attorneys in the Paul Gentile Smith murder case, which eventually led to a new trial.

Senior Assistant DA Brahim Baytieh of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Credit: Baytieh for Judge campaign website

“This decision was as a result of allegations that a prosecutor failed under the prior administration to turn over information about an informant to the defense,” Spitzer said in a statement. 

Voice of OC County Reporter Nick Gerda reported on those allegations last August, noting the controversy was first discovered by public defenders Scott Sanders and Sara Ross.

The public defenders accused Spitzer’s main executive prosecutor in charge of ensuring evidence is properly disclosed, Baytieh, to himself failing to disclose evidence. And recently, a court backed them up. 

I called Spitzer’s spokesperson Kimberly Edds on Wednesday about Baytieh’s firing, which she confirmed by forwarding a statement from Spitzer – his only answer to the rationale and timing of the dismissal. 

In his statement, Spitzer said he took immediate action after those disclosures came out last August. 

“I immediately hired an independent law firm to investigate whether there was a failure by the prosecutor to properly turn over discovery and whether the prosecutor was truthful in all subsequent and related inquiries by the United States Department of Justice,” Spitzer said.

On Wednesday, Spitzer added, “yesterday, that independent investigation was completed. As a result of those findings, the prosecutor is no longer employed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.”

Yet almost immediately upon Spitzer’s firing of Baytieh on Wednesday, Orange County political and legal circles were buzzing, questioning the timing and public nature of Baytieh’s firing. 

Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Edds, insisted there was no other reason behind the timing of the firing.

Yet I heard almost simultaneously from deep sources, from directly opposite perspectives connected to the DA’s office, offering the exact same description of events that they believe led to Baytieh’s public firing. 

According to several anonymous sources close to the issue, during a recent meeting with prosecutors in an ongoing, high-profile criminal case in Orange County Superior Court, Spitzer uttered what some in the room considered racist statements about the defendant, statements that under a rule called Brady (after a relevant court case) should have been disclosed to the defendant’s attorney.

Sources indicate that Baytieh and at least one other prosecutor wrote memos about the issue, which are being reviewed by a Superior Court judge, who may ultimately disclose them. 

Spitzer’s spokeswoman Edds dismissed the claims. 

“The investigation is solely related to the Smith case. It is both a personnel issue and a litigation issue. We are working with County Counsel on this and there is no additional information available at this time,” Edds texted in response to follow up questions about the allegations coming from anonymous sources close to the department. 

“The information you were provided by unnamed sources is inaccurate,” Edds wrote, adding, “Spitzer did not utter any racist statements.”

§

Now you would think if anybody would be speaking up publicly about such an explosive allegation and the timing of his firing, it would be Baytieh.

This is a guy who was just publicly fired in the midst of a well-funded campaign for judge that has just about every politician and labor union in Orange County supporting him. 

But he’s not. 

Baytieh didn’t respond to any of my calls or emails for comment. And he also didn’t comment to the Orange County Register reporters who broke the news of his firing on Wednesday. 

On Friday, a source close to the issue forwarded a statement that Baytieh emailed his supporters — a short statement that totally ignored the background of his exit from the DA’s office.

“Today was my last day as a prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” Baytieh wrote.

Almost hinting that there’s something else to his exit, he notes “People who know me, including my colleagues, opposing counsel, and judicial officers, know that I always carried out my responsibilities by following the highest ethical standards. I want to thank each and every one of you who have supported me, and I want to assure you that I will continue to work hard to earn the trust you have placed in me. 

I am excited and energized to continue working hard on my judicial campaign, and I will spare no effort to earn the trust and support of the voters in the upcoming election. I know this is a long journey, but with your help and support I have no doubt that I will be successful.  My family and I are honored and heartened by your support and friendship. Thank you.”

§

In another odd twist, Baytieh potentially could have found himself running for the same judgeship as Shawn Nelson, who was Baytieh’s superior at the DA’s office. 

Nelson also has an active campaign to become an OC Superior Court judge, announcing just last month that was running for District 11, currently held by John L. Flynn III. 

Before Spitzer launched his 2018 DA campaign, then-supervisor Nelson was his rival on the OC Board of Supervisors.

While Nelson initially endorsed former DA Tony Rackauckas, he eventually switched his endorsement to Spitzer. 

Then, right after Spitzer’s election, Nelson – who termed out as a county supervisor – went to work for Spitzer with the title of Chief Assistant District Attorney. 

The expectation was that Nelson would hang his hat at the DA’s office until he ran for judge. 

Baytieh, a prosecutor since the late 1990s, rose to prominence in Orange County back in 2015 when he became the main defender of how Orange County prosecutors were handling disclosures to defense attorneys – often referred to as the informants scandal. 

Then-Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, in a March 2015 ruling, kicked the entire DA’s office off the 2011 Seal Beach mass shooting case after finding sheriff’s deputies “either intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence from [the] court.”

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At a highly-attended public debate later that year, Baytieh said no one at the DA’s office intentionally hid evidence.

“The notion that there is any effort on anybody’s part, at any level, to intentionally hide evidence…is from our perspective absolutely false,” Baytieh said at the October 2015 debate at Chapman University’s law school.

However, an appellate court later found the DA’s office had participated in “intentional or negligent” withholding of information they were required to provide defendants.

Despite his ties to the former Rackauckas administration that Spitzer ran against, he kept Baytieh in a high-level position, despite being involved with the controversy.

At a victims’ rally last year, Spitzer praised Baytieh, describing him as one of “the best prosecutors in the entire nation.”

He told the OC Register he kept Baytieh in his high-ranking position because he respects his guidance.

“I kept Brahim because Brahim’s a North Star, he’s someone you look up to to guide you. He’s someone I listen to a lot,” Spitzer told the OC Register for an article published in April.

Yet last August, questions around Baytieh’s actions in court surfaced again. 

Judge Patrick Donohue tossed out a 2010 conviction of Paul Gentile Smith for a Sunset Beach murder after public defenders forced Spitzer to acknowledge to Donahue that Baytieh had failed to turn over informant evidence that had to be legally disclosed to defense attorneys – the same allegation made by OC public defenders in previous years. 

At the time, Spitzer – who declined to be interviewed for this story, but forwarded a statement – said his office was commissioning a study into how the case was handled, which Spitzer said culminated on Wednesday. 

“I made it unequivocally clear when I ran for Orange County District Attorney that I would not tolerate the ‘win at all costs’ mentality of the prior administration. My prosecutors will not violate the Constitution and the rights of defendants in order to get convictions,” Spitzer said in a statement.

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For once, the most visible public defender in Orange County and the District Attorney agreed on something. 

When reached for comment, OC Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who has been raising questions about prosecutors’ lack of disclosure on the use of jail informants over the past decade, agreed with Spitzer’s characterization of Baytieh’s conduct.

Yet Sanders said despite what prosecutors tell themselves and the public, their cheating is clear and systematic. 

“We will soon be filing a motion that details the astonishing quantity of evidence that was withheld for more than a decade,” reads a statement sent by Sanders. 

“The misconduct in this case is arguably the most egregious of that uncovered during the entire informant scandal–and the leader was the same person who insisted publicly there was not a ‘shred of evidence’ that any prosecutor withheld evidence,” he said.

Sanders said all of that should’ve been disclosed under the law.

“And what makes it so egregious is what was done in hopes of having the defendant die in prison without the truth ever being discovered. The law under the Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland required that the misconduct of the prosecution team members from this case be disclosed in every other case where those who participated in the misconduct later became witnesses,” Sanders wrote. 

“Baytieh did not disclose the misconduct in any case for more than a decade, infecting those cases as well.

“We don’t think there is another case in this nation where the defense is able to establish the amount of Brady violations stemming from a single case. It is unconscionable,” Sanders wrote.  

§

Now, for the even trickier part. 

If Spitzer is indeed right about Baytieh, Sanders notes it raises disturbing issues about all the so-called probes of the cheating scandal and whether a ton of federal prosecutors have been lied to by their fellow local prosecutors. 

“Both sides now appear to be in agreement that the United States Department of Justice was misled,” Sanders wrote. “And there is every reason to believe that the incredibly important misconduct in this case was hidden from the California Attorney General and the Orange County Grand Jury, as well.”

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It’s never too late for a ballot initiative

THE BUZZ — LATE BLOOMERS: It’s crunch time for ballot initiative campaigns — and some hugely consequential proposals are just getting started.

While some campaigns have been collecting signatures for months or have already gathered enough to get on the ballot, others are ramping up with mere months to go.Unless you have a volunteer army at your disposal, it takes some serious resources to secure the requisite support on a compressed timeline — petition-circulating firms obey the laws of supply and demand too, so the market sets the per-signature price. And money is moving.

A pair of late-surfacing proposals from opposite endsof the political spectrum could dramatically alter the dynamics of this ballot. On the right, a coalition of business and anti-tax organizations are looking to raise the bar for tax increases. On the left, deep-pocketed progressive Joe Sanberg is questing to push California’s minimum wage to $18 and beyond.

The minimum wage proposal was cleared to start collecting signatures this week.Sanberg has said he will spend what it takes to get the measure on the November ballot, arguing the pandemic has exacerbated financial strain on low-income Californians. He also appears to have the powerful California Labor Federation in his corner, with Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski releasing a statement lauding a wage boost as “an absolute necessity.” Labor was instrumental in putting California on its current $15 minimum wage trajectory.

Meanwhile, the California Business Roundtablechanneled $1.6 million toward qualifying a proposal that would throw up barriers to new or higher taxes. It would require voter approval when the Legislature raises or enacts taxes — fortifying the already-tough 2/3 legislative vote requirement — while broadening the definition of what counts as a tax and upping the threshold for local voter-passed taxes to two-thirds. Apotent coalition of labor and local government groups has already mobilized against this effort. If it gets enough signatures, that could give supporters leverage to win concessions from Sacramento, as happened with a 2018 dealdisarming local governments on soda taxes.

And don’t forget about sports betting. A Native American coalition has already qualified a measure authorizing bets on tribal land. But after DraftKings and FanDuel launched a push to run online bets, some tribes upped the pot with another measure that would cement tribal control of online wagers. That one is on the street. At the same time, tribes have launched a $100 million-plus counterattack to the platforms’ campaign, and they’re still funding the initial tribal measure: Yocha Dehe Wintun dropped another $5 million this week.

In other words: the potential 2022 ballot has shrunk, and some campaigns have pulled out. But we’re still a long way from knowing the final lineup of initiatives — and it could be a long one, depending how many dollars and signatures pile up between now and April.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Thursday morning. Republicans are trying yet again today to force a vote in the Legislature on ending the state of emergency that has endured since Gov. Gavin Newsom declared it at the start of the pandemic — a gambit that is likely to fail and all but certain to inform GOP campaign messaging.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit jwhite@politico.com or follow me on Twitter @jeremybwhite.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Their world view, on even the case of the death penalty, ultimately come down to 100 feet in front of and to both sides of their front door. … Tomorrow morning, something could go down in any one of these neighborhoods that becomes a punching bag for the opposition.” State Sen. Dave Cortese on how colleagues weightough crime bill votes, via CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff.

BONUS QOTD: “It’s disturbing to see that the Republican leader of the House ran — actually, literally refused to condemn that resolution of ‘legitimate political discourse.’ He literally ran away from the press when he was asked about his position.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, remarking on a viral clip of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy avoiding a reporter’s questions.

TWEET OF THE DAY:Assemblyman @Alex_Lee on undercompensated Capitol staff, as part of a thread“CULTURE There’s a pervasive myth that if you are a public servant you should not be fairly compensated. Doubly so in the capitol bc there is no union AND there’s this toxic ‘right of passage’ mentality that you HAVE to suffer to earn your place”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

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2022 Election: Donations pour in

Rep. Katie Porter raised more money in 2021 than 90% of her fellow House members, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Porter, D-Irvine, took in $2.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 and $10.5 million last year. With cash rolled over from her last election, that leaves her with a $16.1 million war chest as she looks to a June 7 primary against three GOP challengers in Orange County’s new coastal 47th District.

This week’s fundraising reports are the first since new political district boundaries were finalized in late December. And they offer an early clue at how competitive some Orange County House races might be in 2022, with at least three of six local seats likely to be in play this year.

Porter’s primary challenger is Scott Baugh, R-Huntington Beach, an attorney and former Assembly member. He entered the CA-47 race Dec. 22 and in nine days, before the close of the year-end filing period, he raised $519,425 in donations.

Another Republican challenger in CA-47 — Brian Burley, R-Huntington Beach, who does I.T. consulting — reported raising $338,759 in 2021, ending the year with $233,728 in cash. But his campaign owes $298,021 including $234,500 he loaned himself.

Amy Phan West, R-Westminster, who runs a rental car company with her husband, raised $151,423 in 2021 for her CA-47 bid and ended the year with $77,403 cash.

Over in the new 40th District, which covers all of eastern Orange County plus Chino Hills in San Bernardino County, Freshman Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra, took in more than $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2021, giving her $4.3 million raised this cycle as of Dec. 31. She owed $172,409 and had $2.6 million in cash, which her campaign pointed out is one of the highest of any GOP incumbent targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2022. Her new district favors the GOP by 5.6 points.

But while Kim’s primary challenger — Democrat Asif Mahmood, a physician from Bradbury who’s moving to Tustin to run for CA-40 — didn’t enter the race until Jan. 20, and so hasn’t filed any campaign finance reports yet with the FEC, his campaign said he raised $500,000 during his first 11 days in the race.

Two other candidates are challenging Kim from the right: Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, a Republican, and American Nationalist Nick Taurus.

Taurus, of Laguna Hills, has raised $7,431 this cycle largely through donations from one local family. He had $2,549 cash at the end of the year.

Raths, who last year lost to Rep. Katie Porter by seven points, officially entered the race Jan. 4, and has yet to report any fundraising.

In her bid to return to Congress — this time to represent the new 45th District, which is a majority Asian American and centered around Little Saigon — freshman GOP Rep. Michelle Steel raised $808,700 in the last quarter and $3.2 million so far this cycle. The Seal Beach resident owed $164,199 as of Dec. 31 and had close to $1.7 million cash in the bank.

That’s nearly double the cash of her primary challenger, Democrat Jay Chen. The district does favor Democrats by 4.9 points in terms of voter registration.

Chen, a Hacienda Heights resident who owns a real estate firm, raised $327,759 last quarter and $1.4 million last year. He owed $18,376 and had $978,339 in cash as of Dec. 31.

As he goes for a third term representing the 49th District, Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, raised $2 million in 2021 and headed into 2022 with $2.5 million cash. That’s twice as much as any of his three GOP challengers.

Redistricting kept CA-49 largely intact, with the district covering south coastal Orange County and northern San Diego County and favoring Democrats by 1.9 points.

His repeat GOP challenger Brian Maryott, R-San Juan Capistrano, had the next highest total with $1.8 million raised and $1.2 million cash on hand at the end of the year. But that included $1 million the former councilman loaned himself in 2021.

Maryott similarly loaned himself some $500,000 for his 2020 campaign against Levin, didn’t use most of the funds and paid himself back on Election Day, when he lost to Levin by 6.2 points.

Another candidate in CA-49, Oceanside Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, raised $776,146 in 2021, including a $100,000 loan from himself. He had $466,273 cash at the end of the year.

County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, R-Dana Point, entered the CA-49 race at the start of 2022, so she didn’t FEC reports for last year. But she had $238,291 sitting in a state Senate fund as of Dec. 31. She can’t transfer those funds, but her campaign said she’s contacted donors about writing new checks for her Congressional campaign.

In the solidly blue and majority Latino 46th District, centered around Santa Ana and Anaheim, third-term Democratic Rep. Lou Correa is sitting on a comfortable war chest of $1.5 million. Correa raised $603,911 last year, and he had cash left over from his 2020 election, which wasn’t competitive.

This year, Correa is facing a challenge from the left in Mike Ortega, a biomedical engineer and self-proclaimed socialist who’s also from Anaheim. Ortega, who will run as a Democrat, raised $34,590 in 2021. He had $4,593 left in cash after campaign expenses.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, has an easy fundraising lead over three challengers in the new 38th District, which still includes southeast Los Angeles County and a slice of Orange County, now in La Habra.

Sanchez, a 10-term incumbent, has raised $686,353 so far this cycle. With funds rolled over from previous cycles, she had $1.1 million in cash at the end of 2021.

Her closest competitor in terms of fundraising is Republican Eric Ching, who is Mayor Pro Tem of Walnut. Ching originally was going to primary Kim, in CA-40, but after district lines were redrawn he said he plans to run in CA-38, which favors Democrats by 26 points and is majority Latino.

Ching raised $75,970 in 2021, all from individual donors. That includes $7,400 of his own money. After expenses, he had $35,163 cash Dec. 31.

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Democratic challenger Elizabeth Moreira, who lives in Norwalk and works in hospitality management, has raised $9,803 this cycle, including an $1,800 loan from herself. She had $2,021 in cash at the end of the year.

Fundraising for the district now represented by Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, isn’t included in this story because Lowenthal is retiring at the end of this term and redistricting has drawn Orange County out of that seat.

A handful of other candidate have pulled paperwork to run for local seats, but haven’t yet formally filed or reported any fundraising. The deadline to enter the race is March 11.

The next round of campaign finance reports, covering the first quarter of the year, are due April 15.

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Ex-prosecutor joins race for Orange County district attorney

Former Orange County District Attorney’s Office supervisor Michael Jacobs announced his bid for district attorney Tuesday, Feb. 1, saying neither the incumbent nor his main challenger thus far have the experience or ability to run the office.

Jacobs, a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, was a trial attorney for 25 years, dwarfing the trial experience of first-term District Attorney Todd Spitzer and candidate Pete Hardin, a former county and federal prosecutor.

“Both of the other candidates have problems in their backgrounds and a lack of experience,” Jacobs said. “It seems to me Hardin and the prosecutor have similarities.”

Spitzer is being sued by several women prosecutors who claim they were sexually harassed by a friend of Spitzer’s who was promoted to a top position in the office. Hardin was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after allegedly violating its adultery policy.

Jacobs said of Hardin: “I don’t believe he’s up to doing the work.”

However, Jacobs career is not without blemishes as well.

He was fired from the District Attorney’s Office in 2001 after reporting then-D.A. Tony Rackauckas to state prosecutors for allegedly shutting down investigations into cronies. The California Attorney General’s Office had earlier warned Rackauckas about potential problems with Jacobs withholding evidence on jailhouse informants from defense attorneys.

Jacobs won back his job in 2003 and retired three years later. He now practices civil law. He said he has never been cited for misconduct and that any legal mistakes he made were found by judges to be inconsequential.

Spitzer, a former member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and state Assembly, said the county shouldn’t take that chance on Jacobs.

“We don’t need Mike Jacobs to come back from retirement,” Spitzer said. “Mike Jacobs was linked to the snitch scandal in 2016 and the last thing we need is to reopen that horrible chapter of Orange County history.”

The snitch scandal evolved from a series of court hearings beginning in 2014 that concluded prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies were misusing jailhouse informants to secure confessions from targeted inmates, violating their right to have a lawyer present.

The violations were so profound that a judge took the death penalty off the table for mass killer Scott Dekraai, who instead got life in prison for the 2011 massacre at the Salon Heritage in Seal Beach where his ex-wife worked.

For his part, Hardin said he hopes the three-man race will focus on real issues, not a comparison between Los Angeles and Orange counties, which Spitzer did last week when he officially declared his candidacy for the June 7 primary election. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the ballots cast, the two top vote-getters move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

“I welcome Mr. Jacobs to the race. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but Mr. Jacobs and I agree that safety and justice have suffered from having a career politician play gatekeeper to our criminal legal system,” Hardin said. “I hope his candidacy helps steer the discourse back to the serious issues facing our community, like increasing crime, homelessness and the culture of sexual harassment and retaliation that DA Spitzer has enabled.”

In one of Jacobs’ cases involving informant Daniel Escalera, the trade-off to win a conviction would prove disastrous to a gas station attendant and his family.

Facing a felony charge for robbing and beating another man in a hotel room, Escalera might have spent years in prison, but Jacobs and others signed off on a plea arrangement allowing Escalera to receive probation, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. Jacobs has acknowledged signing the plea agreement.

Escalera, already released on his own recognizance, was allowed to remain free when the case ended — but only temporarily. A few months later, he got into a wee-hour altercation at a gas station, drew a gun and fatally shot station attendant Edward Rios in the neck, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

The star informant had become a killer.

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Midterms bringing huge money, attention to Orange County House races

Redistricting could shift partisan odds in local districts months before the 2022 primary.

A month after voters cast ballots in the California Gubernatorial Recall Election at the Huntington Beach Central Library in Huntington Beach, talk of the 2022 midterm elections is heating up.. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)By BROOKE STAGGS | bstaggs@scng.com | Orange County RegisterPUBLISHED: October 19, 2021 at 6:54 p.m. | UPDATED: October 20, 2021 at 9:29 a.m.

Though the 2022 midterms are more than a year away the political battleground of Orange County is tight enough, and the stakes high enough, that candidates running for local House seats have already raised $19 million, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

And all of the local House races — two of which are considered highly competitive and two others marginally so — also are just weeks away from serious potential shakeups.

Once-in-a-decade redistricting is expected to shift the geography and the electoral lean of every political district in the country. By year’s end, those changes could bring new candidates and a flurry of new fundraising if incumbents wind up looking more vulnerable than they do today.

So far, in the most competitive seats, GOP Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, who both flipped their districts to win in 2020, are out-fundraising their Democratic challengers, Harley Rouda and Jay Chen, by margins close to two to one. Still, Rouda and Chen have each brought in more than $1 million, with some experts predicting that voters in those districts (CA-48 and CA-39, respectively) will lean more to the left after boundaries are redrawn.

Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Mike Levin, who flipped CA-45 and CA-49 in 2018 and held them in 2020, look more solid heading into next year. Porter continues to post massive fundraising hauls, with no high-profile GOP candidates so far challenging her. And Democrats in Levin’s district continue to expand their once slim advantage in voter registration.

But these districts could see significant changes when boundary lines move during redistricting. Official drafts of new district maps are due Nov. 15 and the deadline for final boundaries is Dec. 15. However, some unofficial maps floated during recent California Citizens Redistricting Commission meetings suggest registration in Porter’s district, which now has 6,652 more Democrats than Republicans, could shift to the right while Kim’s district, which now has 22,000 more Democrats than Republicans, could become deeper blue. For example, one proposal gives Porter a portion of conservative Yorba Linda and Kim a slice of solidly blue Anaheim.

Levin — along with local Democratic Reps. Lou Correa and Linda Sanchez, who are both in solidly blue districts and have drawn no major political challengers the last two cycles — faces zero or minimal risk from redistricting, according to a ranking from Cook Political Report. The same report suggests Kim, Porter, Steel and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach all face a slight risk. Porter’s district is overpopulated while Kim, Lowenthal and Steel represent underpopulated districts.

Porter’s growing national profile might offset the risk she might face in redistricting. That profile helped her raise $2.7 million in the third quarter, more money than any other Democrat in the House. More than 97% came from individual donors. Porter is now sitting on $14.5 million in cash.

Among Porter’s six GOP challengers, two have some traction in terms of campaign funds. Brian Burley of Huntington Beach, an IT professional who last year lost a primary challenge to Steel in CA-48, has banked $304,627 this cycle, though he loaned himself nearly three-quarters of that total. And Shawn Collins, an attorney and Navy veteran who lives in Trabuco Canyon, has raised $206,543 entirely from individual donations.

In the 39th District — which includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties — Kim raised $981,170 last quarter. She had $1.95 million in cash at the end of last month.

Democratic challenger Chen of Hacienda Heights, an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserves who owns a real estate firm, raised $351,043 during the third quarter. His campaign had $782,081 in the bank. Republican challenger Eric Ching, Walnut’s Mayor Pro-Tem, raised $11,025 last quarter and had $29,955 in cash. And repeat challenger Steve Cox, an independent from Chino Hills, hasn’t reported raising any money so far this election cycle.

In CA-48 — which runs along coastal Orange County, from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach, and where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 21,000 — Steel raised $751,480 in the third quarter of the year in her bid to keep the seat. Her campaign owes $211,455, including $150,000 left on a 2020 loan from herself. She reported $1.35 million in cash heading into October.

Rouda, of Laguna Beach, raised $376,904 in the third quarter. He had $604,008 in campaign cash.

Independent Chris Balasinski of Newport Beach filed to join the CA-48 race but has yet to report any fundraising.

In CA-49, a narrowly blue district that includes southern Orange County and northern San Diego County, Levin of San Juan Capistrano raised $501,490 in the third quarter. At the start of this month Levin had $2.3 million in cash.

Two Republicans from opposite ends of CA-49 are squaring off to face Levin in the general election.

Repeat CA-49 challenger Brian Maryott — a Republican from San Juan Capistrano who won 46.9% of the vote while losing to Levin in November — raised $619,349 over the past three months. But that includes another $500,000 he loaned to his own campaign. Maryott now has $566,010 in cash.

Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, who’s also a Republican, raised $303,609 in the third quarter, including a $50,000 loan from himself. He reported having $310,363 in cash at the end of the third quarter.

A third Republican, Anne Elizabeth from Dana Point, filed to run for CA-49 in September but hasn’t reported any fundraising to date.

Two local Democratic incumbents in solidly blue districts so far face their biggest challengers from the left.

In central O.C.’s 46th District, Correa, D-Anaheim, raised $203,115 during the third quarter. His largest donors include trade union and corporate PACs, left-leaning committees and Phillips 66 oil company. When that number is combined with funds rolled over from previous cycles, Correa has $1.5 million in cash on hand.

CA-46 challenger Michael Ortega, a biomedical engineer from Anaheim who has pledged not to take corporate PAC money, supports progressive Democratic policies such as Medicare for All, abolishing ICE and the Green New Deal. He’s raised $20,351, all from individual donors, with $8,279 left in cash.

Cecelia Truman, a Republican from Menifee who lost a 2020 bid for a seat on her city council, is also challenging Correa. She’s raised $35 this cycle.

In CA-38, which is primarily in southern Los Angeles County but includes a small slice of north Orange County, Sanchez, D-Whittier, took in $171,033 in contributions during the third quarter of the year. She has $927,769 in cash on hand with funds rolled over from previous elections.

Challenger Sylvester Ani Jr. of Cerritos, a Democrat who runs a nonprofit to help marginalized communities, raised $9,304 in the third quarter, with $9,515 left in cash. Democrat Elizabeth Moreira of Norwalk, an Army veteran who works in hospitality management, raised $2,015 last quarter and had $4,444 in cash. Republican Paul Irvine Jones, a reverend from Lakewood, hasn’t reported any fundraising in the CA-38 race.

The only local challenger who appeared to raise more than the incumbent last quarter came on the northwest edge of Orange County, where five-term Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, faces a repeat matchup with Republican John Briscoe in CA-47. But funds for Briscoe, a marketing instructor who lost to Lowenthal in November, came entirely from $270,000 in loans he made to himself. He had $255,306 left in cash heading into the fourth quarter.

Lowenthal, who last year was re-elected with 63% of the vote, raised $46,057 during the third quarter in his bid to keep the solidly blue district that includes northwest Orange County and southwest L.A. County. He reported $443,783 in cash with funds rolled over from previous elections.

Republican Michelle Lyons of Long Beach, who owns a modeling school, also is challenging Lowenthal this cycle. The former independent, who became an ordained minister during the pandemic, has raised $21,515 this cycle. She has $9,338 in cash left and $14,405 in outstanding debt.

The next fundraising reports, covering all of 2021, are due to the FEC by Jan. 31.

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Never mind: OC supervisor term limits measure

A week after Orange County supervisors voted to put a measure on the ballot with the statewide recall election planned this fall, California legislators barred piggybacking.

A budget bill passed Monday night includes a provision that any local governments that want to combine their issues with the state special election – which will ask whether voters want to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom – had to have already decided by June 15 to call their own election; Orange County made the decision June 22.

A majority of the OC supervisors had wanted to ask county voters whether to adjust their term limits, which currently allow people to serve two back-to-back terms on the board but then requires them to leave before they’re eligible to run again. The proposed ballot measure would have changed the rule to let people serve no more than three terms in total as a supervisor.

Backers said the change would honor the spirit of term limits – giving new people a chance to serve and preventing politicians from becoming entrenched – while allowing supervisors time to build experience and relationships that would help them best serve the public.

Critics argued the measure was unnecessary – only one person has ever hit the two-term limit and later been reelected to the board – and could be seen as self-serving for incumbents.

Now, that debate appears to have been for naught. The change to the budget bill made June 23 prevents local agencies from adding their measures to the recall election ballot unless they meet certain conditions, which Orange County doesn’t seem to.

County spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said Tuesday the bill’s language “is being reviewed for impacts to the term limit matter the board approved on June 22.”

Supervisor Don Wagner, who opposed putting the local measure before voters, said state legislators changing the rules during the game is “nefarious, but they have a right to do it, I think.”

Wagner – a Republican and key recall proponent – said he suspects legislators in the Democratic majority thought, “We don’t want any of those rascally red counties to stick something on the ballot that’s going to bring out their voters” and potentially hurt Newsom’s prospects.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee – A Democrat who supported sending the term limit measure to OC voters, but said he never intended to seek more than two terms – is also convinced state legislators’ move was political, but for a different reason: if the measure succeeded, it would give the GOP a better chance of holding onto Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s District 5 seat. (Three of five OC supervisors are Republicans.)

“Turning the county blue is a priority of the Democratic party,” Chaffee said.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon disputed the suggestion that state legislators were reacting to Orange County’s decision to place a measure on the recall ballot.

“The first we heard about this was from a reporter who called us last week. There is zero connection between any amendments to (Assembly Bill) 152 and Orange County’s, or any jurisdiction’s, local ballot measures,” Katie Talbot said in a text message Tuesday.

Chaffee said he hasn’t looked into placing the term limit measure on a future ballot, but he still thinks it’s a useful proposal.

In the meantime, Wagner said for the average voter, the kerfuffle has “no significance whatsoever. Nothing has changed as a result of this.”