Foley, however, benefited from a deeply fractured GOP field, as the three Republican candidates combined to narrowly lead the two Democrats 51-49. (Some ballots remain to be counted, so these totals could shift.) There was already clear tension within the GOP field, though, and as Foley’s victory became evident, it spilled further into public view.
Moorlach, the Republican candidate who had the blessing of the county GOP, referred to his intraparty opponents as “confused Republicans” and blamed them for Team Red’s failure to hold this seat, a view shared by county party chair Fred Whitaker. Kevin Muldoon, a Republican who took third with 11%, strongly pushed back on this assessment. Muldoon claimed that many voters in the district had reservations about Moorlach, who once held this seat himself. Muldoon argued, “This is Moorlach’s second time costing Republicans a safe seat,” alluding to Moorlach’s 51-49 loss last year for the state Senate seat he represented.
Muldoon’s view of tepid support in the district for Moorlach could be based in fact. Two of the three current GOP members of the board threw their support behind Muldoon and the traditionally Republican-friendly Orange County sheriff deputies union spent heavily against Moorlach.
Republicans made a weak attempt at splitting the Democratic vote when the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a group who had backed Moorlach, spent $2,000 to support Team Blue’s other candidate, Janet Rappaport. This half-hearted venture to influence the Democratic field was far from enough, though, as Rappaport finished in a distant fifth place with 5%.
Foley will serve out the remainder of Steel’s term and be on the ballot once again in 2022. Fellow Democratic Supervisor Doug Chaffee will be up that year as well, and there will also be a race for term-limited Republican Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s seat. If Democrats hold their seats and successfully flip Bartlett’s seat, Team Blue can win control of this body for the first time in decades.