OC Supervisor Vince Sarmiento has spent tens of thousands of taxpayers dollars in a highly-unusual attempt to goose voter turnout for the November 14 recall election where his political ally, Santa Ana Councilmember Jessie Lopez, is in danger of losing her council seat.
Sarmiento used taxpayer funds to send a mailer to every registered voter in Ward 3 – approximately 27,000 people – urging them to vote in Tuesday’s recall election – although Sarmiento’s mailer refers to it as a “Special Election.”
His office is also paying for digital ads with the same message on social media platforms such as Facebook – and is censoring comments on those ads, contrary to state law.
Ironically, several days ago, Sarmiento used the “board member comments” portion of the Board of Supervisors meeting to campaign for Lopez, attacking the recall election as illegitimate and urging the City of Santa Ana to cancel it.
Within days, he directed his staff to put together a taxpayer-funded mass mailer encouraging Ward 3 voters to participate in what he considers an illegitimate recall election.
Experts estimate the mailer cost taxpayers approximately $35,000.
Sarmiento’s use of taxpayer dollars in an attempt to increase turnout to boost his political may fall afoul of legal prohibitions against the use of official mass mailings less than 60 days before an election. Progressives and local media excoriated Sarmiento’s colleague, Supervisor Andrew Do, for sending out mass-mailings about non-political events in his district prior to the November 2016 election – where Do was on the ballot.
This is not the first time Sarmiento has angled to use official resources for election purposes. In May 2022, then-Santa Ana Mayor Sarmiento was running for the Board of Supervisors. The weekend before Election Day in the June primary, Sarmiento arranged for three auto dealers to run ads on their digital billboards advertising his “office hours” – in violation of the agreements governing the content that could be displayed on those billboards. The ads featured his photo and name in large print, and the office hours in small print. The digital billboards were all freeway adjacent and seen by hundreds of thousands of motorists every day.
Sarmiento used his then-council aide Manny Escamilla – a left-wing activist and twice-failed candidate for Santa Ana City Council – to dupe the car dealerships into running the Sarmiento promotion ad.
Escamilla followed Sarmiento to the Board of Supervisors, and currently works on his staff as a “senior police advisor.”