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Costa Mesa mayor, council seat vacancies attract 15 contenders who’ll face off in November

Costa Mesa City Hall.
Costa Mesa City Clerk Brenda Green confirmed Tuesday five candidates had filed papers to run for a two-year mayoral term, while another 10 were qualified to run for three open district seats.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

With the filing period for three seats on the Costa Mesa City Council and one at-large mayor position closed as of Friday, a total of 15 candidates have been qualified to run in the Nov. 3 election.

Costa Mesa City Clerk Brenda Green confirmed Tuesday five candidates had filed papers to run for a two-year mayoral term, including current Mayor Katrina Foley and Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who finishes her second and final term on the council in November but may run for mayor.

The three council openings are for full, four-year terms in Districts 1, 2 and 6 — new geographic districts approved by voters in 2016 but seated by remaining “at large” council members Genis, John Stephens and Allan Mansoor. Stephens has filed to run for the District 1 seat in November, while Mansoor is not seeking reelection.

Here is a quick look at the candidates who have filed for office, by position and district:

Mayor

Katrina Foley (incumbent): In 2018, Foley was the first Costa Mesa mayor to be elected by voters, rather than appointed by the council. An attorney and business owner, she first served on the council from 2004 to 2010. She returned in 2014, serving one four-year term before the mayoral election. Her position as president of the Foley Group, PLC earns her an annual income above $100,000.

Al Melone: A retired accountant who owns an asset recovery firm, Melone ran for City Council in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Describing himself in 2016 as “resistant to growth,” Melone serves on the city’s Finance & Pension Advisory Committee and was a member of a Pension Oversight Committee that no longer meets. Documents place his income between $1,001 and $10,000 and disclose stock holdings in Amazon, Microsoft and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Quentin “Q” Pullen: A former U.S. Marine and Gulf War veteran, Pullen is a certified personal trainer and owner of Body By Q Fitness, which earns him an income between $10,000 and $100,000. Calling himself a change candidate, Cullen claimed in a 2016 lawsuit against the YMCA of Orange County he was never paid for a fitness obstacle course he created.

Sandra L. “Sandy” Genis (current council member): A graduate of Estancia High School, Genis first served on the council from 1988 to 1996. She returned in 2012 and will term out of her council position in November. In her candidate filings, Genis disclosed more than $100,000 of stock holdings in Allstate Insurance, as well as Discover Financial Services, Morgan Stanley and Land’s End.

Wendy Leece: Leece served on the Costa Mesa City Council from 2006 to 2014. Before that, she was a Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee, from 1994 to 2002, and a Parks and Recreation commissioner in Costa Mesa for four years. She is vice chair of the city’s Finance & Pension Advisory Committee. A teacher at College Hospital Costa Mesa, Leece indicated earnings between $10,001 and $100,000.

District 1

(Includes Mesa Verde, Upper and Lower Birds, State Streets, Wimbledon Village and the South Coast Collection area as well as the Fairview Developmental Center)

John B. Stephens (incumbent): A business litigation attorney and partner of Stephens Friedland, LLP, Stephens came to the council in 2016 after narrowly losing a bid in 2012. A supporter of the city’s police and fire departments, Stephens disclosed earnings above $100,000 and more than $10,000 in income earned as a council member.

Don Harper: With a background in business and accountancy, Harper served on the Parks and Recreation Commission and resigned in April 2016. In 2012, he ran for a seat on the city’s Sanitary District and was endorsed by the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. A former member of the city’s Finance & Pension Advisory Committee, Harper declared no investments or earnings.

Jason Komala: A business development professional and leadership coach who works as a store director for Target, Komala serves as a member of the city’s Cultural Arts Committee. A self-identified fiscal conservative, he disclosed more than $100,000 in income from Target as well as between $10,001 and $100,000 in stock holdings in the company.

District 2

(Encompasses Halecrest, Mesa North, South Coast Metro and the Sobeca District, while District 6 covers most of the city’s Eastside, except for small portion just east of the 55 Freeway covered by District 3)

Ben Chapman: A South Coast Metro resident for the past eight years, Chapman works as a leasing consultant for a Riverside-based property management company Hunt Pacific Management. A former Orange Coast College student, he has served on several campaigns and grassroots organizations throughout Orange County. Chapman disclosed salary earnings between $10,001 and $100,000 but listed no investments.

Loren Gameros: A former Costa Mesa High student, Gameros has been a resident for nearly 40 years. He works as an inspection coordinator for the nonprofit Operating Engineers Training Trust Local 12, where campaign documents indicate he earns more than $100,000. He is also a career and technical education teacher accredited through Rio Hondo and Santiago Canyon colleges.

Gary Parkin: A member of Costa Mesa’s Historical Preservation Committee and a former Pension Oversight Committee member, Parkin has served as a Senior Commissioner and is an advocate for the Costa Mesa Senior Center. In his campaign documents, the Costa Mesa resident disclosed between $100,001 and $1 million of stock holdings in General Motors, his former employer.

District 6

(Covers nearly all of the city’s Eastside, except the portion in District 3)

Hengameh Abraham: The co-owner of Costa Mesa wellness coaching center the House of Medicine, Abraham is the mother of two small children, a former pharmacy technician and a 2011 graduate of Cal State Fullerton, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in health sciences. In campaign documents, Abraham disclosed between $1,001 and $10,000 in earnings from her business.

Jeffrey Harlan: An attorney and urban planner, Harlan has served as a planning commissioner for the past four years and been on the Costa Mesa Community Foundation Board for eight. As an “of counsel” attorney for Beverly Hills law firm Ervin, Cohen & Jessup, Harlan disclosed earnings above $100,000 and indicated he’s raised $23,000 in a grassroots campaign.

Jeff Pettis: A graduate of Corona del Mar High School and Cal State Long Beach, Pettis worked in sales for several years before deciding to go back to school for a nursing degree. Today, he works as a manager in Outpatient Psychiatry with the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. Pettis did not report disclosable earnings or investments.

Lee Ramos: A longtime Eastside resident and former member of the city’s Senior Commission, Ramos ran for open seats on the City Council in 2014, when he reportedly knocked on 7,000 doors, and again in 2016. He previously served on the city’s Charter and Fairview Park Citizens Advisory committees and the Pension Oversight Committee.

Members of the public can obtain and review copies of the candidate documents by visiting the city’s website costamesaca.gov/city-hall/city-departments/city-clerk/city-elections/city-elections-2020. or calling (714) 754-5225.

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