As newly elected city council members across Orange County start to get comfortable in their seats on the dais, Seal Beach voters are taking to the ballot again in a run-off election that could result in a transgender person being sworn into office for the first time in OC.

Stephanie Wade – a former infantry officer in the Marine Corps – running to represent the city’s third district could soon become the first, openly transgender woman to win office in Orange County. 

“There’s no doubt that there are people that don’t want me to be elected, because I’m trans but that’s not why I ran. I love Seal Beach and I happen to have the skills to make it better,” Wade said, adding that she has gone to all the council meetings for over a year.

Wade said one of the reasons she is running is to address the constant flooding happening in her city that will worsen with climate change. 

“I saw a need, and I started talking to the city council and I didn’t think there was a lot of response,” she said.

“The city hasn’t done a lot to reach out for federal funds into the Inflation Reduction Act or the bipartisan infrastructure bill and I think we should be hiring a grant writer to get those monies because our infrastructure is inadequate to meet current demands,” she said.

On her campaign website, Wade also lists wanting to review parking restrictions, institute more bike friendly policies, create a local coastal plan, improve quality of the parks and find a workable compromise for outdoor dining.

Her opponent Lisa Landau, who describes herself as an accountant and community volunteer, lists her priorities as improving the cleanliness and safety of the beaches,  increasing police visibility for safety, providing more recreational opportunities as well as homelessness.

Wade’s campaign said in a press release Thursday that the candidate has faced “thinly veiled transphobic attacks” from Landau including a campaign mailer that shows Wade before her surgery.

Wade said in a Thursday phone interview that Landau is grasping at any kind of attack because she doesn’t have experience.

Landau did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

That’s not the only attacks Wade said she has faced on the campaign trail.

She has also been harassed and misgendered by a man at a candidate forum in October held by the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and she said that she expected a great deal of the harassment she has faced since deciding to run.

“I’m a big girl, and I put on my big girl pants and I expected this. Any transgender person knows that they’re just a lot of people who think we’re beyond the pale and think it’s okay to insult us to say horrific things and just not treat us the way anybody would want to be treated,” Wade said.

“I’ve found in spite of this loud,and very vocal minority of people who are really nasty. Most people in Seal Beach have been extremely friendly.”

Wade was in the lead to represent the district with 55 votes over candidates Landau, an accountant, and more than 700 votes over attorney Fred Macksoud when the registrar of voters finished counting ballots in December.

But since none of the candidates won more than 50% of the votes, plus one, – as mandated by the city charter – the top two vote getters,  Wade and Landau, are battling it out once again in a runoff election this month.

Wade said she would be the only veteran having spent time on the council if she wins. Wade spent four years on active duty as an enlisted and over four years on active duty as an infantry officer

She also served as a Veteran Liaison and field representative for former Congressman Gil Cisneros and is the current chair of the OC Veterans Advisory Council.

Wade has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County and Landau is endorsed by the Republican Party of OC.

The district 3 seat isn’t the only one up for grabs in Seal Beach.

The two top vote getters in the city’s fifth district race are going head to head in the runoff election.

City Planning Commissioner Mariann Klinger is facing off against Nathan Steele, the head of an advertising agency that specializes in Christian teaching programming and working with Christian radio stations across the continent, to represent the district.

By the end of the count in December, Steele led Klinger by over 660 votes. 

Steele has been endorsed by the Republican Party of OC. 

The runoff election will be held on Tuesday Jan. 31 and as required by the city charter will be an all mail ballot election – meaning there will be no in person voting for this election. Local ballots were sent out on Jan. 3.

Wade criticized the charter rule requiring a runoff election and cost the city tens of thousands of dollars.

“As soon as I’m on council, I want to build a consensus to get rid of that rule,” she said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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