There may be no city council elections in Orange this year, since the only people who filed to run are Mayor Tita Smith and Councilmembers Mark Murphy and Mike Alvarez.
The Orange City Council meets this week to consider cancelling the November city council election. According the city spokesman Paul Sitkoff:
The Orange City Council has called a special meeting for Tuesday, August 23, at 5 p.m. to consider a resolution canceling the November 2016 election for Citywide offices, and appointing the current incumbents to their respective offices for another term.
As of the deadline for filing, the Orange City Clerk’s office had only received one verified candidate filing for the office of Mayor, from incumbent Teresa Smith; two verified candidate filings for City Council Member, from incumbents Mark Murphy and Mike Alvarez, one verified candidate filing for City Treasurer, from incumbent Richard Rohm; and one verified candidate filing for City Clerk, from incumbent Mary Murphy.
With no other verified candidates, only current office holders would be eligible to be on the November 8, 2016, election ballot.
Cancelling the municipal election would save Orange taxpayers $70,000 in election-related costs.
Orange is a conservative town, not only in terms of the prevailing political philosophy but in the small “c” sense of the word of disliking change. People born in Orange tend to stay here or eventually come back. Former Mayor Carolyn Cavecche joked that about being considered a newcomer because she wasn’t born at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Incumbent Orange councilmembers are routinely re-elected; only term limits and the rare retirement open council seats up. It’s been so long since an incumbent was defeated for re-election that few people – if any — can remember the last time it happened.
Still, it’s surprising that no one – not even perennial Orange council candidate Robert Douglas – filed. Not that it would have changed the outcome. Mayor Tita Smith is popular and well-liked and her family has been intimately woven into the fabric of the community for generations. Mark Murphy has been on city council continuously since the mid-1990s except for the short interregnum of 2010-2012 – and most orange residents probably thought he was still on the city council that whole time. Mike Alvarez served on city council from 1996 to 2004, and was elected again in 2012. His family has owned the iconic Army-Navy store in Old Towne Orange for decades.
Their re-election was essentially a foregone conclusion. The Orange municipal budget is tight and spending $70,000 to hold an election that isn’t an election makes little sense.
Mayor Smith will be termed out in 2018. It is widely assumed Councilman Murphy will run for mayor in the middle of his term, and Councilman Alvarez has also given it consideration (he ran for mayor in 2006 but lost to Councilwoman Carolyn Cavecche). If Alvarez takes a pass, Murphy will be a shoo-in for mayor.