OC Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who represents the 4th District, is in danger of not making the November run-off and becoming a one-term supervisor.
Chaffee is currently in second place behind Buena Park Mayor Sunny Park, and barely ahead of Brea Councilman Steve Vargas, who has been gaining ground on Chaffee as more ballots are counted.
Chaffee and Park are Democrats, and Vargas is a Republican.
When the first results were released, Vargas was a distant third, trailing second-place Chaffee by 3,273 votes. As of the most recent OC Registrar of Voters update, Vargas had closed to within 980 votes of Chaffee.
Chaffee’s middling electoral performance comes despite the advantages of incumbency and putting $600,000 of his own money into his campaign, and a significant independent expenditure campaign on his behalf by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
Park secured the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) and a number of leading Democrat officials, and proved herself a strong fundraiser, raising nearly $390,00. The DPOC spent at least $68,140 urging registered Democrats to support Park.
Vargas raised $118,144 and had the endorsement of the Republican Party of Orange County.
Early returns reflected vote-by-mail and vote center ballots, which tend to be Democratic. Republican candidates tend to out-perform among Election Day voters. So far in the 4th District, 34,748 mail-in ballots have been counted, compared to 10,143 cast in-person at Vote Centers.
That phenomenon is on full display in the 4th Supervisor District: Vargas is currently winning more than 50% of in-person votes, while Chaffee has taken 27.86% and Park garnering 21.67%.
That dynamic flips when it comes to mail-in ballots, with Park winning 39.5% of VBM ballots, Chaffee 34.96% and Vargas 25.5%.
County-wide, there are 184,584 ballots left to count, according to the OC Registrar of Voters; that number will rise as post-marked ballots continue arriving in the mail through Friday. Of those uncounted ballots, more than half were cast at drop boxes (35,275) and Vote Centers (68,180).
Given Vargas’ strong performance among Vote Centers voters, he stands an good chance of catching Chaffee and making it into a November run-off with the progressive Park.