‘Team Newport’ candidates sweep City Council election as mayor is ousted

Newport Beach voters shook up the City Council during Tuesday’s election, tossing out Mayor Rush Hill and giving a slate of candidates known as “Team Newport” a sweep of the four available seats.

Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, founder of the Duffy electric boat company, defeated Hill in the District 3 race, joining Kevin Muldoon (District 4), Diane Dixon (District 1) and Scott Peotter (District 6) in winning spots on the seven-member council.

The slate emphasized fiscal conservatism.

“There’s a feeling out there that change is needed,” said Team Newport campaign consultant Dave Ellis.

Duffield, a former Newport Beach harbor commissioner, received 66.8% of the votes in his race against Hill to represent the neighborhoods surrounding Upper Newport Bay.

“I’m still in shock,” Duffield said Wednesday. “I never allowed myself the luxury of thinking I was going to win.”

Duffield is recovering from October heart surgery that interrupted the latter part of his campaign.

Hill, who is finishing his first term on the council, wished Duffield well, though he was disappointed with the result.

“I find it quite amusing that someone who is not interested in government other than the harbor pulled that kind of lead, but if that’s what the voters want, then that’s what they want,” Hill said.

Duffield centered his campaign on revitalizing Newport Harbor to promote and support public access and commercial operations throughout the bay, an issue he believes was largely ignored by the current council.

Muldoon, the vice president of a technology company, received 50.4% of the vote in District 4, which covers Harbor Cove, Eastbluff, Newport Center and several other communities. He will replace termed-out Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Orange County Water District board.

Tim Brown, a planning commissioner, and Roy Englebrecht, a local fight promoter, trailed Muldoon with 37.1% and 12.5% of the vote, respectively.

Muldoon said he drew votes because of his campaign platform, which focused on reducing the city’s long-term debt — a priority shared by his fellow Team Newport candidates — protecting property rights and increasing the presence of law enforcement in the city.

The council newcomer said he hopes to repeal an increase in dock fees that opponents label a “dock tax.” The issue was hotly debated in Newport Beach this year.

“I felt that the process of approving the dock tax wasn’t the most fair and respectful,” he said. “A lot of people felt powerless. Because of that, I felt I had a duty to run.”

Mike Toerge, a commercial real estate investor and longtime planning commissioner, led early in the race for District 6, which includes portions of Newport Coast and Corona del Mar. However, Peotter, an architect and a former planning commissioner, pulled ahead late Tuesday, eventually edging Toerge with 51.1% of the vote.

“The voters obviously don’t like the way the city is going,” said Peotter, who will replace termed-out Councilwoman Nancy Gardner. “The voters wanted a course correction, and they got it.”

Dixon, who ran unopposed for the seat representing the Balboa Peninsula, will replace termed-out Councilman Mike Henn.

Dixon, a businesswoman, said one of her main priorities on the council will be listening to the needs of Newport Beach residents. During her campaign, she said, she encountered many disillusioned residents who felt the council wasn’t considering their concerns.

“I want to continue to listen and act on what I hear,” she said. “People just want to be treated with respect and know that their representatives are listening to them.”