Garden Grove Mayor Draws Heat and Campaign Cash

Bruce Broadwater
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While five-term mayor Bruce Broadwater is undergoing the most scrutiny of all the candidates vying for a seat on Garden Grove city council this November, he’s also raking in the most campaign cash, with much of his support coming from local businesses, resort hoteliers and out-of-town developers.

At 76, the longtime mayor and council member is fighting allegations of nepotism and favoritism in the hiring of his 37-year-old son Jeremy as a firefighter despite a criminal record and poor performance reviews from his superiors.

Yet according to his latest filings, Broadwater’s support from local business interests is as strong as ever, with more than $60,000 in his campaign coffers, the most of any candidate in the race.

Many of Broadwater’s contributors do business with or have ongoing projects in the city. Among those giving to his campaign:

• Owners of McWhinney, the Colorado-based developer for the Waterpark Hotel project ($2400)

• The Great Wolf Resort ($5000)

• Hotels in Garden Grove such as Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, and the Ramada Hotel ($1000 each)

• Jim Barisic, CEO of Brandywine Homes, which has five ongoing projects in Garden Grove ($1000)

• Jared Hardin of Garden Grove Hyundai Dealership ($500)

• Clear Channel Worldwide, which is applying for a zoning amendment to convert billboards along the 22 Freeway into electronic billboards ($1000)

• Signal Hill Petroleum, an energy company that has been exploring fracking in Orange County ($500)

The donations are nothing new — McWhinney, Brandywine, Ramada, Clear Channel and other city contractors, such as Griffin Structures and Care Ambulance, have been reliable donors for Broadwater and other city elected officials over the years.

Broadwater has largely kept a low profile in recent months with reporters due to criticism over his son’s hiring. Yet he defends his long tenure by pointing to the city’s fiscal soundness and the number of big development projects on the horizon that he argues will attract tourists, jobs and much-needed revenue to the city.

Criticism of Broadwater has fueled the popularity of his main challenger, Garden Grove Unified School District Trustee Bao Nguyen, one of few candidates who has been openly critical of the incumbent mayor.

Nguyen has criticized the city’s focus on resort-area developments and says the city needs to focus on developing skilled jobs and industries that will encourage college graduates to return to the city to live.

“The incumbent mayor is a career politician–having been in office for 22 years –he’s set in his ways. He has been myopic and irresponsible by catering solely to tourists, and forgetting the needs of families and taxpayers,” Nguyen said. “We can’t just piggyback off the Anaheim Resort — we’re riding Mickey Mouse’s coat-tails.”

Nguyen, a Democrat who works for a union representing home care workers, is heavily backed by labor interests. Nguyen has raised at least $24,500 so far, including $15,000 in contributions and an endorsement from the Garden Grove Firefighters Association and donations from the Orange County Labor Federation, Orange County Employees Association, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.

In the race for city council, incumbent councilmember Kris Beard, who is running to hold onto the seat he was appointed to in 2012, leads city council candidates in campaign cash with more than $24,000 raised so far.

Beard has also received donations from Garden Grove Hyundai ($500), Care Ambulance ($500), Griffin Structures ($250), McWhinney ($250) and the fire union ($12,500).

Most of the other eight council candidates are self-funded or relying on loans to fund their campaigns.

Phat Bui, who was runner-up in the 2012 election, has said he would be paying for his own campaign expenses. Bui did solicit donations during the last election but relied mostly on loans to fund his campaign.

Bui, a former member and chair of the Planning Commission, owns an information technology consulting company based out of his home, Netresult LLC, which has received more than $1.3 million in contracts with the State of California. Bui also earns income from home rentals.

Joseph Tai Dovinh, a former Planning Commissioner and the spouse of councilwoman Dina Nguyen, is also running for the city council, after failed bids for the 68th and 72nd State Assembly seats.

Dovinh, who says he currently manages the office for his wife’s law practice, has previously worked as a court translator and contractor. Dovinh and Nguyen also had a Vietnamese television program on legal issues.

Dovinh is mostly funding his own campaign, although he has received contributions from the Ramada Hotel ($1000), his wife ($1500) and the Four Seasons Restaurant ($2000).

Nguyen, who is termed out, is running for the county water board.

Other candidates include Albert Ayala, Ruhina Khan, Paul Marsden, Rickk Montoya, John O’Neill, Quang “Mike” Tran and James T. Ybarra.

Garden Grove has no limit on the amount a candidate can receive from any individual contributor.

Even if candidates use their own money, they are still required to submit paperwork showing their campaign spending, information which will be available by Oct. 5, the next filing deadline.

Correction: This article previously misstated that Joseph Dovinh received a $1500 contribution from his wife’s campaign fund. It was a personal contribution.

Please contact Thy Vo directly at thyanhvo@gmail.com

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