Buena Park Mayor Sunny Youngsun Park will run for the 4th Supervisor District, which is currently represented by Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who is up for re-election this year.

All indications are that Chaffee will run for re-election, so Park’s candidacy sets up a Democrat-versus-Democrat contest in the June 2022 primary.

While word of her supervisorial candidacy has been circulating in political circles for several days, Park officially announced her candidacy today.

“The last few years, navigating and processing this global pandemic, made me think about how much more we can do with the 7.7 billion dollar budget the County has to strengthen and advance the Orange County communities,” said Mayor Park in her announcement press release. “With my experience and dedication to making a safer, healthier and more inclusive community, I will take bold initiatives and bring necessary changes to the county-level. I am ready to work closely with the seven cities within District 4 to represent their voices on the Board of Supervisors in partnership with all Orange County communities.”

Park listed endorsements by state Treasurer Fiona Ma, Fullerton Union Joint-High School Trustee Joanne Fawley, and several Asian-American councilmembers from outside the district.

Park was elected to the Buena Park City Council in 2018, narrowly defeating incumbent Councilmember Virginia Vaughn by just 16 votes out of 4,471 cast.  Last month, her council colleagues selected her to serve as mayor for 2022 – a title she can use as her ballot designation for the June primary.

Park is a Korean immigrant and an estate planning attorney by profession. As a councilmember represents Buena Park on the Orange County Fire Authority, the Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG) housing and community development committee. Previously, she served on the state Board of Accountancy as an appointee of the Senate President Pro Tem.

Park’s politics are on the progressive side, with a particular emphasis on “equity and inclusion.” In 2020, she spearheaded formation of a city Human Relations Committee committed to addressing “social and racial inequalities” in the city, and last year pushed to add “”equity” to the city’s official statement of core values.

Interestingly, none of Park’s fellow councilmembers are backing her bid. In fact, Buena Councilmembers Art Brown, Connor Traut and Susan Sonne have endorsed Chaffee, as have other Buena Park local elected officials such as Buena Park School District Trustees Irene Castaneda and Rhodia Shead, Centralia School District Trustees Luis Jerry Flores, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Lamiya Hoque, and Arturo Montez, and Savanna School District Trustee Chris Brown.

4th District Leans Democratic, Significant Asian Population

The 4th District did not change dramatically when the OC Board of Supervisors approved a new districts map last month. It includes Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, Stanton and the majority of Anaheim.  The old 4th District had more of Anaheim and less of Buena Park, and Stanton was brought in from the old 2nd District.

Chaffee served on the Fullerton City Council for six years prior to his election to the Board of Supervisors in 2018, when he narrowly defeated La Habra Councilman Tim Shaw by a margin of 50.4% to 49.6%.

In terms of partisan registration, Democrats represent a plurality of 4th District votes, at 41.9%.  Republicans are 29.3% of voters, followed by No Party Preference at 23.5%. The new 4th is actually slightly more Republican than the old 4th District.

Demographically, the district population is:

  • Hispanic – 46.1%
  • White – 24.3%
  • Asian 23.4%
  • Black – 2.4%
  • Multiracial – 2.9%

Parallel Sign-Stealing Controversies

Ironically, both Park and Chaffee are connected to allegations of stealing campaign signs. In 2018, both were arrested for stealing campaign signs accusing them of being carpetbaggers.

Park’s narrow 2018 council victory was accompanied by a bitter dispute with her opponent, Councilwoman Vaughn, over allegations of sign-stealing. Video emerged of Park being confronted with stacks of campaign signs in the back seat of her car; the signs attacked Park as a carpetbagger.

Park was arrested for petty theft, but contested the charge and a jury ultimately rendered a “not guilty” verdict.

Supervisor Chaffee’s wife Paulette was running for Fullerton City Council that year and was twice caught on video stealing campaign signs attacking her for allegedly not living in the council district from which she was running.

The controversy spurred Chaffee to abandon her council campaign. She subsequently pled guilty to two counts of petty theft and and was sentence to several hours of community service and minor fines.

Park Target Of Failed Recall Campaign

Part-way through her first year on city council, Park was the target of recall attempt based on the sign-stealing incident and allegations of misuse of campaign funds – claims Park denied.

In October, opponents turned in approximately 2,100 signatures, but the recall attempt failed to qualify for the ballot when it fell short of the requisite number of valid voter signatures.

Up Or Out In November

Since Park is up for re-election to the Buena Park City Council this year, her decision to run for supervisor puts her in an up-or-out situation, politically speaking.

If Park finishes as one of the top two vote-getters in the June primary, she will advance to the run-off in the November general election – which will preclude her from running for a second council term.