This newspaper has just completed a long round of endorsement interviews with Republican and Democratic candidates for the state Legislature and Congress. The office-seekers have run the gamut in terms of knowledge, personality and philosophical outlook. We’ve been pleased by some, disappointed by others and, at times, surprised and even appalled by their presentations and worldviews.
But it’s the rare candidate who rises above the pack and impresses even those of us who have covered an endless array of politicians. Sen. John Moorlach, the Costa Mesa Republican who represents much of central and coastal Orange County in the 37th district, is indeed that candidate. We’ve followed his career since he predicted the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy – and went on to become county treasurer, supervisor and senator.
Moorlach is the real deal. He is one of the smartest and hardest-working officials in Sacramento. We can’t tell you how many times Republicans brag that they’ve consulted with Moorlach on a complex financial issue. You’ll hear it said that Moorlach knows how to count. That’s certainly true. As the only certified public accountant by training in the Capitol, the senator understands budgeting and debt in a way that surpasses his colleagues.
But we’ve seen smart numbers-crunchers come and go. Moorlach combines that skill with a philosophical mooring, a courageous attitude that doesn’t bend to the will of special interests, and a collegial personality. Those attributes make him remarkably effective, even though he is part of a super-minority that has little clout in setting the Capitol agenda.
There are many ways to measure a lawmaker’s effectiveness. In Moorlach’s case, he is a lodestar. His innovative ideas, thorough research and ideological consistency force unpopular ideas onto the agenda. He’s not often on the winning side, but you won’t find anyone in Sacramento who doesn’t, at least grudgingly, grapple with his arguments.
Moorlach is so comfortable in his ideological skin that he regularly bucks his own party on open-government and reform issues. Look at his many admirable votes on crucial police-reform legislation. While other Republicans are busy worrying about what the police associations will say or fearing political blowback, Moorlach simply does the right thing. He always speaks his mind and never dances around tough issues or questions.
In a politically competitive state, Moorlach would have long ago become governor or Senate president pro tempore. In California, he labors in the political wilderness. Because of Orange County’s recent shift in the Democratic direction, he even faces a tough re-election campaign in November. His challenger, UC Irvine Law Professor Dave Min, touts his experience as an aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and his work for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a recent interview, Min came across as a smart academic, but he was troublingly evasive, refusing even to take a stand on the crucial tax-increase and other measures on the November ballot. We found that approach disingenuous but understandable given his long list of endorsements from public-sector unions, which despise Moorlach for his years of truth telling on pension reform.
We struggled with some endorsements, but not this one. By every measure, Moorlach towers above his opponent – and most everyone else in the Capitol. We strongly support the re-election of Sen. John Moorlach for the 37th District.