Voters Tuesday were casting ballots to select an Orange County supervisor for the Third District seat vacated after Todd Spitzer was elected district attorney.
The vote-by-mail turnout was 22.8 percent, according to Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, who said the turnout for in-person voting was about 2 percent by mid-afternoon.
The average turnout for special elections is about 24 to 27 percent, Kelley said.
Polls will be open until 8 p.m. in the district, which includes Anaheim Hills, most of Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and a portion of Mission Viejo, as well as unincorporated areas such as the canyons in the Cleveland National Forest.
Seven candidates are on the ballot, but most observers expect it to be a showdown between Irvine Mayor Don Wagner and former Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
The other candidates are attorney Kim-Thy “Katie” Hoang Bayliss, retiree and Vietnam veteran Larry Bales, former Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray, small business owner Katherine Daigle and former Villa Park City Councilwoman Deborah Pauly.
The post is nonpartisan, but behind the scenes, Orange County Democrats persuaded several other potential candidates to back off in favor of Sanchez, the only Democrat on the ballot.
The Orange County Republican Party endorsed Wagner.
“It’s (between) Don and Loretta,” party Chairman Fred Whitaker said. “But we’re pretty confident we can edge it out.”
About 30 percent of the district’s voters usually live in Irvine, Whitaker said.
Sanchez said about 100,000 of the district’s voters are Republicans, 100,000 are Democrats and 100,000 decline to state. She said the county’s Republicans “have been shooting at each other” because “there’s a big war going on in their circle.”
Whitaker said he was not concerned about Republicans splitting up the vote because other than Wagner, the other GOP candidates are “getting zero traction.”
The election results are expected to be certified by April 11.