City Councilman Roland E. Bigonger says that an anti-incumbency mood contributed to his failed bid for reelection earlier this week, even though he served as the city's first mayor and played a crucial role in bringing the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace to Yorba Linda.
Bigonger, who helped incorporate the city in 1967, was defeated by attorney John Gullixson and Councilman Henry W. Wedaa, who won reelection to a fifth term.
"The winds of change are on us, let's face it," Bigonger said Friday. "Incumbency seemed to be a bad word."
Bigonger pointed to a strong showing by his challengers, who together captured 65% of the vote, and to other city council elections in Orange County where incumbents were defeated. Gullixson won by a wide margin over Wedaa, the next top vote-getter.
Bigonger helped form the Nixon Birthplace Foundation in 1968 that led to creation of the privately funded library and historical site. He also served on the City Council up until the early 1970s, and returned again in 1986.
"I've had many victories," he said Friday. "But in accordance with the words of the great native son (Richard Nixon), 'Roland, you never experience the thrill of victory without the pain of defeat.' "
City leaders said they were surprised that Bigonger came in third because he had stayed out of what at times became bitter attacks between Gullixson and Wedaa. Bigonger had been considered a likely second choice by voters aligned with either of the two.
"I felt that Roland had a real good chance of being the top vote-getter," said Mayor Gene Wisner, who didn't face reelection this year.
Wedaa spent twice as much as Bigonger. Campaign finance records show that Wedaa spent almost $38,000 on the race up to Oct. 20, more than twice that of any other candidate. Bigonger spent $18,000 and Gullixson spent about $16,000.
Gullixson, along with John Kirby, a physician, made schools a central issue of his campaign. Each of them attacked the incumbents for not doing enough to ensure that the city had adequate school sites and not doing more to bring a high school to Yorba Linda. Wedaa and Bigonger said that there was little the city could do because selecting school sites is in the jurisdiction of the Placentia Unified School District.