Did the GOP Blow a Chance at a Takeover in Irvine?

Irvine City Council members Steven Choi, left, Beth Krom, Sukhee Kang, Larry Agran and Christina Shea. (Photo by: Violeta Vacqueiro)

Irvine City Council members Steven Choi, left, Beth Krom, Sukhee Kang, Larry Agran and Christina Shea. (Photo by: Violeta Vacqueiro)

Thursday, November 4, 2010 | The Orange County Republican Party could have been celebrating a takeover of the Irvine City Council had it not been for its tepid support of GOP candidate Lynn Schott, say members of a vocal Irvine Republican group.

It came as no surprise to Irvine political watchers that incumbent Councilman Larry Agran and Republican Jeff Lalloway won seats on the council in Tuesday's election.

What did come as a surprise, however, was Republican Lynn Schott's third-place showing -- she bested Democrat Shiva Farivar and came in just 3.3 percent behind Agran.

Schott's performance is all the more impressive when you consider that her campaign raised just $25,000, while the Voter Assistance Guide, a slate mailer that promoted Agran and Farivar and attacked Lalloway, raised nearly $250,000, according to financial disclosure statements.

For some Irvine Republicans, Schott's performance is an affirmation of what they've been saying all along: The party had an opportunity to defeat Agran and capture a Republican majority on the City Council, but it blinked.

"Had the Republican Party supported both candidates, we would have seen a major change at City Hall," said outgoing Republican Councilwoman Christina Shea, speaking of Lalloway and Schott.

The party was very late in supporting Schott. She failed to get its endorsement in September, and then only got it after central committee member Allan Bartlett and others went public with their anger over the snub.

Local GOP leaders say the idea that a Lalloway-Schott team could unseat Agran is "too speculative."

"You would have had a better shot at doing it, but as it stands, they weren't on the same team, for a variety of reasons," said Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh. "It's too speculative to know whether it would have changed the outcome."

Lalloway also said he didn't want to speculate on what could have been had the team been successfully formed. "The voters have spoken, and to rehash the election is a waste of time," Lalloway said.

Shea, who fired Lalloway from the city's Finance Commission in the week leading up to the election, said he is largely to blame for the fact that there was no Irvine Republican slate.

There are those, however, who strongly dispute that take.

Former Mayor Bill Vardoulis said Lalloway did try to work it out with Schott. Vardoulis said he witnessed a dramatic restaurant meeting involving Schott, Lalloway and Frances Akhavi, a Schott ally disliked by some in the party.

Akhavi, Vardoulis said, was shouting at Lalloway and accusing an official with the Irvine Republican Council, an extension of the county GOP, of embezzlement.

"Suddenly I was in the middle of almost a fist fight," Vardoulis said. "I never saw people so mean and angry, and I'm like -- what did I walk into?"

Neither Schott nor Akhavi returned phone calls seeking comment on this story.

Schott's supporters say the party leadership and Lalloway worked against her in other ways.

They were particularly angry with mailers last week that said Lalloway was the only party-endorsed candidate for council. Bartlett, at the time, called it a "stab in the back."

They also accuse pollster and party insider Adam Probolsky of sending out a hit piece on Schott the weekend before Election Day.

Probolsky denies having anything to do with the hit piece and said there were other reasons to explain how Schott beat Farivar.

Probolsky said Farivar's poor showing was because of "old and tired" campaign tactics, like glossy slate mailers, and a failure to connect on a personal level with the voters. That, combined with her unfamiliar name, worked against her, Probolsky said.

"Most people don't know what a Shiva Farivar or a Yunus Aksoy is," Probolsky said. With Schott, he added, "I [the Irvine voter] know what I'm getting. I know she's probably a white lady -- I gravitate towards what I know."

The real reason Schott and Lalloway couldn't take out Agran, Probolsky said, is because "life is good in Irvine" and most people don't pay attention to the constant media drumming about corruption at the Great Park or wasteful spending.

"Very few Irvine residents give a crap about the Great Park," Probolsky said. "The city's finances are largely unimportant to them."

He added: "What could Lynn Schott and her band of misfits have done to hurt Larry Agran? I have no idea."

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org, and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek. And add your voice with a letter to the editor.


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