On this hot issue, local race goes slightly global

Times Staff Writers

Arne J. Chandler, an antiillegal immigration activist who lives in Temecula, was so impressed by Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor’s effort to close that city’s day labor center that he drove 70 miles from his home to attend several City Council meetings there.

Chandler was so impressed that he donated $750 to Mansoor’s reelection campaign -- even though he can’t cast a ballot in the city.

In the last two years, Mansoor, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy embraced by the Minuteman Project border-enforcement advocates, has made Costa Mesa his bulwark against illegal immigration -- leading bare council majorities to close the dayworker center, abolish the city’s Human Relations Commission and seek federal permission for local police to enforce immigration laws.

As election day nears, he is finding that his efforts have brought him fans from all over the county, and a few from beyond, including Temecula and Beverly Hills. Donation records through late October show that nearly two-thirds of Mansoor’s contributions have come from outside the city. Although the more than $58,000 he has raised may seem negligible in the world of political fundraising, he has hauled in more campaign cash than any of his fellow candidates.


“When we have politicians stepping out boldly on this issue, we try to support them,” said Chandler, founder of Citizen Activists for a Secure America, which staged an anti-dayworker rally in his hometown. “It’s important that Mansoor is reelected.... What’s done in one city can affect many other cities.”

Mansoor’s efforts have brought national attention to the city of 110,000. The spotlight has roiled a town where parks and schools traditionally dominate local politics, rather than national issues, leading critics and opponents to say Mansoor’s out-of-town money has no place in the election.

“In this case, you have a group that is targeting our city for a specific reason,” said City Council candidate and Mansoor opponent Mike Scheafer. “It’s unusual for a Costa Mesa election to see this money from out of town. We have local elections. It blows me away that Costa Mesa is receiving this much attention because of what Mansoor has done.”

There are no laws against candidates receiving donations from outside their jurisdictions, but political observers say it is rare for a local politician to attract such a high percentage from elsewhere -- particularly for philosophical reasons, rather than donors seeking official favors, such as zoning changes or contracts.


“For a local City Council election, it’s not usual at all,” said Mark Petracca, a political science professor at UC Irvine. “It’s taking a position on an issue people feel strongly about, and reaping the rewards of a kind of hot-button issue that motivates people to make contributions.”

Mansoor is seeking reelection to his council seat, and the panel will select a new mayor. Planning Commissioner Bruce Garlich and former council member Scheafer have formed a slate to oppose Mansoor and Wendy Leece, an ally of the mayor, in a race for two council seats. Two additional candidates are parks Commissioner Mirna Burciaga and Christopher Bunyan, a member of the city’s cultural arts committee.

On average, Costa Mesa council candidates in this election received 41% of their contributions from outside the city. Mansoor received 63%. Among the leading candidates, the next highest was Leece, who received 49%.

Among their chief opponents, Scheafer received 15% and Garlich received 22%.


Mansoor dismissed criticism about his contributors.

“My opponents are going after me on immigration issues because they are trying to hide their terrible record on city issues,” he said. “I’ve put quality-of-life issues first. I haven’t seen my opponents do that.”

Mansoor noted he had received more money from Costa Mesa residents than any other candidate. He also pointed out that his critics, including industrial property owners and the police and fire unions, have formed political action committees to raise money to support his opponents.

Thomas Markovits of Beverly Hills read about Mansoor’s push to close the day labor center and sympathized with the mayor in the face of criticism from other council members.


“The rest of the council was beating up on him for it,” Markovits said. He donated $100 in August.

Two more out-of-town Mansoor supporters are George Riviere and his wife, Eileen Garcia, of Laguna Beach. Garcia helped create a women’s offshoot of the Minuteman Project. The group helped organize Mansoor’s first fundraiser, and Riviere has contributed $1,100.

Mansoor’s largest donation came from William E. Broza, a loan consultant who lives in Laguna Beach. Broza gave Mansoor $5,000 in June on a recommendation from a friend.

“I just like the guy,” Broza said. “He’s a cop. He’s a law-and-order guy.”