Tea Time!

Will the boiling-mad tea-party crowd sweep sheriff's candidate Bill Hunt to victory?

I asked Dobrilovic, a Mission Viejo city commissioner, if Hunt wins next month, should tea-party folks get credit?

“Will it be because of the tea-party people, or will it just be more conservatives coming out to vote?” he asked in response. “I don’t know. What I do know is that many more people have become active and are very enthusiastic. It’s out of anger. Angry people vote. My mother is in her 70s, and she’s mad. And it’s not a black thing against Obama, either. It’s a spending thing.”

He said the 2008 Democratic election victories were a wake-up call.

“This is what happened,” said Dobrilovic. “We sat out that election because none of the candidates at any level excited us. John McCain?” He makes a dimissive hissing noise. “No way. But we’re fully engaged now.”

Here are the rules of the upcoming sheriff’s election: The candidate who gets 50 percent of the vote, plus one, wins outright. If no one accomplishes that feat, the top two candidates go to a November run-off election. Recent polls put Hutchens and Hunt, currently a private detective, in the top slots, though neither is close to capturing majority support. Conventional wisdom holds that the race will get settled in the fall.

But based on his voter outreach, Dobrilovic—a financial adviser and first time candidate for the OC GOP Central Committee—predicts a major upset.

“Oh, Hunt wins the race in June, and there’ll be no November [run-off],” he said confidently.

That’s a bold prediction. Others are more cautious, especially after the Santa Ana police union recently yanked its Hunt endorsement once it learned he was hired by an alleged gang member to perform private-investigation work in a robbery case.

GOP sources who have access to extensive polling data have told me, “It’s Hutchens’ race to lose.” But Allan Bartlett, a South County Republican activist, predicts Hunt will finish first and Hutchens second—with no one gaining 50 percent of the June vote.

“Based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill gets in the 40s [percentage-wise] and Hutchens gets in the 30s,” Bartlett said. “I don’t see Hunter winning a serious amount.”

Both Bartlett and Dobrilovic anticipate that a Hunt victory—whether in June or November—will trigger a new era at the local GOP, which has repeatedly snubbed Hunt for being an uncontrollable outsider.

“Republicans have been frustrated with the central committee establishment because they refused to go against Mike Carona long, long after we knew he was a serious problem,” said Dobrilovic. “That was astounding! And then they refused to give a vote of no-confidence in Sheriff Hutchens when they should have after she did some stupid things like take on gun rights and bring an LA mentality to the department.”

Dobrilovic’s attention shifted to one of his young sons who’d accidentally thrown a ball that got stuck in the garage ceiling. “You’ve really got to work on your pitch,” he said, laughing and returning to politics. “Hey, it’s time we Republicans in Orange County stand for something, like Bill Hunt does.”

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

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