Councilwoman’s reelection foes include Disney

Esquivel is a Times staff writer.

The battle over housing in the Anaheim Resort District lasted a tumultuous 18 months, made national headlines, split city leaders and led to threats to recall council members who backed the housing.

Disney spent millions lobbying against plans to build a large housing project -- some of it aimed at low-wage earners -- in the midst of the city’s Resort District; Mayor Curt Pringle and a majority on the City Council took its side.

On the other side was Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, one of the loudest voices to advocate housing. She anticipated that her choice would lead to payback when city elections rolled around.

Now, as the campaign enters its final days, Disney, the mayor and his supporters are ramping up efforts to help an avowed supporter of the entertainment giant take Galloway’s seat on the council.

With two seats on the council up for grabs, incumbent Harry Sidhu, who aligned with Pringle in the housing fight, seems on the way to reelection.


Standing in the way of Galloway’s reelection is Gail Eastman, a planning commissioner who is getting help from Disney and a new committee aligned with Pringle.

When Galloway decided to back the housing project, she imagined that it might make her reelection difficult. So she announced her campaign early last year and started fundraising soon after. With the support of several unions and volunteers, she was going door to door to persuade voters as early as May.

“I knew that having taken that stand, I would need to build a base to let people know I’m running again and that I intend to do what I need to win,” she said.

She thought that Disney officials might work against her reelection.

“They’re one of the most powerful corporations in the world,” she said. “I knew I was headed for a tough fight.”

At the end of September, Disney donated $25,000 to Citizens for Anaheim’s Future, a new group that has gathered hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from developers, local businesses and others -- including $25,000 from California real estate agents.

The committee is supporting Sidhu and Eastman, said Chairwoman Virginia Zlaket, and has spent thousands of dollars sending out pro-Eastman fliers in recent weeks.

Eastman is also getting help from the mayor.

Pringle, who endorsed incumbent Sidhu early in the race, announced this month that he was endorsing Eastman as well.

“She was a key leader in the fight to protect the Anaheim Resort, proving her commitment to protecting Anaheim’s fiscal security,” he said in a statement.

Galloway has spent tens of thousands of dollars in her own right, and she believes she’s on the way to reelection.

“I’m doing well,” she said. “This late in the game, if their goal is to get me out, they’d have to go really negative and be really aggressive.”