Tea Party backs three in council race

With the Dec. 15 certification of seven candidates crowding the field for three La Cañada Flintridge City Council seats up for grabs in March, there hasn't been much time for hopefuls to communicate their platforms or for voters to make up their minds in what promises to be a hotly-contested race.

But conservative activists with the Pasadena-based TEAPAC, an umbrella political action committee for Tea Party organizations statewide, have wasted no time in throwing early support behind three local candidates — even before any of them had met with the group or asked for its backing.

Pending official published endorsements, TEAPAC and its Pasadena Patriots sub-group are backing Mayor Donald Voss, Councilwoman Laura Olhasso and Planning Commissioner Mike Davitt, said TEAPAC President Michael Alexander.

Also in the race are schools booster and local businessman Charlie Kamar, former Planning Commission member James K. Hill and Jacqueline Harris, an organ-transplant nurse and Girl Scouts volunteer.

With so many choices, why did the group move so early?

"These local races are where Democrats especially do such a good job of building a farm team, putting people on the bench and grooming their candidates for future office. Tea Partiers and conservative activists need to compete effectively in that area and replicate the success of the Democrats and the left," explained Alexander, who runs a Pasadena-based investment management firm.

TEAPAC's support came as a surprise to Voss, a decline-to-state voter, who confirmed he's had no contact with the group.

Davitt — a Republican also backed by retiring Councilman Greg Brown — said he was happy for the endorsement.

"I believe in a lot of what they stand for. What we both want to see is government accountability, fiscal responsibility and government at any level that's open and accessible to everyone. That's a good connectivity between us," Davitt said.

Olhasso, also a Republican, said she intends to run a campaign free of party politics.

"I don't know anything about the Pasadena Tea Party group," Olhasso said. "This is a nonpartisan race. I value support from all people from all groups. The reason local government works so well is because of its nonpartisan nature, and that's aptly important to me."

Alexander said local politics are a partisan affair — just not in the way people traditionally think of political parties.

"To run under the rubric of Democrat or Republican is not really a useful characterization of what's going on. Partisanship exists in two very different approaches to government — those who want smaller government, more personal freedom and fiscal conservatism…and on the other side is a group that favors larger government, more regulation and higher taxes," Alexander said.

The first issue to emerge so far in the La Cañada Flintridge City Council race involves whether the current council has been inclusive enough of public input and participation.

Hill and Richter, both Republicans, and Harris, a Democrat, say council members could do a better job of listening to and handling constituent concerns, especially when it comes to neighborhood-level issues.

Though not critical of the current council, Kamar also is campaigning on a promise of strong customer service.

"I don't think [the TEAPAC] is going to have that much effect in the La Cañada City Council race. It's always been nonpartisan — about the community and what kind of service you can provide for this city," Kamar said.

Alexander said the TEAPAC will continue to follow local races before publishing finalized endorsements on its website.

Meanwhile, the La Cañada Flintridge Republican Committee will be hosting a candidates' forum at its Jan. 26 meeting prior to backing any candidates, said Chair Al Restivo.

"We want to interview all seven candidates and see which three are deserving of our endorsement," said Restivo, who is inviting TEAPAC members to observe the forum.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World