This story has been updated.

Democrats will be running to keep a majority of their seats on the Costa Mesa City Council come election day this November.

The council shifted from being a majority Republican to Democrat in 2018. 

Now Democrats are looking to fill two seats up for grabs and keep two current ones they have.

City staff in May projected a $30 million deficit caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. The deficit has drawn the current council criticism for not building up reserves for the city from candidates looking to replace incumbents.  

The city’s finance and pension board is now projecting a $250,000 surplus following close to $11 million in department cuts, layoffs and furloughs.

Around 37% of registered voters in the city are Democrats, about 32% are Republicans and 25% are no party preference voters, according to county data.

In 2018, Costa Mesa first utilized a voting district election system moving away from their previous citywide voting system. Elections were also historic in the city that year because it was the first time the public directly elected it’s Mayor, as opposed to the majority of the city council making the decision to fill the post on an annual basis

The change in system added two seats to the council. Democrats won all of the spots up for grabs that year with voters electing Councilmembers Andrea Marr in District Three, Manuel Chavez in District Four and Arlis Reynolds in District Five.

The mayor is elected at large for a two year term. Council members serve a four year term.

This will be the first election for districts one, two and six where residents will get to elect its own councilmember after the switch away from an at large voting system in 2018.

Mayoral Race

Mayor Katrina Foley is running for re-election. Up against her is Sandra Genis, a longtime local official who is also currently serving on the city council and has served as mayor before. The two went from campaigning for each other in 2014 to squaring off in a mayoral race in 2018 which Foley won by over 6,000 votes

Genis has raised over $12,700 for her campaign. John Saunders, an Orange County real estate mogul, contributed $10,000 to her campaign, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Foley has raised over $90,000 for her campaign with over $7,000 coming from the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Al Melone, Quentin Pullen and Wendy Leece have also pulled nomination papers to run against the two but have not raised as much money as Foley and Genis in their campaigns. 

“These are campaigns during COVID and so my view is that I want to show how thrifty I am — as I would be being mayor — in the way that I run my campaign,” Leece said in an interview with the Voice of OC.

“I am not beholden to anybody. I’m only beholden to the people who elect me, those are Costa Mesans,” she added. “I’m not beholden to a party. I’m not beholden to unions. I’m not beholden to developers.”

Leece has served on the city council for eight years, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s board of education for four years and currently serves on the city’s finance and pension advisory committee as vice chair.

Pullen has raised over $4,700 for his campaign, according to campaign finance disclosures. 

“We’ve been a lot more strategic in the way that we spend the money that we have raised. I haven’t asked for any endorsements,” Pullen said in an interview. “What I’ve been doing is just basically self funding with my own money and family and friends.”

Pullen served in the Marine Corps for eight years and the Navy Reserves for four years. He also owns a small business in Costa Mesa called Body by Q Fitness where he does physical therapy and fitness coaching.

“I don’t want to owe anybody anything except the residents of Costa Mesa, so if a person donating to my campaign comes with strings, I’m not interested,” he said. “It’s not about politics. It’s about where our community is right now and where we want to see our community go.”

Melone did not wish to comment.

District 1 Race

Councilmember John Stephens is also running for reelection against Consultant Jason Komala and Business Owner Don Harper.

Stephens has raised over $64,000 for his campaign while Harper has raised over $7,000 and received $55,000 loans, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Komala is not accepting donations and funding his campaign on his own, according to his campaign website.

District 2 Race

Three candidates are running to represent District two on the city council including Loren Gameros, Ben Chapman and Gary Perkin

Gameros has the backing of the five current democrats sitting on the council including Foley and Stephens. He has raised over $50,000 for his campaign with over $7,000 coming from the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association.

Chapman has raised over $17,000 with Republican officials like Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths and Irvine Mayor Christina Shea donating to his campaign. 

District 6 Race

Four candidates are squaring off for district six including Jeffrey Harlan, Hengameh Abraham, Jeff Pettis and Lee Ramos.

Like Gameros in the district two race, Harlan is endorsed by the five democrats already on the city council. He has raised over $46,000 for his campaign with over $7,000 coming from the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association.

Pettis has raised over $6,000 for his campaign, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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