Former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran officially filed to run for city council at the end of July, further packing an already crowded field of candidates ahead of the November election.
Agran is one of the most controversial figures in Irvine politics, having served over 20 years on the city council on and off from 1978 to 2014, with ten of those years as mayor.
Agran was one of the leading proponents behind the start of the Orange County Great Park, but many have blamed his decisions as leading to skyrocketing costs for the park, as well as public cost estimates that were far lower than what the actual projected cost of the park ended up at.
Part of why Republicans took control of the city council in 2012 was a call for new fiscal oversight measures in the Park, which they claimed the Democratic majority led by Agran had mismanaged.
Agran’s response to those accusations has been to call the current council a board that “rubber stamps,” developer requests, pointing to FivePoint Holdings’ role in the park that has continued to expand in the years since he was voted off the council.
Even after leaving the council, Agran has still been an active participant in the city’s politics, working to create a veterans cemetery in the Great Park and leading the effort behind a recently adopted ballot measure that zoned the cemetery exclusively for the Park.
His proposed plan to begin early construction at the veterans cemetery site stalled after the city council voted against adopting it, stating they wanted more specifics on the final cost and where funding would come from.
In a phone call on Saturday, Agran also took aim at the city’s response to the coronavirus, stating if he was reelected he would work to establish the city’s own public health department.
“Larger cities up and down the state have health departments, but we don’t even have a chief health officer but we don’t have anyone on staff who knows anything about public health. How can that be?” Agran said. “If I got elected to the council that would change overnight.”
No other cities in Orange County have their own public health department, and the county’s response to the virus has largely been coordinated by the county public health care agency.
Agran has already been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County, along with council candidates Lauren Johnson-Norris, Tammy Kim and Farrah Khan, who is currently running for mayor.
Only two council seats are open this election, but if Khan wins her race against incumbent Christina Shea, the runner-up in the election will serve the remaining two years on Khan’s council seat. If Khan loses, she keeps the seat, and only two members join the council.
This election represents the strongest chance Democrats have had at taking back the city council in years: Democrats have a 15 point advantage over Republicans according to the county registrar’s data on registered voters, but no party preference members still make up 30% of the city’s voters.
No matter what, at least one new member will be joining the council, which currently sits at a 3-2 conservative majority, as Councilwoman Melissa Fox decided not to run for city council and is running against Steven Choi in the state assembly.
The only incumbent running for council this election is Mike Carroll, who was appointed to the council in 2019 after then-mayor Don Wagner won the special election for the third district county supervisor seat. This will be Carroll’s first campaign for city council.
Other familiar candidates include Carrie O’Malley, the runner-up in the 2018 council elections and Katherine Daigle, who is staging her fifth mayoral campaign.
The deadline for candidates to file is August 12.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.