By Gustavo Arellano
By Aimee Murillo
By Matt Coker
By Vickie Chang
By Matt Coker
By LP Hastings
By Michael Goldstein
By R. Scott Moxley
Sandra Hutchens, Orange County’s Republican sheriff, registered as a Democrat for as long as a decade in both Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to records reviewed by the Weekly.
In an interview for a March profile (“I’m the Sheriff First and a Politician Second,” March 27), Hutchens told me she is a Republican; holds conservative views, particularly on fiscal matters; felt George W. Bush had been an unfairly maligned president; and considered Ronald Reagan her political role model. Indeed, a glass plaque on her office desk at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department features a Reagan quote. I hadn’t thought to ask the sheriff if she’d ever been a Democrat.
According to official Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder records, Sandra Sue Anderson—Hutchens’ name during a prior marriage—was registered as a Democrat from at least November 1993 through August 1997. At the time, she was employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Records in Orange County show she was a registered Democrat from 1990 to May 2000, when she became a Republican.
Of course, registering with Bill Clinton’s party in the 1990s wouldn’t raise eyebrows if Hutchens were the top cop in LA, a liberal stronghold. But this is Orange County, where Republican activists dominate political offices—including judicial and law-enforcement posts. OC is still considered the heart and soul of the statewide Republican Party. Non-GOP candidates here often face monumental barriers to public office given the organizing strength and voter-registration advantage of Scott Baugh’s local Republican Party.
News of Hutchens’ onetime affiliation probably won’t impress Steven Greenhut, a senior opinion writer at The Orange County Register, a libertarian and a frequent critic of California’s third female sheriff, whom the all-Republican OC Board of Supervisors named to finish the remaining two years on disgraced ex-Sheriff Mike Carona’s term.
Hutchens, a self-described political novice who has made her agenda restoring morale and instituting post-Carona reforms, is expected to face a challenge in the June 2010 election. While her tightening of eligibility for people wanting to carrying a concealed weapon has angered gun-rights activists, rumors continue to swirl around the pending candidacy of Paul Walters, the police chief of Santa Ana. Walters had been conventional wisdom’s top choice to replace Carona until a last-minute majority alliance formed among supervisors John Moorlach, Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates.
What impact, if any, Hutchens’ now-canceled Democratic registration will have is unknown—if for no other reason than it will be nearly impossible for Walters to use the information as a weapon. At least, not with a straight face: Records show that in 2000, he was registered as a Democrat. Three years later, he switched to “decline to state,” and then, in November 2007, he became a Republican.
Dave Gilliard, Hutchens’ campaign manager, believes past party registrations are irrelevant. “Sheriff Hutchens will be judged by the job she does,” he said, “not how she registered years ago.”
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