During the dog days of summer, a few dried fronds fell off the palm tree in Andrissa Dominguez' front yard.
To some, they might have looked like fodder for a compost heap. To Dominguez, they looked like campaign signs.
The City Council candidate, who lives downtown, set up a work table in the front yard with the same cans of paint — red, yellow, blue and green — that she used to coat the exterior of her house. Then she summoned her ex-husband, two sons and friends and set to work painting "Andrissa 4 HB" on each frond.
To date, Dominguez and her team have painted about 30 of the signs, and several of them now line the front yard of her house. With its bright colors and "Hakuna Matata" inscribed over the window, it's already a tourist attraction on the block, she said — to the point where strangers sometimes pose for pictures in front of it.
"It's OK," Dominguez replied with a wave when promised that her address wouldn't appear in the Independent. "People know the 'Hakuna Matata' house."
Given that Dominguez's campaign budget is close to zero, the palm fronds and paint came in handy. The candidate, who works as a playground supervisor at Smith Elementary School, is intentionally keeping her push for the council as simple as possible — refusing to take monetary donations, print professional signs or create a campaign website.
Instead, Dominguez hopes to build her candidacy through word-of-mouth, using Facebook because it's free and encouraging people to e-mail her at Andrissa4HB@yahoo.com to share concerns about city issues. And if they want to contribute money, she urges them to give it not to her campaign, but to a cause around town.
"My whole campaign is based on [the fact that] I really want to represent the citizens of Huntington Beach and let people get to know me," the 40-year-old said. "I'm not accepting any campaign donations because I'd rather people take that $20, $50 or $100 and put it back in the community."
It's that everywoman image that Dominguez hopes will endear her to voters Nov. 2. Still, she's intentionally kept her campaign low on specific platforms. When the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn., a local activist group, sent every candidate a questionnaire this summer about more than a dozen city issues, she responded only with a single sentence on the group's website:
"It would be a disservice to the residents of Huntington Beach for me to answer some of the questions when I do not possess all the necessary facts."
Dominguez, though, said Friday that she is opposed to the proposed Poseidon desalination plant and the senior center in Huntington Central Park. She also disagreed with the City Council's recent approval of the Ridge housing development in Bolsa Chica and said balancing the budget and protecting the environment are among her chief concerns.
"Once we lose land, once we lose that valuable asset, it's gone forever, and people need to understand that," said Dominguez, who often takes in rescued animals and lives with two fish, two cats, a dog, a parakeet, a newt and a toad.
Dominguez has spent nearly her entire life in Surf City. She was born in Denmark to a Danish mother and an American father who was stationed with the Army in Germany, but moved back to Huntington at the age of 3 months. She still lives in her childhood home, and some of her campaign's supporters are friends who knew her growing up.
Robert Fisher, a high school classmate, keeps one of Dominguez's palm frond signs in his front yard and said his wife has helped paint them. Her informal candidacy, Fisher said, may appeal to voters who are tired of career politicians.
"She has, first, the interest of the residents and citizens of Huntington Beach in mind," he said. "Not special interests, not developers, not lawyers or anyone else who has investments in the development of Huntington Beach. She looks out for the regular citizen."