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Newport's City Council races are heating up

Politics Aside

June 08, 2006|By S.J. CAHN

Is it possible for the Newport Beach fall elections to get any more interesting?

A couple of weeks ago I would have doubted it, and then I heard the rumor that former Mayor John Heffernan was considering running ? for the seat he vacated in January. Wow.

Turns out that the rumor is true. Heffernan has asked the city attorney to look into whether he is eligible to run for the seat. (More precisely, City Clerk LaVonne Harkless has asked. One of the privileges Heffernan lost when he resigned was being able to ask the city attorney to do stuff for him.)

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If Heffernan is given the OK, he'll face Councilman Keith Curry in the fall, creating what has to be the most interesting of a host of interesting races.

Of the city's six races (only Councilman Steve Rosansky's seat is not in play), just two are so far uncontested: Mayor Don Webb's and Councilman Ed Selich's seats.

Selich, one of three appointed members of the council seeking a first bit of voter approval, has the longest track record of community service in Newport Beach among the trio. But it still seems as though he could get an opponent. Webb won a tough battle against Allan Beek four years ago. It is possible he'll get a pass?

The biggest unknown is the Balboa Peninsula seat now held by Tod Ridgeway. So far, two newcomers to city politics, consultant Michael Henn and accountant (and GOP activist) Jack Wu. The for-sure fireworks there are that both will have to spend lots of money on name recognition. Wu has said he'll spend $70,000 and has begun drawing on Republican big-wigs, although I'm not sure that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher plays huge in Newport.

Even more money might be spent in the race between Councilwoman Leslie Daigle and Santa Ana Heights resident Barbara Venezia. Daigle's been raising money for a while and already has topped $50,000, and Venezia has cash to spend.

The race that I'm getting more and more interested in is in Corona del Mar, between incumbent Dick Nichols and Nancy Gardner, a longtime member of the Surfrider Foundation and an even longer Newport resident. Her ties to the environmental community make this one a tough decision, I think, for the Greenlight folk who supported Nichols the last time around. Their support could be crucial here.

Greenlight's support will be crucial in the Heffernan and Curry race ? if it happens.

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