Best Political Coup (2008)

John Moorlach and the Appointment of Sandra Hutchens

Remember how the U.S. Olympic hockey team emerged from certain defeat and beat the Russians in 1980? Well, almost as exciting was this year's Hall of Administration miracle pulled off by John Moorlach, the Christian, conservative chairman of Orange County's Board of Supervisors. Less than 24 hours before the June 3 board vote to name a replacement for indicted ex-Sheriff Mike Carona, Moorlach was down 4-1, with the majority favoring Paul Walters. By conventional wisdom, the veteran Santa Ana police chief had solid votes from Supervisors Bill Campbell and Chris Norby and needed only one additional vote from either of the two other supervisors—both of whom had expressed admiration for him. During weeks of discussion about the selection, a visibly annoyed Norby repeatedly pressed Moorlach for an early vote, confident that his choice had the three necessary votes. All that seemed left was for a tailor to fit Walters for his new uniform at the almost-$800 million-per-year department. But Moorlach helped stall the process for several weeks and . . . something . . . nobody's been able to decipher it completely . . . happened that left Campbell, Norby and Walters nearly gasping for air. When the board voted, Moorlach led a stunning 3-2 majority, with Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates. The trio gave the county's most powerful job to underdog candidate Sandra Hutchens, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's chief.

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