Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan announces run to unseat Mayor Christina Shea

Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan announced her campaign for mayor on Monday.
Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan announced her campaign for mayor on Monday.
(Courtesy of Farrah Khan)

Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan announced her mayoral bid on Monday, ensuring a showdown between her and Mayor Christina Shea.

Rumors of Khan’s run had been circulating in recent weeks as Shea has faced criticism for comments she’s made against Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

“Irvine deserves a mayor who reflects the inclusive, compassionate and progressive values of our city’s residents,” Khan said in a statement. “As mayor, I’ll fight to protect the things that make this such a special place to live while advancing new policies to reduce homelessness, combat climate change, increase transparency throughout city government, and help workers and businesses recover from the economic shutdown. I’m excited to launch my campaign, and I am looking forward to the many conversations with voters that lay ahead about how best to move Irvine forward.”

Shea has held the seat since early last year, when she was appointed to the position after former Mayor Don Wagner left for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Former Irvine mayors Sukhee Kang and Beth Krom, the last two Democrats to hold the position, will serve as Khan’s campaign co-chairs, Khan announced.

Khan was elected to the City Council in 2018. Prior to that, she served as a community services commissioner. She is executive director of the Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council and owns a catering company.

Shea served as mayor in 1996 and 1998, among her decades-long service on the City Council.

Khan, a Democrat, and Shea, a Republican, have been sparring in recent weeks as they’ve expressed opposing views on protests against police brutality held at City Hall during a spate of nationwide demonstrations that arose after the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Last week, Shea took issue with Khan taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest and said a “legal letter” was sent to Khan reprimanding her for “demanding” that Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel take a knee during a Black Lives Matter protest. Shea told TimesOC that Khan had violated a municipal code.

Khan said she couldn’t comment on the issue because it was not a matter of public record.

The first Muslim American woman to be elected to the Irvine City Council, Khan previously joined a Vietnamese American rally in Little Saigon against the Trump administration’s push to deport thousands of war refugees.

Mayor Christina Shea previously served as mayor in 1996 and 1998, among her decades-long service on the Irvine City Council.
Mayor Christina Shea previously served as mayor in 1996 and 1998, among her decades-long service on the Irvine City Council.
(City of Irvine)

“I reached out to her and said, ‘Why are you there?’” Shea said. "[Khan] said, ‘I am creating the peace.’ I said, ‘That’s not your job; the police create the peace. That’s not your job; you shouldn’t be there.’”

Khan, residents and legal professionals have criticized Shea in recent weeks for comments she’s made about Black Lives Matter protests, as well as for deleting comments and blocking supporters of the movement who criticize her on Facebook.

“I will not allow my city to become a location for expressions of anger and hate against my residents and my stellar police force, who I stand behind 100%,” Shea said in a “Mayor’s Corner” video.

She continued that while she supports peaceful demonstrations, “I do not personally support displays that host profanity, comment of our police officers being racist or promoting hostility, especially when families with small children are attending these protests.”

An online petition calling for Shea to resign due to her comments has collected more than 800 signatures. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University recently sent a letter to Shea calling for her to stop blocking users and deleting people’s comments from her personal Facebook profile.

The Thurgood Marshall Bar Assn., Orange County’s only Black bar association, was the first group to criticize Shea for her comments and actions on Facebook.

Khan was critical of Shea while speaking earlier this month at a press conference organized by the Thurgood Marshall Bar Assn.

“Today, we have the opportunity to bring our community members together, to dialogue, to call for action and to heal,” Khan said outside of Irvine City Hall. “This is not the time for divisive mischaracterizations of our citizens as we have unfortunately witnessed from our mayor.

“Speaking up against injustice and protesting peacefully is our right. Working towards eradicating implicit bias and brutality towards the Black community is expected and required.”

Khan said at the press conference that she attended the Black Lives Matter protest, listened to the experiences shared by Black community members and vowed to work toward improving their lives.

“To infer that people are unpatriotic and support violence because they participated in these protests is unacceptable,” Khan said.

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