By Sara Hall and Daniel Langhorne | NB & LB Indy
A local City Council member running for state office appears to be headed to the November ballot, after early results show she beat out another challenger for the coveted second seat.
Newport Beach Councilmember Diane Dixon was nearly 3,000 votes ahead of her fellow Republican, Kelly Ernby, according to the Orange County primary election results for the 74th Assembly District, as of 9 a.m. Thursday.
Dixon gathered 24,431 votes, or 26.83% total, Ernby trailed with 23.68%, or 21,556 votes. Incumbent Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) is in the lead with a significant 49.49% of the votes, a total of 45,061. The top two vote-getters will be on the ballot for the upcoming general election.
“With each update from the registrar of voters, my lead increases over my Republican opponent and continues to grow. All signs are pointing to a strong finish and victory,” Dixon wrote in an email on Thursday. “The Democrats have yet to break 50% despite their competitive primary. The residents of my district have strongly expressed their support for a change out of Sacramento.”
Dixon also noted the defeat of Prop 13, saying it speaks to the bigger picture.
“It appears California voters are not happy with Sacramento,” she wrote. “Cottie Petrie-Norris is part of the problem and the 74th District is looking for a solution.”
She is looking forward to spending the coming months talking with the people in the district about the differences between their platforms.
As the clock neared midnight on Tuesday at her event at The Country Club restaurant and bar in Costa Mesa, Dixon said she was pleased with the direction the results were headed.
“I’ve been consistently ahead of my Republican opponent all evening,” Dixon said. If, in the end the final count still puts her in the lead, “I will be very pleased to represent the cities in our district in our attempt to take this seat back for the Republican party and defeat the incumbent.”
She pointed out that combining the votes both Republicans received so far in the primary exceeds her Democratic opponent’s total, which is a positive sign for her come November.
“The Republican vote in the 74th district is very strong,” Dixon said. “I look forward to a very competitive race.”
The aim is to grow that number even bigger, Dixon said, by gaining the support of independent voters.
Dixon said she’s extremely grateful for all her supporters who have helped make her potential win in the primary possible. But they still have to tackle the general election in November, she emphasized.
“We have a big race ahead of us,” Dixon said.
Petrie-Norris, along with several other local Democrats, turned the historically red district blue in 2018.
On Tuesday, the freshman legislator earned nearly 44% of the votes returned by vote-by-mail ballots counted by the Orange County Registrar of Voters as of Tuesday.
Supporters of Indivisible OC 48, a self-described non-partisan organization that endorsed Petrie-Norris and Rep. Harley Rouda, gathered at Strut Bar & Nightclub in Costa Mesa to watch election results.
Petrie-Norris said felt awesome to be surrounded by long-time supporters on election night.
“When I look out across this room there are so many of you who have been by my side every single step of the way,” she said. “You were with me when we sat around my kitchen table and hatched our very first plots. You were with me knocking on doors and talking to voters in 2018.”
Petrie-Norris has prioritized bringing state resources to Orange County to mitigate Laguna Beach’s very-high wildfire risk, advocated for revitalizing the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa as part of the county’s solution for emergency housing, and secured $2.9 million to end Veteran homelessness in Orange County through a partnership with OC United Way.
In mid-2019, she allocated $500,000 in the 2019-20 state budget for city of Newport Beach Arts Commission. On Oct. 22, City Council approved the application for Specified Grant Funding for the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park Project.
“I think arts and arts education programs are chronically underfunded across the state and country,” Petrie-Norris said during a phone interview on July 17, so this is a valuable project to be undertaking for the city and the region, she added.
All over the world, pubic art and architecture projects attract people and draw tourism, Petrie-Norris said. It can be a great local resource for schools as well, she added.
“Orange County, we turned you blue in 2018, we’re not going back,” Petrie-Norris said on Tuesday.
Although Dixon, and others across town at the Republican Party of Orange County event at CP Restaurant in Newport Beach on Tuesday, had other ideas.
“I look forward to working together with all our cities to regain this seat in Sacramento,” Dixon said.
Elected officials at the state level and the “hyper left, progressive socialists” are out of control, Dixon said.
“We are not Berkeley or Santa Monica, we are the coastal cities of Orange County and we need to vote to restore local control and have a representative that reflects the people of Assembly District 74,” Dixon said. “I look forward to going to Sacramento to restore the two-party system, normalcy, common sense, and fiscal responsibility…to make California great again.”
She congratulated Ernby for her strong campaign and looks forward to seeing her in the public arena in the years to come.