Column: Candidates ready to light up Costa Mesa’s Feet to the Fire Forum


It’s time to break out the flame leather pants for another run of Feet to the Fire Forums.

With 11 forums under our belts since 2010, my partners from the Daily Pilot, John Canalis, and Voice of OC, Norberto Santana Jr., are ready for the 12th and 13th editions to the series.

We kick off Monday, interviewing candidates for Costa Mesa mayor and City Council. On Sept. 21 we tackle Newport’s council race, which I’ll discuss in my next column.

Costa Mesa promises to be groundbreaking since residents will directly vote for mayor and council members representing districts — two firsts in city history. Past elections were at-large, and the council members themselves chose the mayor.

The first hour will be dedicated to council candidates. After a brief intermission, we’ll spend the second hour talking with the mayoral candidates, Councilwoman Katrina Foley and Mayor Sandy Genis.

Both have graced our stage before.

“This will be a good opportunity for residents to really see the differences among candidates for themselves,” Genis said.

“High-density development, public safety, budget and general approach to government” are among the topics she wants to discuss.

Foley has her own take.

“I always love Feet to the Fire because it exposes those candidates who are unable to think quickly on their feet and demonstrate their leadership skills in a fluid, unplanned environment,” she said.

And it looks like she’s ready to debate Genis.

“Unlike in the district races, where you will see some stark policy differences of opinion, the campaign for mayor comes down to leadership, effectiveness and a clearly articulated vision for Costa Mesa,” Foley said. “Bring the heat.”

Those running for council district seats also weighed in this week.

In District 3, Brett Eckles faces Andrea Marr.

Marr’s had people ask about F2F as she’s campaigned.

“People love the opportunity to see candidates side by side and to hear more than just talking points,” she said, adding that she looks forward to discussing “the big picture, about our vision for the city overall, and what we’d like to accomplish in our four, maybe eight years.”

Eckles is also looking forward to his first time on stage.

“Feet to the Fire has been a good opportunity for voters, to see in person or on television, the candidates running to help lead our city,” he said. “I am looking forward to discussing my plans, ideas and solutions to a variety of opportunities for improvement in our city and neighborhoods.”

In District 4, we welcome Steve Chan, Manual Chavez and Michelle Figueredo-Wilson.

“I’m looking forward to kicking around local issues with you and the other candidates,” Chan tells me. “The outsized impact District 4 (and District 5) has on the city as whole, and whether city policy is on the right track in District 4, which alone has a higher population density than (some big cities).”

Figueredo-Wilson’s excited to join the ranks of candidates who’ve graced our stage over the years.

“I look forward to a lively discussion regarding our city’s challenges,” she said. “District 4 needs a mature leader with life experience who is invested in the community and understands the policy complexities of homelessness and crime.”

I heard from District 5 candidates Allan Mansoor, Arlis Reynolds and Rebecca Trahan as well.

Did you know Mansoor, a current councilman, holds the record of being on Feet to the Fire more than any other candidate?

“Is this ‘Rocky 5’?” he quipped.

Mansoor has never shied from discussing the issues, or sharing his strong opinions on any of our previous shows, and this year is no different.

“I look forward to a real discussion on the very different directions some of the candidates want to take our city,” he said. “There are clear policy differences regarding needle distribution and toilets for transients.”

Trahan promised candor.

“I am excited about the Feet to the Fire and hope you will allow us to have candid, open conversations on issues important to Costa Mesa residents, and will allow us to talk about what is really going on with the Costa Mesa elections,” she said. “In addition, I hope it can also be a fun event where you will allow us to show our lighter, more humorous, down-to-earth sides.”

Reynolds attended the forum in 2016 and “appreciated seeing clear differences between candidates, as well as the opportunity to interact with candidates before and after the event. I look forward to the opportunity to meet more residents and share my vision for my hometown.”

Feet to the Fire’s unique political talk show format offers candidates an opportunity to engage with the press and gives voters insights into their belief systems and personalities.

The evening starts at 6 p.m. with a candidate meet and greet on the patio of Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. That’s the time voters can ask candidates their own questions.

The forum begins inside the theater at 7 p.m. It’s free to attend and all are welcome. Visit

Barbara Venezia is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at