Delays in getting a new voting format online means only two City Council seats are up for grabs in Mission Viejo, a south county city and one of the country’s largest single-project planned communities.
A city that’s rich in parks and trees with a population of roughly 95,000 is in the midst of a transformation, moving away from at-large voting to cumulative voting in response to a legal challenge raising issues of voter disenfranchisement, specifically as it pertains to the city’s pocket of Latinos.
Read more about the city’s voting system changes here: Judge Approves Mission Viejo Voting Plan, Keeping Three Council Members Off The Ballot
Running for reelection and hoping to stave off six challengers are:
- Mayor Brian Goodell
- Councilwoman Patricia “Trish” Kelley
Goodell is running on what he says is a proven track record of approving new “job-creating businesses,” improving the city’s community and arts centers, and preserving the Casta Del Sol Golf Course as open space, among other things, according to his candidate statement.
Much of the financial support for his campaign comes from individual donors and local community members, as well as interest groups like the union representing Orange County Sheriff’s deputies, the Apartment Association of Orange County landlord interest group, and a former lobbyist for Curt Pringle, Peter Whittingham, according to campaign finance disclosures.
Likewise, Kelley on her candidate statement boasts accomplishments like “reduced expenditures while protecting services during COVID-19 pandemic,” renovating and enhancing parks, also working to preserve open space, and reducing unfunded pension liabilities, among others.
Much of her campaign’s support comes from interest groups like the firefighters’ union, a group representing Orange County’s car dealerships, the Sheriff’s deputies’ union, the Apartment Association of Orange County, and notably Congresswoman Katie Porter’s Republican challenger this year and Mission Viejo councilman, Greg Raths.
Challenging these two council members are:
- Cathy Schlicht, former mayor and businesswoman
- Ryan Tworek, a small business owner
- Jessica Gilbert, an IT executive
- Pauline Hale, a real estate advisor
- Steve Sipe, a retired, former communications company executive
- Michael McConnell, a business attorney
Schlicht is campaigning on supporting police officers and protecting the Casta del Sol Golf Course from development, as well as closing term-limit loopholes “with a term limit ballot measure.”
She’s also voicing alarm over the city’s fiscal state: “In 2015, as Mayor, our approved budget contained 50% in reserves. Today, five years later, currently our reserves have dropped to a dangerous 35.7% level.”
Much of her support comes from individual small donors, according to campaign finance disclosures.
Tworek is campaigning on what he calls “firsthand experience with balancing budgets responsibly. The leadership in Mission Viejo has remained stable, and now it is time to bring creative, pragmatic, and collaborative solutions.”
His initiatives, according to his candidate statement, are: “Maintaining a fiscally responsible budget, working to increase citizen engagement, (and) ensuring our citizens’ public safety.”
A lack of campaign finance disclosures reported by the city’s website paint an unclear picture of where his support is coming from, if he’s fundraised at all.
Gilbert says she’ll focus on “stabilizing businesses, engaging the community, environmental efficiencies and most of all, supporting the education of our children” if elected, according to her candidate statement, which also focuses on reopening plans for small businesses and carbon-neutral environmental initiatives.
She’s reported little fundraising, but has support from Democratic Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan, according to her campaign finance disclosures.
Hale says she’s running for council to “restore trust, fiscal responsibility, and transparency to city government,” according to her candidate statement, which adds “My goal is to improve our amazing city by supporting local businesses and focusing on upgrading infrastructure.”
Much of her support comes from local Democratic groups, and Planned Parenthood or Orange and San Bernardino counties, according to her campaign finance disclosures.
Sipe is campaigning on issues like maintaining the city’s levels of public safety, ensuring city spending is “in the best interests of our community,” protecting the city’s rainy day fund, promoting “equality and equity for all residents” and supporting and expanding business in the city, among others, according to his candidate statement.
Much of his campaign’s financial support comes from himself and other individual donors, according to his campaign finance disclosures.
Among McConnell’s priorities, according to his candidate statement, are reopening local businesses safely “while also protecting the health and welfare of our citizens” during the pandemic, and promoting public safety and public health “by working with local experts and community members to address the specific issues facing our community.”
Much of his campaign’s financial support comes from donations to himself, according to his campaign finance disclosures.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.