When former Anaheim City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway announced last week via The Orange County Register's Frank Mickadeit her intention to run for mayor, she set in motion a plan that's been floating around the city for months.
The plan, hatched by Galloway and others who have supported Mayor Tom Tait in his battles against the current council majority, calls for Tait to step down as mayor and instead run for a seat on the council. This, according to the plan, would clear the way for Galloway to win the mayor's seat and then Tait, aided by his status as incumbent mayor, would stand a good chance of winning a council seat.
The reasoning is that Tait has become isolated and ineffective as mayor, consistently losing 4-1 votes on crucial issues such as hotel tax subsidies and the Angel Stadium lease to a council majority that serves the city's business elite but that Galloway, who was termed off of council last year, has the experience, trust of city staff, and ability to forge deals with her colleagues.
Tait, Galloway said, has done little more than take firm stances on principle.
“The problem with that is there is a clear winner and a loser. And the loser gets absolutely nothing,” Galloway said. “You have to understand the importance of building consensus. And that's my strong point.”
Tait called Galloway's decision to run for mayor “surprising and disappointing" and said there's no way that he would step down and run for a council seat. The idea, Tait said, is “absurd.”
Galloway, Tait said, has had no more success in recent years in swaying members of the council majority from their entrenched positions than he has, the only difference being that when Galloway was on the council they would lose 3-2 instead of 4-1.
But there are some in Anaheim's progressive community who support Galloway's gambit. While crediting Tait as a voice of reason and for his willingness to stand up to the city's power structure, they've also grumbled that he has not done a good job of using his bully pulpit.
They say he should be taking the fight to the majority by holding press conferences and leading public rallies.
Orange Juice blogger Vern Nelson, a Tait supporter who met with the mayor last Friday and asked him to step down for Galloway, explains his reasoning in a blog post:
[Tait's] a sincere Christian who believes that kindness, and showing kindness, will save the day and make his case; but it’s just not doing the trick. Each time they yank away more of his power, he accuses them of being “mean” … which, in my great respect for him, I won’t characterize how lame that sounds.
However, other Tait supporters say Galloway's move is little more than betrayal, motivated by ambition and using a faulty power-play theory as justification. Some even suspect that Galloway's real aim is to use the mayor's seat to raise money for her children's charity, the Eli Home.
“I truly don't believe this what a true 'friend' would do to another friend,” writes blogger and Tait supporter Jason Young. “A true friend would wait until Mayor Tait's second term is over and then run for Mayor. I believe her ego and need for political clout to funnel funds to the Eli Home is the real reason for this run.”
In defending her position, Galloway said last year's fight over a $158-million subsidy for local hoteliers is a good example of where Tait's moral inflexibility prevented a better deal from taking shape. Some activists were demanding things like assurances from the developer that he would hire locally and pay living wages.
“I think had there been a more willingness we could have come up something that would have benefited the people of Anaheim by community benefits, as well as getting hotels built,” Galloway said. “I don't believe that the mayor was interested in community benefits as a deal point in this.”
Tait fired back that Galloway doesn't have a record showing that she can broker an accord with the council majority. He pointed to a council decision last year to strip her of her ceremonious mayor pro tem title as an example of her swaying power.
“I don't think she's well liked by the majority or has more influence,” Tait said.
Galloway said that the title cost her nothing, so she wasn't too interested in fighting for it.
“Do you think the citizens of Anaheim lost something because of that? It's totally ceremonial. That is a crappy explanation. And then to make it seem I was so broken and so harmed by that is wrong,” Galloway said.
It is unclear whether the strategy will even be applicable by the 2014 election. The council decided earlier this year to have voters next June vote on whether to expand the size of the council from five to six council members and a mayor and to require council members to live in districts but still be elected at large.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union calls for significant changes to the city's electoral system – potentially to elections by district – by the next general election.
If any of these changes occur, the plan wouldn't work. But Galloway said that neither electoral system change would occur by then. She said carving up districts will likely be challenged, because there isn't enough time for viable candidates to emerge and campaign for election.
Adding to the political intrigue is the rumor that Councilwoman Lucille Kring will also run for mayor. Tait endorsed Kring's council candidacy because of her support for an initiative that would allow residents to vote on future hotel tax subsidies.
But Kring flipped on that issue and others, while former mayor turned lobbyist Curt Pringle helped raise money for her to pay herself back tens of thousands of dollars in personal campaign debt.