The fluid race in the 3rd Supervisor District is about to take a new turn as Democrat Ashleigh Aitken prepares to enter the race as retired Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez prepares to exit it.
The 3rd District is represented by Supervisor Don Wagner, a Republican former Irvine Mayor and Assemblyman who defeated Sanchez in a March 2019 special election by 42% to 37%.
Sanchez reportedly made it clear last week that she was leaving the race for personal reasons. Her decision left Democrats without a candidate to oppose Wagner, who has been vigorously campaigning for re-election since taking office. The candidate filing deadline is December 6.
According to multiple sources, Aitken is holding off announcing her candidacy until Sanchez formally announces her withdrawal. Left-wing Democrat activist Michael Sean Wright teased the incipient candidacy with this Facebook post:
Aitken is member of the OC Fair Board and an attorney in her family’s law firm, Aitken, Aitken & Cohn – one of Orange County’s most successful litigation firms. Her father, Wylie, was founding chairman of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County and is a long-time political mover and shaker. He and his wife Bettie are prominent philanthropists and patrons of the arts. Aitken’s husband, Michael Penn, took over last week as the new chairman of the Democratic Foundation of OC.
Aitken made her first run for elected office last year with a hard-fought, high-spending campaign for Mayor of Anaheim. She narrowly lost to former Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu, 32.5% to 31.9%.
The 3rd Supervisor District encompasses the cities of Irvine, Lake Forest, Orange, Tustin, Yorba Linda, Villa Park, Anaheim Hills and the canyon communities.
Aitken will face the challenge of standing up a supervisorial campaign within a very compact schedule. We’re entering the holiday season, during which voters tend to tune out politics until after the New Year. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed out on February 3, meaning there is less than three months – most of that falling within the Thanksgiving-Christmas-Nee Year’s season – until voting begins.
During her mayoral campaign, Aitken demonstrated the ability to raise a lot of money quickly – for example, raising $183,000 in the space of a month in mid-2017, primarily from the Orange County legal community.
However, she lost the only part of Anaheim that is in the 3rd Supervisor District. While her mayoral candidacy was for an open seat, in this case she is facing an elected incumbent who has been campaigning non-stop for the last 8 months. Prior to winning the March special election, Wagner had been on the ballot in the 3rd District multiple times for the last two decades as a community college district trustee, state Assemblyman and Mayor of Irvine.
The Democrat hopes principally rest on Aitken fundraising and hopes that a competitive Democrat presidential primary will spur Democrat voter turn-out that is high enough to overcome Wagner’s incumbency, name ID and the Republican voter registration advantage.