South County activists are readying for a mammoth battle against pro-airport incumbent Jim Silva in the wake of his surprising runoff challenge by Huntington Beach Councilman Dave Sullivan.
Less than 24 hours after the primary election, anti-airport forces Wednesday said they are ready to put their money and energy behind Sullivan, who represents their best shot to date of derailing the county government's plan to build an airport at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
"It's going to be a very fun summer," said Bill Kogerman, of the anti-airport group Taxpayers for Responsible Planning. "I think this is our opportunity to put some sense into the Board of Supervisors, and I'm sure our people will dig deep into their pockets to make it happen."
South County airport opponents failed to mobilize full support for Sullivan in the primary--putting some money behind 4th District candidate Eric Woolery, who came in third.
This time around, they likely will have to outdo millionaire developer George L. Argyros, who has placed his considerable political and financial clout behind Silva.
"The reality is that it doesn't matter how much money they will raise for Silva. It is my goal to make sure that we raise an equal amount of money in South County," said Irvine resident Steve Myers, the chief executive officer of SM & A Inc., a Newport Beach-based management and engineering consulting firm.
"Argyros may have done the county the greatest service in its history: He has challenged South County to develop as a community and deal with an egregious threat."
Silva, meanwhile, said he was disappointed with the election results but was confident he would win in November.
"We are ready to go to battle--that is a given," he said.
Silva said he was unable to focus as much time on the campaign as he needed, given that he spent nearly 60 hours a week dealing with his supervisorial commitments. He said that his largest base of support came from Huntington Beach--his home city--and that he would dedicate more time to pounding the pavement before the general election.
Contrary to what airport opponents say, support for the airport is not eroding in his district, he said. South County, he added, need not worry about the impacts of traffic, pollution and noise because the airport's environmental impact report will cover all those concerns.
"Those factors will have to be mitigated, and if they are not, there will not be an airport," he said.
Sullivan said his base of support came from environmental activists and Republicans in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach who are opposed to development of the Bolsa Chica wetlands and an airport at El Toro. Silva supports both projects.
"I think there is great sympathy for South County" in the 2nd District, Sullivan said. "That community down there will be impacted and that is a real concern. I'm conservative, but I am really concerned about the environment. In Huntington Beach, there is a real environmental awareness--like Republicanism was during Teddy Roosevelt's time."
He said he is hoping for endorsements from his primary opponents, former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis and retired criminal investigator Ralph Silva to help him in the general election.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the final airport plan in the fall next year. Currently, there is a 3-2 pro-airport majority on the board.
In the 4th District race, where five candidates fought for the seat vacated by William G. Steiner, North County Community College board member Cynthia Coad will face off with Anaheim Councilman Lou Lopez.
Coad received 27% of the vote, despite $256,000 in campaign funds and endorsements from key business leaders such as Argyros and Carl Karcher. Lopez garnered 28% having raised less than $80,000.
Both candidates are pro-airport and both support the expansion plans of Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange. Coad however, does not support an expansion of the James A. Musick Branch Jail near Irvine, while Lopez said he would consider it.
"I am optimistic that I will handily beat her in November," said Lopez. "I'm going to eat her alive during the debate. I can hardly wait."
Coad said she was already planning to spend more time walking precincts and raising money.
"We are planning to get started right away," she said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."