The Anaheim mayoral race is more open – and Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil more strongly positioned – than prior convention wisdom assumed, according to polling results released by the O’Neil campaign. The poll was conducted on July 8-12 by Public Opinion Strategies, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.
O’Neil’s opponents in the mayoral contest are OC Fair Board member Ashleigh Aitken, who narrowly lost in 2018 to Harry Sidhu; former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who is making her third run for mayor; and Dick Lopez, an Anaheim Public Utilities employee.
All four candidates live in Anaheim Hills.
Interestingly, Aitken’s campaign consultant attacked the press release on the margins but didn’t dispute the poll’s findings.
Unsurprisingly, the poll shows O’Neil with a significant lead in council District 6, which O’Neil represents and which accounts for 27% of Anaheim voters and has the highest voter turnout in the city. He comes in first among all District 6 voters, regardless of party affiliation. After the “informed ballot” – after survey respondents have heard all the positives and negatives about a candidate/candidates – the poll has O’Neil leading in D6 with 46% compared to 18% for Aitken and 15% for Galloway.
More surprising were the polls city-wide findings. Following Mayor Harry Sidhu’s resignation in the wake of the FBI corruption probe, Aitken was widely considered the mayoral front runner. She had narrowly lost in 2018, had strong backing from the Democratic Party and unions, and demonstrating strong fund-raising (although raising significantly less than her 2018 fundraising numbers).
The poll’s “uninformed” ballot test – basically, a measure of name identification and general impressions – no mayoral candidate stood out. 13% of voters supported O’Neil, while 17% favored Galloway and 16% chose Aitken.
Poll respondents were then told a number of positive and negative messages about the candidates before respondents to once again say which candidate they woudl vote for – known in the trade as the “informed ballot.” These message included:
“Trevor O’Neil voted to sell Angel Stadium to the owner of the baseball team, which the OC Grand Jury said betrayed Anaheim residents. He also supported other policies of a cabal ledf by special interests and former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. Sidhu resigned in the face of an FBI corruption investigation.”
“Ashleigh Aitken hired a marijuana consultant on her campaign for Mayor,. The FBI had arrested this marijuana consultant for bribery before Aitken hired her.”
On the informed ballot, O’Neil’s numbers rose dramatically, while Aitken’s and Galloway’s remained static:
“The poll shows that even after hearing attacks against O’Neil regarding the FBI investigation, voters citywide prefer O’Neil over Aitken for Mayor,” says the O’Neil campaign press release. Sidhu has denied any wrong doing and has not been charged.
The press release went on:
“The poll also shows that 61% of voters are more likely to vote for O’Neil after hearing about his handling of the FBI investigation into former Mayor Harry Sidhu over the Angels agreement. Aitken is dramatically impacted when voters are informed about her own connection to the FBI investigation, as one of her own consultants was involved in the corrupt scheme and wore a wire to avoid charges. Aitken has not been transparent about her own connection to the corruption. The poll shows 68% of voters are less likely to vote for Aitken when they learn of her connection.”
Melahat Rafiei, a prominent Democratic Party official and political consultant with ties to the cannabis industry, was hired by Aitken last year to run her campaign fundraising operation. Aitken says she removed Rafiei from her campaign in the spring after learning Rafiei was working as an undercover informant for the FBI. Rafiei denies any wrong doing and has not been charged.
According to the poll, O’Neil’s favorability ratings are superior to both Aitkens and Galloway, despite the fact both of them have already run citywide.
The poll also found that President Joe Biden has a net unfavorable rating by Anaheim voters.
Aitken Campaign Reacts But Doesn’t Dispute Poll Findings
Aitken campagn consultant Derek Humphrey issued a press release attacking the O’Neil campaign press release, claiming it made “some remarkably unture claims” but did not dispute the poll’s findings.
While Humphrey criticized with the O’Neil campaign press release’s framing and phraseology, he didn’t take issue with the poll’s central finding – that after being informed about the mayoral candidate’s positives and negatives, O’Neil held a substantial lead.
Indeed, Humprhey ignored the informed ballot results altogether while pointing out the initial uninformed ballot test had O’Neil in third place – a distinction without a difference since the O’Neil press release Humphrey was lambasting stated factually the three candidates were in a statistical tie on the initial ballot test.
The Aitken campaign did not dispute O’Neil’s strong showing in the informed ballot result.