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Orange County

County's November Ballot Offers a Nearly Full Slate of Council Races

August 15, 2004|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Orange County's city council elections in November will find most incumbents seeking to keep their jobs, a gaggle of new candidates in several cities and the retirement of several longtime council members.

Elections will be held in every city but Seal Beach, which chose new council members in March. Huntington Beach will have the most contested election: 19 candidates for three seats.

Among those retiring in December is Joanne Coontz, who in 1986 became the first woman on the Orange City Council and, starting in 1994, served three terms as the city's first female mayor before returning to a regular council seat in 2000.

Leaving city government will be difficult, she said. "I think the city is in good hands, but, typical of cities today, the same problems are there today that were there years ago," she said, referring to tough budget cycles and state funding cuts.

Also stepping down is Mission Viejo Councilman William S. Craycraft, the only remaining member of the city's inaugural council in 1987. He said he decided not to run again after learning of the candidacy of former Mission Viejo City Manager Dan Joseph. Craycraft backed Joseph during a contentious power struggle at City Hall that ended with Joseph replaced.

The government affairs consultant said he didn't believe his support of Joseph would have been a political liability had he sought reelection.

"If I had run again, I'd have been reelected, no doubt in my mind," he said. "But the fact that the city had another good candidate made me think it's a good time to step aside. I think 17 years of serving the city of Mission Viejo is enough."

Joseph, who took a $221,000 buyout in November in exchange for quitting, is running for one of two vacant spots against two of his biggest detractors, Mayor Gail Reavis and community activist Brad Morton. Also running is Frank Ury, who lost a race for school board in 2000 and was a founding member of the conservative Education Alliance, a reform group dedicated to returning traditional values to schools.

The Tustin City Council is losing Jeffery Thomas, first elected in 1992, while Huntington Beach Council member Connie Boardman also chose not to run for a second term.

Boardman often aligned on environmental issues with councilwomen Debbie Cook, who is seeking reelection, and Pam Julien Houchen, who has served her maximum time in office. Eighteen other candidates are seeking three seats on the seven-member council.

Boardman said she couldn't continue to juggle the demands of the council and her job as a Cerritos College professor.

Houchen will be leaving amid investigations into the sale of apartments that were illegally converted to condominiums that she owned or for which she acted as the real-estate agent. The controversy erupted after city officials discovered that about 120 apartments in the city were illegally converted, potentially depleting the city's affordable housing stock and leaving the new owners unable to sell or refinance their units.

Controversy is brewing in Irvine, where Councilman Chris Mears announced he would not seek reelection and accused his mentor, Mayor Larry Agran, of unethical behavior, saying he steered city business to a company connected to an Agran campaign ally. Agran says neither he nor the consultant had done anything wrong.

Agran, who has served his maximum two terms as mayor, is seeking one of two council seats. He is supporting Councilwoman Beth Krom for mayor, and either of two candidates -- Debbie Coven, a school board member, and businessman Sukhee Kang -- for election to the other council vacancy.

Opposing Agran's slate is the "Irvine First Team" of Councilman Mike Ward for mayor and, for council, former Councilman Greg Smith, 2002 mayoral candidate Mike House and businessman Steven Choi.

Among other large Orange County cities, 13 candidates are vying for two open seats on the Anaheim City Council, including former Councilwoman Lucille Kring.

In Santa Ana, three incumbents face opposition: Mayor Miguel A. Pulido and council members Jose Solorio and Claudia Alvarez. Two candidates -- Carlos Bustamante and Alexander Nalle -- want to replace Councilman Brett E. Franklin, who has served the maximum number of terms.

A full list of local candidates for city councils, school boards and special districts will be available later this week at www.oc.ca.gov/election.

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Times staff writers Dave McKibben, Stanley Allison and Jennifer Mena contributed to this report.

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