Reno v. Hill heats up

GOP has backed Reno because of his stance on pension reform, campaign contributions. Hill says party should stay out of local races.

October 30, 2010|By Mike Reicher,
  • Ed Reno, left, and Rush Hill, right, sit next to each other during the recent Feet to the Fire candidate forum.
Ed Reno, left, and Rush Hill, right, sit next to each other… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — The GOP elephant looks like it might stomp on former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo's head. That symbolism would be simple enough, but Ed Reno's latest mailer asks reader to make a couple leaps.

If elected to Newport Beach City Council, the thinking goes, his opponent Rush Hill would concede so much to public employees that Newport might go completely corrupt: the city of "Bell by the Bay," it says.

As in other local contests, the Republican Party has staked out its candidate in this year's elections here, and has tied its support to pension reform and union campaign contributions. But it remains to be seen if this type of party establishment backing will help or hurt Reno, who is in a non-partisan contest against Rush Hill, a long-time local civic actor.

"Ed has run a very partisan campaign, and Rush has focused on more local, community-based issues," said Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who is up for reelection and is supported by the Republican Party of Orange County.


The chairman of that group, Scott Baugh, said partisanship was fine and that he would only support candidates who refuse union contributions.

"Whenever a vote requires you to reach into your philosophy it's necessarily partisan," Baugh said. "We don't believe in non-partisan races. There is no such thing as a non-partisan race."



While the GOP's stance against union contributions has helped thrust pension reform into the public consciousness, it is a massive problem that has been brewing for a long time.

Local governments and the state have $325 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, pension consultant Girard Miller told California's Little Hoover Commission earlier this year.

This issue has become so critical to Republicans that even Hill's service in the Reagan California gubernatorial administration — he was Reagan's education advisor and special assistant — is not enough to overcome his acceptance of union funds.

"In the case of Rush Hill you have the situation of someone who has wrapped themselves in the Republican standard, but yet they are endorsed by public employee unions," said Jon Fleischman, the vice chairman south of the California Republican Party.

Hill says that the Republican Party should stay out of the race.

"The issues that the Newport Beach City Council deals with are not Republican-Democratic issues. They're local issues," he said.

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