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Sounding Off: Tabbert responds to FPPC warning

November 30, 2010|By Mark Tabbert

I was surprised that my financial reporting errors in my $7,000 campaign for Newport Beach City Council made front-page headline news ("State committee warns Newport council candidate," Nov. 26). I spent so little money — who would have thought?

I learned that Councilwoman Leslie Daigle had $70,000 in her campaign war chest the day I was placed on the ballot. I was blown away; I had no idea it cost so much to run for City Council.

I decided, right then and there, at the beginning, that I would fund my own campaign. I ended up with two donations that came despite me: $300 from the League of Conservation Voters and 100 political signs provided by a signmaker friend. I sent other checks back and turned down money offered as I went door to door.

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What I wish had made front-page news was I loved doing what I did. It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot. Meeting thousands of people campaigning door to door, gaining some comfort up on stage, meeting city leaders and political insiders first hand broadened my perspective. I came away with a better sense of what makes Newport Beach what it is and what drives it toward tomorrow.

I came away with a greater respect for local politics. However, I also confirmed my understanding that community is on the decline in America, and Newport, sorry to say, is no exception. People work too hard or they are just too busy. Money plays too large a role in all our lives. The bottom line is not the only value to consider and is often not the best.

As for my future, when asked about plans to run, I said, "What I hope to do is help change how Newport Beach elects their council people."

We currently run from a district but look citywide for votes. It is not logical. It is a very unusual setup. Many long-term residents still have to have it explained to them at election time.

When campaigning, the question was often asked, "Can I vote for you?"

People didn't understand they could vote for any candidate running, including those outside their district. The system favors big money, developers and builders. Flooding the mail and name recognition carry too much weight. Knowing the issues, the nuts and bolts, and what a candidate represents should be the standards of judgment, not who has the most signs.

I want to work to have candidates run from a district and collect votes just from that district. In the election before last, one council person lost their district 70% to 30% but won citywide. That is not right.

Had I, as a door-to-door candidate, been able to focus on my district alone, my chances would have vastly improved.

One final point: There were four openings on the council but two ran unopposed. It was not because Council members Mike Henn and Nancy Gardner were universally revered. It was because there wasn't anyone willing to raise tens of thousands to mount a "normal" campaign or do what I did and try it on the cheap.

MARK TABBERT ran for Newport Beach City Council in the Nov. 2 election. He was defeated by incumbent Leslie Daigle. The state Fair Political Practices Commission warned him for not properly reporting campaign finances.

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