Orange County Sheriff Was A Democrat

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Sandra Hutchens, Orange County's Republican sheriff, registered as a Democrat for as long as a decade in both Los Angeles and OC, according to records reviewed by the Weekly.

In an interview for a March profile, Hutchens told me she is a Republican; holds conservative views, particularly on fiscal matters; felt George W. Bush had been an unfairly maligned president; and considered Ronald Reagan her political role model. Indeed, a glass plaque on her office desk inside the Orange County Sheriff's Department features a Reagan quote. I hadn't thought to ask the sheriff if she'd ever been a Democrat.
 
According to official Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder records, Sandra Sue Anderson--Hutchens' name during a prior marriage--was registered as a Democrat from at least November 1993 through August 1997. At the time, she was employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Records in Orange County show she was a registered Democrat from at least 1990 to May 2000, when she became a Republican.

Of course, registering with Bill Clinton's party in the 1990s wouldn't raise eyebrows if Hutchens were the top cop in LA, a liberal stronghold. But this is Orange County, where Republican activists dominate political offices--including judicial and law-enforcement posts. Indeed, OC is still considered the heart and soul of the statewide Republican Party. Non-GOP candidates here often face monumental barriers to public office given the organizing strength and voter-registration advantage of Scott Baugh's local Republican Party.

News of Hutchens' onetime affiliation probably won't impress Steven Greenhut, a senior opinion writer at the Orange County Register, a libertarian and a frequent critic California's third female sheriff, whom the all-Republican OC Board of Supervisors named to finish the remaining two years on disgraced ex-Sheriff Mike Carona's term.

Hutchens, a self-described political novice who has made her agenda restoring morale and instituting post-Carona reforms, is expected to face a challenge in the June 2010 election. While her tightening of eligibility for persons wanting to carrying a conceal weapon (CCW) has angered gun-rights activists, rumors continue to swirl around the pending candidacy of Paul Walters, the police chief of Santa Ana. Walters had been conventional wisdom's top choice to replace Carona until a last-minute majority alliance formed among supervisors John Moorlach, Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates.

What impact, if any, Hutchens' now-canceled Democratic registration will have is unknown--if for no other reason than it will be nearly impossible for Walters to use the information as a weapon. At least, not with a straight face: Records show that in 2000, he was registered as a Democrat. Three years later, he switched to "decline to state" and then, in November 2007, became a Republican.

Dave Gilliard, Hutchens' campaign manager, believes past party registrations are irrelevant. "Sheriff Hutchens will be judged by the job she does," he said, "not how she registered years ago."

-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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