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Mayor’s seat up for grabs as 8 candidates qualify to run for 4 open Costa Mesa council seats

Eight candidates will seek to fill four seats on the Costa Mesa City Council.
With the county’s candidate filing period having closed Friday, eight candidates will seek to fill four seats on the Costa Mesa City Council.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Since Costa Mesa voters decided in 2016 to directly elect their mayor instead of appointing council members to perform the task, only one person has won office as the result of a popular vote — but all that is about to change.

Katrina Foley became the first elected mayor in 2018 and was reelected to office two years later. But when a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors became vacant shortly after the 2020 election, Foley campaigned for the spot and won.

Her vacancy on the Costa Mesa City Council was filled by appointment, with members opting to bring former District 1 Councilman John Stephens — who’d lost his district election in November 2020 and was serving on the city’s planning commission — back to the dais without holding a special election.

Now, with the deadline for candidates to file papers for this year’s election having passed Friday, it appears there will be a race for mayor, as former Orange County supervisor and Republican state Sen. John Moorlach hopes to unseat Stephens, who is seeking reelection.

Moorlach filed papers and was qualified to run Saturday, according to City Clerk Brenda Green. In addition to the mayoral contest, three seats on the council are up for grabs in Council Districts 3, 4 and 5, where incumbents Andrea Marr, Manuel Chavez and Arlis Reynolds, respectively, plan to run for second terms.

Green confirmed Monday six candidates had filed papers and been qualified to run for the three open seats. Although Chavez is the lone candidate running unopposed, he reported receiving $24,948 in monetary contributions between Jan. 1 and June 30, adding to a beginning cash balance of $553. Having spent $6,870 so far, he ended the reporting period with $18,631, records show.

Chavez’s campaign received $2,500 from the Orange County Young Democrats, $4,900 from dentist Zhang Zing and $1,000 from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine), who is running for election in the state’s 74th Assembly District.

Six candidates have so far filed papers to run for a seat on the Laguna Beach City Council. Three seats are up for grabs on the panel in November.

In Council District 3, incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Marr reported in a financial disclosure form highlighting campaigning activities from Jan. 1 to June 30 a beginning cash balance of $6,455, stating she’d received $10,507 in monetary contributions and had spent $3,130, leaving an ending balance of $13,831.

An engineer and vice president for Willdan Industrial, Marr faces two challengers. Jorge Miron, whose listed occupation is patient care advocate, has thrown his hat into the ring, as has John Thomas Patton, a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments. Since both candidates filed to run after the June 30 close of the reporting period, no campaign finance information for their runs has yet been released.

Marr amassed several smaller donations, most of them under $500, with $3,000 in contributions from Costa Mesa resident Flo Martin and $1,000 from Stephens’ campaign, along with $500 each from the Orange County Victory Fund and the organization Women in Leadership.

Reynolds also seeks a second term in Council District 5, where she faces challenger Rob Dickson, a senior paralegal at Costa Mesa law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP.

Four of the seven seats on the dais will be up for grabs in the election. The deadline to file to get on the November ballot is Friday.

An engineer and principal consultant at Future Energy Enterprises, Reynolds started the year with $100 in her campaign war chest and by June 30 had collected $10,639 in monetary contributions. Having spent $503, she ended the reporting period with a balance of $10,233.

Reynolds’ campaign received a $1,000 each from Stephens’ campaign and from Martin, $500 from the Orange County Employees Assn. PAC and $500 each from the Orange County Victory Fund and the Orange County League of Conservation Voters, documents indicate.

In the race for mayor, Moorlach’s qualification to run for office came after the close of the most recent campaign finance reporting deadline. He listed his occupation as a municipal finance writer.

His opponent Stephens reported a Jan. 1 beginning cash balance of $46,876, to which he added another $60,345 in monetary contributions received through June 30. Total monetary expenditures amounting to $6,687 left Stephens with an ending cash balance of $100,534.

Among Stephens’ top donors were Zhang Zing, a self-investor who contributed $3,000, supermarket-owning Northgate Gonzalez, LLC, ($4,900), Heat & Frost Insulators Local 5 ($2,500) and attorneys Seymour Everett and Brian Gurwitz, who each contributed $2,000 to the incumbent mayor.

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