Amid questions about residency in a contentious seven-way Santa Ana City Council race, one candidate has a message for his opponents: I’m showing you my lease, now show me yours.
Ward 3 candidate David De Leon, who is endorsed by a majority of the current council, released a photo of his lease on Wednesday, hours after a Voice of OC story revealed that his opponent Jose Solorio was using campaign funds to help pay the rent on an apartment he moved to in July so he would be eligible for the Ward 3 race.
De Leon said he was doing so “to draw a clear distinction between himself and his opponents that moved into Ward 3 in order to run for the vacant City Council seat.”
“My family and I have lived in our house in Ward 3 for years, not months. It is important that the voters know that our elected representatives have been our actual neighbors and not carpetbaggers,” De Leon wrote.
The photo provided by De Leon shows that he has leased his home in Ward 3 since at least January 2014.
Solorio moved from his family home in Ward 1 to the apartment in Ward 3 so he would not have to face incumbent Councilman Vincent Sarmiento in the Nov. 8 election.
His use of campaign funds on the apartment could be illegal, particularly if he does not have separate leases for the section of the apartment he uses for campaign business and the part he lives in.
Solorio responded to De Leon on Friday by saying he’s been a longtime Santa Ana resident.
“I have lived in Santa Ana for over 20 years. When I first lived in Santa Ana, I lived in Ward 3, so I’ve returned to my home ward,” Solorio said. He didn’t respond to a question asking if he’ll be releasing his lease or leases.
Another candidate who’s drawn attention for moving into the ward recently is community organizer Ana Urzua.
Urzua was registered to vote at a home in Ward 4 when she voted in the June primary and until she updated her registration on Sept. 10, nearly a month after she submitted her paperwork to run for Ward 3.
In response to charges that she moved just to run for Ward 3, Urzua said she has lived throughout the city and that candidates should be evaluated based on their merits.
“Like many of our residents, I have lived in various neighborhoods of Santa Ana,” Urzua said. “While I have not had the privilege to be a homeowner, I am happy to call Ward 3 my home, and am ready to put my experiences as an advocate for working families to continue serving all of Santa Ana.”
She added: “What this conversation proves is that Santa Ana ought to move towards real district elections.”
She appears to be in the clear legally. While candidates have to be residents of the wards they’re running in, they are not required to be registered voters in that ward, according to City Clerk Maria Huizar.
Another candidate Patrick Yrarrazaval-Correa, said he and his wife purchased their home in Ward 3 in the year 2000. He’s been registered to vote there for over a decade.
Shane Barrows said he is a homeowner and has been “for many years in Santa Ana.”
Josh Mauras said he and his wife “set down roots” in Ward 3 and purchased their home in the Morrison Park neighborhood six years ago.
“I could never imagine abandoning my friends and family to move across town to seek political office,” Mauras wrote in an email.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.