Dave Sullivan, the underdog in the most contentious race for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has picked up the pace of campaigning by hiring a veteran political consultant and bolstering his election fund coffers.
The Huntington Beach councilman enlisted longtime campaign manager Harvey Englander earlier this month to help him unseat incumbent Jim Silva. Sullivan also has pulled in slightly more campaign money, about $60,000 to Silva's $53,000, as the pair head into the traditional Labor Day campaign kickoff.
"I figured it might get pretty nasty, and [Englander] is capable of standing up in that arena," Sullivan said.
The stakes in this race are high because Silva and Sullivan disagree on two of the county's biggest issues: the proposed airport at El Toro and development of the Bolsa Chica mesa. Sullivan opposes both; Silva supports both.
Most important, a Sullivan victory would change the county board's majority to 3 to 2 against the airport, a voting bloc that could be the death-knell for El Toro airport plans.
The hiring of Englander is expected to raise the profile of Sullivan, who lags behind Silva in name recognition and ability to garner big-money donors. The campaign consultant is known for his bold statements and aggressive mailers.
"No one hires us for the boring" races, he said.
Englander, West Coast director for the Kamber Group consulting firm, has helped run the successful campaigns of Supervisor Todd Spitzer and Assemblywoman Marilyn C. Brewer (R-Irvine), both of whom were underdogs. He also has lost a few, including Linda Moulton Patterson's effort against Silva four years ago. Another client, Richard Katz, narrowly lost a state Senate race in Los Angeles last spring.
In running Sullivan's campaign, Englander said he does not intend to focus solely on the airport and Bolsa Chica battles. The campaign will raise a range of issues from opening up county government to reducing some of the power of the county's chief executive, Jan Mittermeier.
"This is not going to be a one-issue candidacy at all," Englander said. "For a campaign to be successful, you have to integrate the message with the individual."
Word of his hiring did not surprise the Silva camp.
"We fully expected Sullivan to come up with a credible consultant," said Silva's campaign director, Dave Gilliard. "We expect a spirited campaign now that Harvey is involved."
Gilliard himself is a veteran campaign manager of Orange County races. In June, he steered Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Rackauckas to victory as the county's district attorney-elect.
Sullivan's fund-raising goal is to bring in $250,000, a figure that Englander said would be the minimum amount needed to run a winning campaign. Sullivan said that most of his money has come from South County contributors who oppose the airport and that nearly all of it has come from donations of less than $100.
"The momentum seems to be building, but I look at it as being a long way from $250,000," he said. Most of the $60,000 he has raised has come since the end of June, when his campaign had only $17,000.
Sullivan's quest will be difficult. Though he forced Silva into a runoff, the incumbent garnered nearly 50% of the vote in the four-candidate June primary.
Silva also enjoys the support of wealthy and influential citizens, such as executives at real estate developer Koll Co. in Irvine and millionaire Newport Beach businessman George L. Argyros, who sponsored fund-raisers for him during the primary.