Huntington Beach Councilman Matthew Harper, who has run a high-profile campaign for state Assembly since October, has dropped out of the race.
In a Friday email to the Harper for Assembly mailing list, Harper said he had opted not to run for the newly formed 72nd District and plans instead to seek reelection to City Council. He was elected in 2010 and has already filed a candidate intention statement with the city to run in 2014.
Reached Friday by phone, Harper said he initially entered the Assembly race because he saw no other candidate who shared his political philosophy. When Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar declared his candidacy, though, Harper opted to endorse him.
"Upon talking with him, and getting to know him better, I found him someone whose philosophy and approach to government was similar to my own, and I found someone whose voting record would be substantially similar to my own if elected to state Assembly," Harper said. "So I felt the most appropriate path was to continue on with the City Council, where I have a lot of work to do."
He added that he plans to run for Assembly in 2018, when he and Edgar would be termed out of the City Council and Assembly, respectively.
Harper was the second Huntington councilman to announce his departure from the Assembly race last week. Joe Carchio, who had expressed an interest in running for the 74th district but not filed paperwork, had opted to stay with his city post rather than run for the seat that spans Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine and Laguna Beach.
Unlike Carchio, Harper ran an enthusiastic Assembly campaign, sending out regular email blasts and trumpeting endorsements from supporters. Among those who backed his campaign were Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), the Orange County Young Republicans, Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen and council members Devin Dwyer and Joe Carchio.
On March 6, just hours before he withdrew from the race, Harper hosted a campaign fundraising reception at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach, with $250 admission and a $3,900 maximum contribution. Harper declined March 7 to say how much he had raised for his Assembly run.
According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Harper never filed nomination papers or a declaration of candidacy for the 72nd District. His sole filing came Dec. 30, when he pulled paperwork for "sigs in lieu" — voters' signatures that can be submitted instead of paying the fee to run for office, which is $952.91 for Assembly.
Harper said he gathered many signatures, but opted not to turn them in. Five candidates are officially in the running for the 72nd: Edgar, Long Pham, Joe Dovinh, Albert Ayala and Travis Allen.
Allen, the only Huntington resident in the race, lambasted Harper for endorsing an out-of-town candidate.
"Not only do Matt Harper's actions raise questions about moral turpitude, but also his off-putting decision has put the future of Huntington Beach in direct jeopardy," Allen said in a campaign press release, adding that the move amounted to a "slap in the face" to Surf City residents.
Another Huntington resident, Anthony Stewart Pinkston, had been listed on the registrar website as a candidate for the 72nd, but he dropped out of the race before the deadline to file paperwork Wednesday.