The Senate race in District 34 was by far the most carefully-watched legislative race in the state. It was the only high-profile race, one agreed to be competitive by all analysts.
This district is situated in Central Orange County, in the Santa Ana/Anaheim/Garden Grove area. It is the only district in Orange County that can ever elect Democrats, since the county is so overwhelmingly Republican. The district is 58% Hispanic, but because of low Hispanic participation is competitive between the parties.
Read below the fold…
The Republicans chose to unite around Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher well before the primary, and Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Fullerton) promised her mucho money and establishment support. But Daucher was never loved by the base: first, she had a moderate record on some key issues like abortion. And second, she had no real connection with the district. Her Assembly district barely overlaps SD-34, and if she had any principles she would wait to run for Ackerman’s seat (SD-33) in 2008. Instead, she carpetbagged her way into a district totally unlike her own: while hers is a base of wealthy, white suburbanites, SD-34 was a deeply ethnically diverse, and “working man’s” district. Republican Assembly candidate Ryan Gene Williams, though presumably a Daucher supporter, said that “Lynn is nice, but she is a tea-and-crumpets lady running in a taqueria district”.
The Democrats had a very tough primary between Assemblyman Tom Umberg, who had been the consensus nominee before “scandal” (an extramarital affair and all the baggage that goes with) got in his way, and Orange County Supervisor Lou Correa, formerly an Assemblyman. Umberg had far more institutional support and resources, but Correa was handpicked by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata as the stronger candidate. Correa surprisingly ended up beating Umberg 59% to 41% on June 6, but emerged from the primary at a huge financial disadvantage to Daucher.
The race was all along a battle of top-down versus bottom-up. Daucher had the money and the Republican machine. Correa had a paltry website which he never updated, very little cash, a low-key style, but real honest-to-gosh support from the hard-working, low-income families of the district. With Schwarzenegger and the GOP ticket sweeping Orange County, and with an ever-narrowing Democratic edge in the district, Correa had to hope his name recognition and his grassroots connection with the voters would win the day.
It did. Barely. But despite never having enough resources to really compete against the huge GOP machine, Correa carried the day. He still hasn’t updated his website. He still has no campaign cash. But at the end of the day, the people of the Santa Ana area want a real working man to represent them; not a tea-and-crumpets carpetbagger from Brea.