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City Races Turn on Land, Air Issues

Development themes influence several elections. Irvine council winds up with a pro-Great Park majority.


Orange County cities sorted out election results Wednesday in several hot city council races that centered on open space issues, development of El Toro and political rivalries.

In Irvine, two of three candidates picked by anti-airport mayor-elect Larry Agran succeeded in winning seats on the City Council, creating a majority block.

The new members will strengthen the city's push to create a Great Park of open space and museums at the closed El Toro Marine base, according to Chris Mears, a slate member who won the largest share, 16%, of the vote.

Agran, who ran unopposed in the mayor's slot, supported Mears, Beth Krom and Anthony Dragun. Ultimately, Krom was elected with 14% of the vote, but Dragun, a planning commissioner, did not make the cut.

Incumbent Councilman Michael Ward was reelected with nearly 15% of the vote. On Wednesday, Ward said he feared the newcomers would create a rift. "They want to go it alone," he said. "I hope I'm wrong."

In Huntington Beach, continued fighting over the development of Bolsa Chica mesa set the tone in the contest for three council seats.

Two newcomers, Debbie Cook and Connie Boardman, and incumbent Pam Julien were elected.

Cook and Boardman, prominent opponents of mesa development, were targeted in mailers, one of which bore the red-ink heading: "Anti-Business Candidates Attempt City Council Takeover."

The fliers were perceived as being so critical of Cook and Boardman that even Julien--whom the fliers endorsed--was upset. "I did not appreciate the negative campaign portion of the mailers," Julien said Wednesday of the mailers prepared by the Newport Beach-based Voter Education Project.

In all, 20 candidates vied for the three seats in Huntington Beach. Julien won 14% of the vote; Cook and Boardman each won 12%.

In Santa Ana, Tuesday's City Council election marked a clash between candidates backed by longtime-political rivals Mayor Miguel A. Pulido and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove).

One of Pulido's picks, Jose Solorio, won handily in a race to succeed Ted R. Moreno, who was convicted on fraud and money-laundering charges. Solorio, who ran against Moreno four years ago and lost, won 63% of the vote Tuesday.

Sanchez had backed the other Ward 1 candidate, Mauro Morales. He lost with 37% of the vote.

Despite widespread talk of Moreno's conviction, the scandal had little impact on the race. "I think the city's really beyond that issue, because the charges first sprang up four years ago," Solorio said Wednesday.

The new councilman said voters chose instead to focus on quality of life issues such as street and sidewalk repairs, crime reduction and new school construction.

In Newport Beach, a fierce battle between slow-growth advocates and developers spilled over into City Council races and ultimately cost incumbent Tom Thomson his District 7 seat. Thomson, who opposed the city's successful Measure S Greenlight initiative, finished with 25% of the vote--putting him last in a three-way heat.

Challenger John Heffernan, who supported the call for voter approval on certain development projects, won 39% of the vote; the third candidate, Bob Wynn, finished with nearly 36% of the vote.

Opposition to Measure S did not spell defeat for all council candidates. District 2 hopeful Gary L. Proctor won 64% of the vote, leaving Dennis P. Lahey and Steven Rosansky to collect 24% and 12% respectively.

Instead of supporting the Greenlight measure, Proctor tapped into voter concerns surrounding airport plans. Proctor, like many Newport Beach residents, opposes expansion of John Wayne Airport and endorses development of an airport at El Toro.

In Yorba Linda, the self-styled "Land of Gracious Living," an acrimonious battle between the City Council and former City Manager Arthur C. Simonian fueled heavy anti-incumbent sentiments.

Voters elected three newcomers to the council: Jim Winder, Michael Duvall and Allen Castellano. Mark Schwing lost his seat, finishing sixth in a field of 10.

Times correspondent Deniene Husted and staff writer Deborah Schoch contributed to this report.

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