By Patrick McGreevy
March 8, 2015

Voters will soon cast ballots in special elections to fill three state Senate seats vacated by lawmakers who were elected to Congress last fall.

Although one of the races is already settled, the other two feature contests between veteran politicians in the same political party.

There’s no contest in parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, where former Republican Assemblywoman Sharon Runner of Lancaster is the sole candidate. The 21st District seat was left empty when Republican Steve Knight was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

By contrast, three Orange County Republicans are battling to replace former state Sen. Mimi Walters, now a GOP congresswoman, when the elections are held March 17.

Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner of Irvine has a big lead in fundraising, having brought in $371,000 as of Feb. 28. Rival John W. Moorlach of Costa Mesa, a former Orange County supervisor, reported raising $108,000 and congressional aide Naz Namazi of Irvine has raised $11,240.

Moorlach, who is also the former county treasurer, touts his work in the private and public sectors, reducing public pension costs and helping Orange County recover from its 1994 bankruptcy.

“I’m an accountant. I’m a money guy. I’m not afraid to take on the unions” said Moorlach, 59. He accused Wagner of being under the sway of public employee unions that he said control Sacramento.

Wagner, 54, said he has promoted pension reform and responsible budgeting in the Legislature.

“What I really think I bring that John doesn’t have is a lot of experience up in Sacramento, actually doing the job and passing bills that the community wants and championing a conservative message,” Wagner said.

His priorities include creating more jobs, reducing the school dropout rate and opposing amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally.

“I’m going to continue to make this state more business friendly,” Wagner said. “I’m going to continue to grow jobs and put people to work.” He opposes the bullet train, calling the project championed by Gov. Jerry Brown a waste of money.

Namazi, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), said she entered the race in the 37th District to give voters an alternative to candidates she termed “bureaucrats.”

A former marketing consultant, Namazi, 47, wants to make higher education more affordable. She also proposes allowing legislative votes to be cast online so lawmakers can spend more time in their districts and less in Sacramento, which she describes as dominated by special interests.

The other contested race is in Northern California, in parts of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, where former state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier was elected to Congress.

Four Democratic candidates want that 7th District seat: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and Terry Kremin, a scientist from Concord.

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