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State Senate 37: John Moorlach leads Don Wagner with run-off possible

By on March 18, 2015

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach is leading Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, in the special election to fill Rep. Mimi Walters‘ seat in the State Senate.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Moorlach had 50.4 percent of the vote, compared to Wagner’s 44.1 percent. At first blush, that should be enough to avoid a run-off.

But, as Political Data Inc.’s Paul Mitchell has pointed out on Twitter, those percentages don’t include roughly a thousand votes in the tally. Presumably, a large number of those ballots are for write-in Democrat Louise Stewardson. When looking at the raw numbers, Moorlach’s 34,208 votes – out of 69,071 ballots cast –
drops him below 50 percent.

5,473 ballots left to count

According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, 5,473 late absentee and provisional ballots are left to be counted.

Turnout in the 37th State Senate special election was 14 percent, according to unofficial results from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Nearly all ballots – some 86 percent of those cast- were by mail.

Unofficial Tally from Orange County Elections

JOHN M. W. MOORLACH (REP) 34,208 50.40%
DONALD P. WAGNER (REP) 29,987 44.10%
NAZ NAMAZI (REP) 2,359 3.50%
Louise Stewardson (W) 1,368 2.00%

Don Wagner’s Downfall: Maui Junkets

Wagner, who substantially outspent his fellow Republicans, was weighed down by his frequent attendance at an infamous special interest junket held annually in Maui. As reported earlier this month, Wagner has attended the Independent Voter Project’s Maui bash for the past three consecutive years.

In 2014, the Irvine lawmaker accepted $2,921.19 in unspecified travel gifts to attend the November conference that is funded by special interest groups and is organized by an out-of-state lobbyist.

But, just because Wagner has attended the lavish Maui conference for three consecutive years didn’t stop him from campaigning against Sacramento’s “lavish lifestyle.” In a campaign ad, Wagner attacked Sacramento politicians for that very thing.

“Sacramento doesn’t exist to allow politicians some lavish lifestyle,” Wagner, said in an ad posted on YouTube. “I’m running to solve problems and to bring common sense back to the golden state.”

In 2013, Wagner initially refused to answer questions about his attendance at the Maui junket. However, state gift reports disclosed in March 2014 confirmed that Wagner accepted $3,011.65 to attend the 2013 Maui junket.

In 2012, Wagner accepted $2,179.79 in accommodation, meals, and beverages from the Independent Voter Project, according to his annual financial disclosure form.

State Senate 37 Special Election Results

State Senate 37 Special Election Results John Moorlach Don Wagner

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Moorlach had an outright victory. But, as Political Data Inc.’s Paul Mitchell has pointed out, the write-in vote total puts Moorlach below the 50 percent plus one margin.



About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for,, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.

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