Newport-Mesa voters stick with the familiar

In all but one case, voters in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa favored incumbents and well-known community leaders over a host of newcomers in elections for City Council and school board, according to final election results released Wednesday.

In the race for Area 2 of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education, voters threw out Trustee Michael B. Collier, an advocate for Westside schools, and ushered in Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who took 54.5% of the vote to the incumbent's 45.5%.

Collier was the only incumbent in either Newport Beach or Costa Mesa to lose a seat. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District issued a statement thanking him for his service.

Foley ran for school board on a platform transparency, building better communication among the school district, businesses and parents. She also called for technology skills training and improved athletic facilities.

In Area 5, 30-year incumbent Judy Franco won reelection, taking 59.3% of the vote to challenger Loretta Zimmerman's 40.7%. Franco had called her tenure an asset in times of economic uncertainty, but Zimmerman sought to exploit it as a liability.

Incumbency clearly favored Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who won reelection with 28.1% of the vote. Somewhat surprisingly though, Leece, who centered her campaign on quality of life and neighborhood issues, was not the top vote-getter. Running on a platform of pension reform, and strongly opposed by the public safety unions, Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer received 31.5% of the vote, securing the other open seat.

Also somewhat surprising, high school math teacher Chris McEvoy came within striking distance of Leece with 26.2% of the vote, a strong showing for a political newcomer best known for speaking out at council meetings. Leece had lost the support of the Orange County Republican Party in the eleventh hour of the election cycle after voting in favor of public employee contracts disliked by GOP leaders.

Marijuana dispensary owner Sue Lester, who wanted to bring a business background to the dais, trailed with 9.8% of the vote, and businessman Chad W. Petschl, who called for expanding John Wayne Airport, barely registered with 4.4%.

An increase to Costa Mesa's hotel tax squeaked through with 51.8% of voters in favor and 48.2% against Measure L.

Costa Mesa will also lose its mayor, Allan Mansoor, to the state Assembly. A Republican best known for his hardline stances against illegal immigration, Mansoor won the 68th District seat with 56.3% of the vote to Little Saigon businessman Phu Nguyen's 43.7%.

Newport Beach voters also went with the familiar, giving Councilwoman Leslie Daigle another term in District 4. With 62.1% of the vote, Daigle crushed political unknown Mark Tabbert, who took in 37.9%. Tabbert had branded himself an environmentalist, while Daigle made economic development the centerpiece of her platform and also touted her environmental work on the bay.

In Newport Beach District 3, voters elected a man many had already considered a political insider, Rush Hill, who has been active in community issues, the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations for years. With 54.9% of the vote, Hill convincingly defeated drug company lobbyist Ed Reno, who had a long list of endorsements from the Republican establishment, but garnered 45.1% of the vote.

The two men had clashed on pension reform, with Reno taking the position that Hill would back generous packages for city employees. Hill, a conservative, said he would seek common ground between demands from employee associations and fiscal responsibility.

Newport voters also passed Measure V, a slate of charter reforms supported by the chamber. Despite an eleventh-hour push from opponents, the proposal swept up 61.8% of the vote to the 38.2% opposed.

--Mona Shadia, Mike Reicher and Tom Ragan contributed to this report.

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