Anaheim has elected its city council at-large — meaning all voters vote on all candidates — since its incorporation in 1857. This November will be Anaheim’s first experience with by-district elections, the result of a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit brought by progressive Democrat and two-time council candidate Jose F. Moreno and a well-funded, well-organized political campaign orchestrated by progressive unions and interest groups.
Anaheim’s city council has been expanded from four to six members, and four districts are on the November ballot: Districts 1, 3, 4 and 5. The outcome of these races may decide which of the battling political factions controls the council of OC’s biggest city for the next two years. OC Daily is profiling those races, starting east and moving westward. Today, we’ll look at District 5.
District 5 is bounded the last outpost of the flatlands before Anaheim ascends into the Hills. There are 19,651 voters in 10,850 households, with homeowners out-numbering renters almost 2-to-1. 71.9% of District 5 voters are U.S.-born, and 56.8% are permanent vote-by-mail (VBM) voters.
The partisan breakdown:
- 43% Democrat
- 29.6% Republican
- 25.3% No Party Preference
District 5 is a Latino-plurality district in which 43.3% of the registered voters are Latinos.
There are ____ candidates who either pulled nomination papers or filed candidate intention to run paperwork with the City Clerk. We’ll start with the most credible and work our way down.
Steve Faessel is generally viewed as the front-runner. Faessel is a conservative Republican and recently-retired small businessman who has lived in Anaheim his entire life – and in what is District 5 for 41 years. He has authored several books on Anaheim history, and served on more city commissions and civic and community organization boards than one can shake a stick at, including the significant time on the Planning Commission and currently as chairman of the Budget, Investment and Technology Committee and Anaheim’s representative of the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors.
In 2013, Faessel successfully led resident opposition to the OC Water District’s plan to lease the Ball Road Basin as the site for a power plant.
Faessel has been endorsed by Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, Councilwoman Kris Murray, former Councilmembers Shirley McCracken and Gail Eastman, and a slew of other Anaheim community and business leaders.
As of June 30, Faessel reported raising $43,875 (including a $25,000 personal loan) and spending $5208.01 with an ending cash balance of $38,666.98. Faessel’s campaign consultant is veteran consultant Dennis Desnoo.
Lopez is deputy chief of staff to 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who represents most of District 5 on the Board of Supervisors. He is in his early 30s and the District 5 member of Mayor Tom Tait’s slate of council candidates.
Lopez grew up in what is now Anaheim’s District 4, moved to Westminster in 2014, and returned to Anaheim this spring, moving into District 5 about three months ago and filing candidate papers shortly thereafter.
Lopez changed his voter registration to Republican in January of this year; prior to that he was a No Party Preference voter since 2004, and was a Republican from 2002 to 2004.
In February 2008, Lopez requested the Democratic presidential primary ballot – meaning he would have voted for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Lopez also requested the Democratic primary ballot in June 0f 2008, but in June 2010 requested a Republican primary ballot.
For the 2012 presidential primary election – when President Obama was running for re-election – Lopez also requested the Democratic ballot.
Lopez has also had an evolving position on the city’s Hotel Incentive Policy, which provides TOT tax rebates for 4-Diamond hotels to encourage their development. This spring, according to a source who spoke with him about the topic, Lopez expressed his support for the impending TOT tax rebate agreements with Disney and The Wincome Group.
However, at the July 12 city council meeting when these agreements were approved, Lopez spoke in opposition to them during public comments. During the intervening weeks, Lopez had received the endorsement of Mayor Tom Tait.
In early 2012, Tait endorsed Steve Chavez Lodge – a supporter of the GardenWalk TOT tax rebate agreement — for city council. Several months later, Tait told Lodge that he would pull his endorsement unless Lodge changed his position and opposed the GardenWalk agreement. Lodge declined, and Tait withdrew his endorsement. It’s well-known that opposing the Hotel Incentive Policy is a condition of receiving the mayor’s endorsement.
Lopez has also created concern among Republicans and pro-business elements due to his association with Jose F. Moreno, the leftist Democrat running in District 3. He attended Moreno’s campaign kick-off event in late April, where he was joined by a legion of local progressive activists. When this writer contacted him, Lopez explained:
He…has not endorsed Jose Moreno, and wasn’t going to endorse Moreno. He had spoken to Ryan Ruelas* last week about the possibility of Ruelas running in District 5 (the answer was Ruelas wasn’t going to run), and during the conversation the ACSD trustee invited Lopez to the kick-off event. Lopez said he’s trying to spend more team meeting the public; he went by in case there were any District 5 people and was there for about 20 minutes.
*Ryan Ruelas is a progressive Democrat and teachers union activist. He is a member of the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education, in which capacity he has voted to litigate against parents seeking to convert Palm Lane Elementary School into a charter school.
Several weeks later, Lopez attended another Moreno campaign where, as the Chicano Studies professor stated on his campaign Facebook page, “coffee chat at Al Rodriguez’ home – people wanting to know more about our campaign“:
Lopez has not responded to several attempts by OC Daily to contact him during the last few weeks to discuss these topics, as well as other issues. Lopez has not responded.
Tait and Nelson headlined a June fundraiser for Lopez, who reported raising $16,996 as of June 30. He has spent $1,857.28 and reported $15,955.85 cash-on-hand. OC Daily hasn’t confirmed who his consultant is, but if history is a reliable guide it will be the formidable John Lewis.
There are several other candidates in District 5:
Ana R. Martinez, a progressive Democrat. The universal response from active local Democrats is they’ve never heard of Martinez – although her Facebook page has many photos of her with various Democrat elected officials and leaders. OC Daily researched Martinez’ voter history and there is no record of her voting in Orange County until last year.
Donna Acevedo-Nelson is also a Democrat and fixture at Anaheim City Council meetings. She ran for Anaheim City Council in 2014, finishing seventh out of eight candidates with 4.1% of the vote. She is married to Orange Juice Blog publisher Vern Nelson.
Others who have pulled papers are Thomas Anderson, a Democrat and a realtor; and Janette Lister, a No Party Preference voter. A Republican resident, Sandra Angel had pulled papers to run, but has apparently been deterred by the cost of the filing fee.
NOTE: an earlier version of this story mistakenly reported Mark Lopez moved from Anaheim to Westminster in 2012; it was actually in 2014 and the story has been updated accordingly.