Wu: Newport election underscores political apathy

For as long as people can remember, this is the first time that an open seat for the Newport Beach City Council will go uncontested.

The filing deadline passed Aug. 10, and the only person to pull papers in District 2 was newly anointed City Councilman Tony Petros. He'll win without having to make a single sign, speak at a political forum or lift a leg on the campaign trail.

For the past decade in Newport Beach, we've had to deal with four appointments within a four-year period, two rough and tumble open-seat elections, and now a coronation of sorts.

Coupled with incumbents Keith Curry and Ed Selich having no opponents, 2012 will prove to be the quietest council run.


And to say this is disappointing for democracy would be an understatement. We, the voters of Newport Beach, will have no choice in who will be our council members for the next four years. And it's nobody's fault but our own.

Shame on you. Shame on me.

Now challenging the incumbent is usually pretty difficult, so Curry and Ed — both of whom did stints as mayor — were pretty safe.

Running against them would have been a complete waste of time, money and oxygen. I even talked a couple people out of that potential debacle.

But District 2? Councilman Steve Rosansky's termed-out seat? The election cycle started with a couple of potential candidates; rumors like breezes in the wind had 2008 candidate Gloria Alkire, former Planning Commissioner Scott Peotter, Paul Watkins, now-Assembly candidate Bob Rush and Orange County Water District Board member Steve Sheldon joining businessman Petros in the mix.

Then 2012 came and, all of sudden, the noises stopped. Peotter moved to Irvine, Sheldon stopped returning my calls, Watkins and Rush were drawn out of the district with redistricting, Alkire became disinterested, and Petros stood alone.

Who lives in District 2? If you live in areas around Newport Shores, you do. If you live around the Newport Crest condos and Hoag Hospital, so do you. If you live up in Newport Heights (like me), you do also.

We were all either too busy, too disinterested, too content or too scared to run against the almighty Bicycle Safety Committee member Petros and his whopping, and extremely intimidating $37,601.47 in campaign cash on hand.

So life in Newport Beach must be that good that no one wanted a change, right?

After all, this is the same District 2 that, in 2003, that when the late Gary Proctor resigned his council seat, the other council members asked three other potential appointees to apply only to have them decline, before their fourth choice, Rosansky, happily agreed. This is the same District 2 that Rosansky himself once told me that there were no up-and-comers waiting in the wings to succeed him once he termed out.

Now don't get me wrong, I've met with Petros a couple of times, and from our conversations I liked him, and probably would have voted for him, even if he had an opponent. Perhaps that's why I didn't throw my own name into the ring.

I probably could have still earned some weighty endorsements, raised a few dollars and cut my hair to look, smell and sound like a viable candidate. But at the end of the day, my excuses were probably no different than yours. As a divorced father of 5-year-old triplets, I don't have the time, energy or desire to put my money where my mouth is.

But most for me, I have made the limited time I get with my kids my No. 1 priority, and just didn't want to sacrifice that for anything.

But as I read that, it sounds like just another excuse that I might hear from all around District 2.

And for someone who constantly complains about how "republican" the council is, for me, and everyone else who did not run, we really have no right to do so.

Fortunately, ignorance is bliss, and Newport Beach will have its first anointed councilman in 2012.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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