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The man named Mansoor

Costa Mesa mayor is known for his hard stance on illegal immigration. Now, he seeks higher office in state Assembly.

August 14, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com
  • Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor at Fairview Park.
Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor at Fairview Park. (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — When the taco truck blaring "La Cucaracha" would roll down his street, Allan Mansoor thought less about lunch and more about the song's title, "The Cockroach." He felt the so-called "roach coaches" were proliferating and changing the character of his once-peaceful neighborhood.

Same goes for the push-cart vendors who rang their bells as they peddled "helados." And the slouches who would leave beer bottles in the alley.

When he started protesting about this at City Hall, Mansoor just wanted one thing for his Westside neighborhood: quiet.

Now that he's the mayor of Costa Mesa and running for the state Assembly, he looks back on those quality-of-life issues that made him mad enough to get involved and, in 2002, sparked his political career.

"A person's home should be peace and quiet," said Mansoor, 46. "You can get away from life, from your boss. It's your castle."

That may explain why Mansoor lets his public castle, City Hall, get so rancorous. He has taken on some of the day's most controversial issues, from illegal immigration to public employee pension reform, and exposed himself to public scrutiny. Much of the criticism comes from the political left, while a quieter conservative majority continues to take his side on election days.

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Adopting the reserved demeanor of a former cop, he lacks the charismatic, outsized personality of many controversial figures, making him something of a firebrand sans the fire, those who know him say.

"He carries a quiet authority," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a fellow Republican who represents neighboring cities, including Newport Beach and a fraction of Costa Mesa. "He expresses his beliefs with a calm assurance and dignity, without anything to prove personally."

Mansoor's guarded, quiet manner leaves many guessing about his character. Is he simply a law-and-order politician — a former Orange County deputy sheriff whose reserve served him well guarding the county jail — or is there something under the surface?

More than a dozen interviews with his colleagues, allies and detractors reveal a faithfully conservative politician with divisive views and a firmly middle-class background. Many, after knowing him for years, still can't tell you much about him — as a person.

Councilman Eric Bever, who often votes with Mansoor on major city issues, put it bluntly: "There's not a lot of personality there."

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The defining issue: Illegal immigration

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