While talking with a fellow journalist recently, the subject of the Newport Beach City Council elections came up, and the question: “Who you gonna vote for?”
My first response was, “I don’t know.”
After all, when you live in a city dominated by one party and you’re the minority opposition, does your vote even matter?
I grew up in a time and place in which my moderate Republican parents hashed this out at the dinner table, decrying the excesses and injustices perpetrated by Democratic politicians and their appointees who navigated freely among New York City’s corridors of power.
(Oh, the irony — I now live as a Democrat in a city that is 54 percent Republican and 25.5 percent Democratic, according to ocvote.com. About 20 percent are NPPs (No Party Preference), and likely vote along the same two to one percentage.)
Moreover, the Democratic Party of Orange County offers no endorsements for Newport Beach City Council, because none of the candidates are registered Dems. That’s not surprising in a heavily Republican city like Newport Beach, but it is lamentable – the office of city council is non-partisan.
Our city council, historically predominantly white, male, and Republican, suffers from a serious lack of diversity. The council is also prejudiced in favor of real-estate interests. Democracy thrives when all sorts of people have a place at the table – we keep one another honest. But that wasn’t the case in the New York City of my childhood, and it isn’t the case in Newport Beach today. For example, only one of the candidates has sided with many residents’ frustration over traffic congestion and opposes Measure Y.
Now that I’ve vented, here’s the answer to the question, “Who you gonna vote for?”
District 1: Diane Dixon
Dixon is running unopposed. Beyond this, she’s proven willing to engage with opposing viewpoints – she speaks to the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club (NBWDC) on October 21 – and I appreciate that quality.
District 3: Rush Hill vs. Duffy Duffield.
Who doesn’t love a Duffy, those ubiquitous transporters of beer and good times seen around Newport Harbor? The man for whom the boat is named, however, has shown himself to be a reluctant candidate. He was a no-show at several candidate forums. His campaign ignored an invitation to speak to the NBWDC. Perhaps this was due to his health, for just as I was filing this column a report came in that Duffield had undergone successful bypass surgery. May his health continue to improve. Still, I want a councilmember able and willing to engage in the political process with his constituents. While I heartily disagree with Rush Hill on Measure Y, when he was unable to attend the NBWDC’s scheduled forums, he came up with a date for members to meet with him for coffee. Hill by default.
District 4: Tim Brown vs. Kevin Muldoon vs. Roy Englebrecht.
Muldoon, along with Scott Peotter and Duffy Duffield, is part of the “We will out-conservative anyone” slate. I object to fervent ideologists in a non-partisan office. And for a city with Newport Beach’s attributes, far more vision is required than repeated mantras about bare-bones budgets. Tim Brown is personable, and, for me, has the appeal of having been sued by a fervent ideologue over his description on the ballot as a businessman. (Brown prevailed.) Roy Englebrecht is the one candidate who opposes Measure Y. A self-proclaimed independent thinker, Englebrecht has sought no campaign contributions and posted no campaign signs. He does tend to shoot his mouth off, though as OC Weekly journalist Matt Coker pointed out, this could liven up council meetings. Tough call between Brown and Englebrecht. Because I want to see at least one member on the council who is willing to take a stand against developers, I’ll take a chance on Englebrecht.
District 6: Mike Toerge vs. Scott Peotter.
Peotter was a colleague at this paper before he ran for office. I like his desire to improve the bay’s water quality but find his fiscal policies myopic. Toerge is accessible and brings a strong background in public service. I decry his switch to support Measure Y, but hey, maybe we of the minority can talk him out of it.
The writer is the President of the Newport Beach Democratic Women’s Club. She can be reached at [email protected].