Almost exactly a year after she was unceremoniously removed as Costa Mesa’s mayor, Katrina Foley reclaimed the post with a decisive victory over rival and current Mayor Sandy Genis in Tuesday’s race to become the city’s first directly elected mayor.
Elsewhere on the ballot, a slate of Foley’s allies — Manuel Chavez, Andrea Marr and Arlis Reynolds — swept the three other available City Council seats, ushering in a new controlling majority.
The winners of those spots get four-year terms, while the mayor will serve for two years.
“I’m obviously thrilled,” Foley, a Mesa del Mar resident and current councilwoman, said Wednesday morning. “I woke up to hundreds and hundreds of texts and calls, so it’s great to see that our team did so well. We all worked really hard to run positive campaigns and focus on neighborhood and community issues, and I think that’s what the voters wanted.”
With all precincts reporting, Foley held a 58.5% to 41.5% lead over Genis, who lives in Mesa Verde.
Genis said Wednesday that “Katrina really ran an outstanding campaign, and maybe I disagreed with some of her strategies, but obviously they worked.”
“There are things I could’ve done differently — like I could have started earlier and worked harder to raise money and things like that. But I also think the ‘blue wave’ was a huge factor for all the races,” she said, citing an influx of Democratic attention and resources in political campaigns throughout Orange County.
Foley is a Democrat, Genis is a Republican.
City Council seats
The other council races featured similarly large margins. In District 3 — which includes College Park, Mesa del Mar and a portion of the upper Eastside — Marr defeated her opponent, Brett Eckles, 55.7% to 44.3%.
“I’m overwhelmed by the support of my community,” said Marr, a mechanical engineer who lives in the Fairview Village neighborhood. “I look forward to bringing a fresh perspective to City Council and to working with my colleagues to solve many of the challenges currently facing our city.”
Eckles, an Eastside resident who owns a construction firm, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
In District 4 — which covers a dense pocket of the Westside south of the Fairview Developmental Center, ranging from Harbor Boulevard west to Monrovia Avenue and south to West 17th Street — Chavez, an auto dealer funding coordinator, notched 56.8% of the vote.
With all precincts reporting, he had received more than double the number of votes of both of his opponents, Realtor and businesswoman Michelle Figueredo-Wilson and businessman Steve Chan.
“I’m incredibly humbled,” Chavez said of the election results. “Just to know that my community supports me and believes in me and has the faith to have me be their representative is priceless for me. I’m forever indebted to this community, because they made me who I am today.”
He added that he’s excited about his fellow incoming council members and that he thinks “it’s great for Costa Mesa to have a diverse council that reflects the residents in the community.”
In the three-candidate race in District 5 — which wraps around District 4, taking in downtown and the remainder of the Westside — Reynolds, an engineer and vice chairwoman of the city Parks and Recreation Commission, claimed 53% of the vote.
Reynolds said she was “elated and humbled to have earned the confidence of my community to represent our district” and was “especially proud to represent the district in which I grew up and went to school.”
She said her win, as well as those of other homegrown candidates in the Westside, “indicates both the quality of our neighborhoods and the hunger in our community for more local voices in leadership positions.”
“The successful campaigns demonstrated what our city wants more of — direct engagement with our residents, a focus on the issues residents care about, and a positive and respectful approach toward problem solving,” she said.
Reynolds’ vote total put her well clear of current Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor, who received 34.2%, and finance executive Rebecca Trahan, who collected 12.8%.
“I want to congratulate Arlis Reynolds on her win in District 5,” Mansoor wrote in an email Wednesday. “The election is over and the people of Costa Mesa have spoken. There will be major changes for better or worse, but only time will tell which.”
This was the first time Costa Mesa council members were elected by district, with voters in designated areas choosing one candidate from their area to represent them. Previously, residents citywide could vote for any council candidate running in a given year.
As part of that change, the council is expanding from five members to seven.
Despite their defeats, neither Genis nor Mansoor is going anywhere. Because they were both elected in 2016 — when council seats were still filled by citywide votes — they will serve the remainder of their current terms, which end in 2020.
In the end, the much-ballyhooed ballot-box battle between Foley and Genis — who had supported each other in previous council campaigns — ended up with a wider result than some might have anticipated. Foley opened an early lead in the initial election returns and maintained a clear advantage as more ballots were counted.
“I was really surprised by the significant lead from the early returns, because that shows that regardless of party, our whole team had support,” Foley said. “I’ve always tried to lead on behalf of everyone, regardless of party. … The issues that we all care about, they don’t have a donkey or an elephant attached to them.”
Previously, the mayor was chosen from among City Council members by a majority vote of the council.
A year ago, Genis — to the shock of many in the community — joined Mansoor and Councilman Jim Righeimer in voting to remove Foley as mayor and appoint Genis to the position. Foley had assumed the role in December 2016 following that year’s council election.
Now, Foley and Genis are poised to trade the position for a second time.
Foley said she believes her response to that situation resonated with voters.
“There was a lot of ugliness in this campaign, and our positive message resonated much more significantly,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to putting it all behind us and moving forward.”
Looking ahead, Genis said she doesn’t expect Foley to treat her like her “best friend, but I would certainly hope that everyone on the council will be treated with the respect that we should be accorded as representatives of the people of Costa Mesa.”
“I tried hard and I’m going to do my best on the council for the people of Costa Mesa and keep on serving the community,” she said.
Vote totals and percentages
Katrina Foley: 11,473 (58.5%)
Sandy Genis: 8,138 (41.5%)
Andrea Marr: 1,736 (55.7%)
Brett Eckles: 1,383 (44.3%)
Manuel Chavez: 770 (56.8%)
Michelle Figueredo-Wilson: 370 (27.3%)
Steve Chan: 216 (15.9%)
Arlis Reynolds: 1,578 (53%)
Allan Mansoor: 1,018 (34.2%)
Rebecca Trahan: 380 (12.8%)
Source: Orange County registrar of voters office, with all precincts reporting