Tuesday, the music stopped for Leslie Daigle.
Daigle, a Republican, was vying in a three-way dogfight with Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, also a Republican, and businessman Bob Rush, a Democrat, in the 74th Assembly District primary. But only the top two vote-getters in the primary would advance to the November general election – a game of political musical chairs set up by voter-approved changes to the primary system.
When the votes were all counted Tuesday night, Mansoor and Rush were sitting pretty for the November ballot, and Daigle was left standing in the wings.
The final unofficial tally by the county Registrar’s office was:
- Mansoor, 24,747 votes, 43.1 percent.
- Rush, 19,158 votes, 33.4 percent.
- Daigle, 13,510 votes, 23.5 percent.
“I feel good,” said Mansoor on Wednesday.
Although he’ll be facing Democrat Rush in a district with a heavy Republican registration edge, he said, “I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m going to continue to work hard to get our message out to the voters of the district.”
For his part, Rush said Wednesday he was “tired, happy and humbled” by the results.
“I am humbled and grateful that so many people voted me instead of two seasoned politicians with tremendous resources,” Rush said. He said he would be meeting with voters throughout the district to spread his “moderate and centrist message.”
“It was a positive learning experience for me,” Daigle wrote in an email on Wednesday afternoon, adding, “The process solidified my desire to serve a larger community.”
The result, on one hand, confirmed the political rule-of-thumb that incumbents are very hard to beat. On the other hand, the political rule-of-thumb that lots of TV advertising can move voters and poll numbers was upended, along with the corollary that an underfunded newcomer is doomed.
Mansoor ran as the incumbent, even though only about 20 percent of the newly redrawn 74th Assembly District is territory from his former district.
Daigle is in her second term on the Newport Beach City Council, and well-known in that city and, to a lesser extent, Costa Mesa. She benefited from more than a half-million dollars in independent support from moderate Republican activist Charles Munger Jr., mainly for TV ads, as well as mailers on her behalf from several unions.
Rush, on the other hand, had never run for political office, only registered as a Democrat the day before he filed to run for the 74th AD seat, and probably spent much less than $200,000, and maybe only half that, on his campaign. (Final financial reports are not due for weeks.)
Mansoor, referring to Daigle’s third-place finish despite all the money spent on her behalf, said the result showed that “Northern California money can’t buy Southern California elections.”
He also said that the voters – only 20 percent of whom turned out in OC on Tuesday, according to the Registrar – preferred his stands on taxes and pension reform.
“I am the only candidate who signed the No-Tax Pledge,” Mansoor noted. “The other two never signed it.”
Rush credited his “moderate” message for his success in the primary and said he believes it will prevail in November also against the “extreme right-wing views” he attributes to Mansoor.
Other political observers were struck by Daigle’s distant third-place finish despite all her financial support.
One longtime activist not involved in the campaign theorized that Rush “had 30 percent the minute he signed his name as a Democrat at the Registrar’s” and it came down to a battle between Mansoor and Daigle, in which the incumbent had an insurmountable advantage.
Another believed that the big spending for Daigle actually turned voters away from her.
Asked to account for the result, Daigle wrote, “I don’t have an analysis for you. … The rules were different. The way things were executed was different.”
As for whether Munger’s financial support wound up helping or hurting her, Daigle wrote, “I don’t know him. I obviously appreciate his help with voter communication.”
The general election will be Nov. 6.