Normally Quiet Orange County Judicial Races Face Some Drama

Normally Quiet Orange County Judicial Races Face Some Drama

Voters stand beside an official Orange County ballot drop box as they prepare to cast their ballots for the 2020 elections at the Orange County Registrar's Office in Santa Ana, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

John Moorlach

John Moorlach

2/21/2024

Updated: 2/22/2024

Commentary
Every election cycle, many of my friends ask for my ballot suggestions. I gather information on the races and post recommendations for the candidates and ballot measures on my blog. I also instruct the reader to understand my simple rules for using the voter guide as a tool in their own personal research and decision making.
Rule number one, since I am currently a member and delegate of the California Republican Party and an ex officio member of the Orange County Republican Central Committee, I am expected to recommend and endorse only Republicans. (Disclaimer: I am not making any recommendations here; this publication is not recommending or endorsing any candidate.)
Rule number two is to rank the Republican candidate or candidates on my blog. If I have endorsed, I list the candidate in bold. If there is a good second choice, I list the individual in italics. And, if I’m not well acquainted with the candidate, I will provide their name in normal font.
The biggest concern I usually hear is how to vote for the judicial candidates. Little did I know that my simple voter guide recommendations would generate so much behind-the-scenes drama.
There are six countywide candidates running for three judicial seats in Orange County on the March 5th primary election ballot. In each race there is one Democrat and one Republican.
As I do not personally know the three Republicans running, I listed them in normal font. After I posted my countywide candidate voter guide, another blogger forgot about my second rule and posted that I had endorsed the three Republican Orange County Superior Court judicial candidates.
Without contacting me to confirm, the Office No. 16 candidate, Binh Dang, posted that I had endorsed his candidacy on his campaign website and began messaging Republican influencers this incorrect assumption.
Once I was informed of his activity, I connected with Mr. Dang as quickly as possible and clarified that I only listed him on my blog as a Republican and currently took no other position. Mr. Dang apologized and informed me that he would remove my name as an endorser from his website.
As you can imagine, I am still getting inquiries as to whether I have endorsed Mr. Dang. I haven’t, but I will be voting for him.
Although Mr. Dang is the only Republican running for Superior Court Office No. 16, the Orange County Republican Central Committee encouraged Mr. Dang, at its Dec. 11 monthly meeting, to withdraw his request for an endorsement after receiving a negative recommendation from the endorsements committee. Mr. Dang had only recently registered as a Republican around the time of his filing for judgeship.
Another concern was that Mr. Dang is employed by the Public Defender in Los Angeles County. He is running against someone currently employed by the Orange County District Attorney. With smart lawyers in the mix, the probable reason may be that had the Central Committee endorsed Mr. Dang, then it would have resulted in severe consequences for certain Republicans, those who are endorsing Mr. Dang’s opponent, in their future personal campaign efforts.
Several years ago, the Orange County Republican Central Committee made a revision to its bylaws prohibiting this governing body from endorsing a candidate that had previously supported the candidacy of a non-Republican candidate running against the individual endorsed by the Committee. It is still referred to as the Spitzer amendment, as former Supervisor and Assemblyman, and now Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, sponsored this bylaw provision.
Without his having received the Central Committee’s endorsement, those supporting Mr. Dang’s opponent would not technically be in violation of this section of the bylaws, should they seek the Committee’s endorsement in the future.
If this is the reason for the non-endorsement, then it’s a brilliant tactical maneuver. But it hurts a registered Republican candidate, and it helps to elect another Democrat to an Orange County judgeship.
With the Golden State having Democrat governors since January of 2011, this means that Democrats have been appointed by Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom for the last 13 years. Electing Republicans is the only way for Orange County residents to obtain a balanced bench.
For the record, Mr. Dang’s non-Republican opponent has contributed to Newsom for California Governor 2018 and Stop the Recall of Governor Newsom. So, he may have been appointed to fill the next vacancy anyway.
As Charles Dudley Warner is famous for saying, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” And since the March primary doesn’t really have much real drama when it comes to judgeship races, at least this one has generated some excitement and intrigue.
Mr. Dang’s firsthand experience now provides him with an amazing education about running for public office. Other Republicans may want to review this case study and learn from it as well. Especially if they also wish to run for a Superior Court Judge position and are not currently employed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
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John Moorlach

John Moorlach

Author

John Moorlach is the director of the California Policy Center's Center for Public Accountability. He has served as a California State Senator and Orange County Supervisor and Treasurer-Tax Collector. In 1994, he predicted the County's bankruptcy and participated in restoring and reforming the sixth most populated county in the nation.

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