The chairman of the Orange County Republican Party Tuesday blasted two GOP city councilmen who stayed in the special election to fill the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat vacated by newly elected Congresswoman Michelle Steel.

OC GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker said Fountain Valley Mayor Nichael Vo and Newport Beach City Councilman Kevin Muldoon are threatening to divide the Republican vote in the March 9 special election for the Second District seat on the Board of Supervisors, paving the way for Democrat Katrina Foley, Costa Mesa’s mayor, to win.

Republican leaders managed to convince Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neil and Huntington Beach City Councilmen Erik Petersen and Mike Posey to sideline themselves in favor of coalescing around former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

The county Republican Party issued a statement “condemning” Vo and Muldoon for their “selfishness.”

Muldoon said the county party “pushed an early endorsement without inviting other candidates to address the body. County leaders are supporting my candidacy because they think I’m the only candidate that can win.”

Whitaker disputed that assessment, saying Muldoon had been laying the groundwork for his candidacy for a year.

“We have the same endorsement process for anyone,” Whitaker told City News Service. “He could have gone through the process and applied just like John Moorlach did. There were lots and lots of leaders talking to Kevin over a long period of time, saying that he can only be a spoiler in the race and he doesn’t have the ability to win.”

Vo said, “Nobody is owed this seat.” He added that the county Republicans “should be ashamed for condemning the candidacy of a fellow Republican who stared death in the face to find freedom, (as) a refugee to public servant. Republicans across this district should reject the candidacy of this recycled career politician who covers up sexual abuse for his friends.”

Vo was referring to allegations from former Moorlach staffer Patricia Todd, who says that when she told Moorlach’s chief of staff that former Assemblyman Bill Brough allegedly raped her, she was told to keep quiet about it.

Todd alleged that Brough, who hasn’t responded to the allegations, attacked her in July 2015. Moorlach said he was never advised of the allegations while she worked for him.

Todd stepped forward with the allegations early last month.

Moorlach did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Whitaker said the party has done polling that showed the race is between Moorlach and Foley.

The scandal does not seem to have affected the race, he said.

“We tested the negatives of all of the candidates,” Whitaker said. “The negatives really didn’t change the numbers, neither did the positives. It’s going to be a campaign that’s really won on the ground. It’s all going to be about turnout.”

The Republicans have a five-point advantage in voter registration in the district, Whitaker said.

The other candidate in the race is tax attorney Janet Rappaport.

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