In one of Orange County’s safest cities, voters still think about crime. So do Republican campaigns for sheriff. They have been so focused on the issue for so long, they don’t know how to talk about it without talking about sex, drugs and guns.
The city’s Democratic voters still seem to recognize the seriousness of crime when they cast ballots in September — and are turning out in numbers that suggest they are changing.
Orange County, which is among Southern California’s top Democratic strongholds, has been home to two Republican sheriffs for more than a decade and is still the only Southern California county currently lacking a black sheriff.
But when voters head to the polls Tuesday, the Democrats who are the current sheriff’s top targets are likely to win: They will be the first to go into the final days of the campaign with unassailable majorities in City Council, school board and mayoral races.
Republican voters say their party’s candidates for sheriff don’t have the right stuff to handle crime, and some complain they are wasting their time attacking the same people being targeted by the Democrats.
Those sentiments are at the heart of one of the nation’s most contentious campaigns for sheriff, as Orange County and the candidates jockey for voters’ time and money. They face off for the right to choose a new sheriff as early as Tuesday.
“We’ve spent the last four years doing something we should have done four years ago,” said Republican candidate Jim Amormino, a former Republican mayor of Brea. “We’ve had these elections now, and I would like to take a couple of days — not from me, but from the voters — to figure out where we are and where we should go.”
Republicans have tried for years to win the majority of local elections without a black sheriff on the ballot, and they have been met by the opposition of the community, which has largely backed Democrats in the past.
Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to show that they can win without the party’s most potent symbol of strength — the GOP candidate for sheriff — and that they are more than just a party with a message.
One Republican candidate, Mike Carrozza, has sought to position himself as a sheriff who would serve his community and that of his