Choi Gevalt! Agran Debates an Empty Chair on a Surprisingly Choi-less Irvine Evening


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OK, Irvine residents — can you check in and tell me if this was really the sort of madness that it seems?

[NOTE: See corrections in red.]

Here’s what I can piece together so far:

(1) A debate for the candidates for Irvine Mayor was apparently scheduled for Wednesday night from 5:30-7:00 p.m. — and, to some extent, happened.

(2) Republican Steven Choi was to have debated Democrat Larry Agran and seeming also-ran Katherine Daigle for this non-partisan seat.  As promised in this campaign press release from the previous day, however …

(3) … Choi did not show — saying that he had never agreed to the debate.  That’s not even the weirdest part.  His reason was that he didn’t think that the moderator, conservative pollster Adam Probolsky, would be fair to him.  (Probolsky is the highly Republican guy whose hair clippings I am still offering to eat if his maniacal poll on the CA-47 race, refrying his already published data to show Sen. Alan Lowenthal losing by __ points, comes true.  He is also, as Choi says, deeply involved in Irvine politics.)

(4) Probolsky gets off the tweet of the night: “Here is the Steven Choi press release–he didn’t have a problem with me when I dropped off the checks for his campaign.”  Probolsky, as Dan C. of the Lib OC points out, was also once a City Commissioner appointed by Choi.

(5) Larry Agran, at the debate, gets off the one-liner of the night by stealing from one of the best, Woody Allen, in saying ”80% of success is showing up.”

Have I got that about right?

Irvine City Council, Choi almost invisibleLook, I don’t know what’s going on between Choi and Probolsky (except for, apparently, a campaign contribution that Probolsky might reasonably want back), but this is ridiculous.  If you’re scheduled for a debate, especially with a moderator from your own party, you show up.  If you feel like you’ve been trapped into it, then you show up anyway, even under protest, and calmly explain to the audience how you were jobbed.  Not showing up at all (and letting the other two candidates have the stage) just looks weak.  At this point in the campaign, one should be able to show up and make one’s case in a debate like this even without much preparation.  If need be, one can always just avoid the moderator’s question and go into a tangentially related set piece.  Even that’s better than not showing up.

Rather than fixing this next part in line, I’m just rewriting it in red.

A weird thing about the Council race is that the winner of the race (and I’m just going to presume that it will be Agran or Choi until some qualified pollster — not you, Probolsky! — says that Daigle has a chance) becomes Mayor and the losers … stays on Council for another two years of their term.  That lowers the stakes a bit.  But the importance of the Mayor’s race is not so much who wins — Agran is favored — as that to have a working majority Agran needs to be accompanied by the other two members of his slate: Democrat Beth Krom and No Party Preference candidate P.K. Wong.  Election of all three would lead to an Agran, Krom, Wong majority while Choi and Lalloway would remain in the minority.  Krom is expected to win.  If Agran wins, Republicans need only one of the other two Council seats — the leading candidates being former Council Member Christine Shea and Tea Partier Lynn Schott — to join Choi and Lalloway in the majority.

So the Mayor’s race is important more as “leader of the ticket” than in its own right.  Democrats want voters to learn the name “P.K. Wong” to keep their majority; Republicans want them to remember the names of former candidates Schott and Shea.  If Wong beats them both, Democrats retain control; if not, Republicans take over the “Safest City” for the first time in 12 years.

I’m just going to presume that the winner of the Mayoral will be Agran or Choi until some qualified pollster – not you, Probolsky! — says that Daigle has a chance.  Here’s what’s tricky.  Choi is out if he loses, and most people seem to think that he will be replaced on Council by Christine Shea, a former Council figure with good name recognition, who is running on Choi’s slate.  (Tea Parties Lynn Schott is also on the same slate.)  Krom is expected to win re-election to her own seat.  So the real battle is for the fifth and deciding seat on Council.

If Choi wins, Agran remains on Council for two more years.  If Agran wins, his Council seat is vacated — and the third highest vote-getter gets his place.  This mean that if Choi wins, he will have his Republican majority unless somehow Shea and Schott both lose.  If Agran wins (as expected), though, he could become a minority Mayor unless someone he likes finishes third in the election.  To have a working majority, Agran needs to be accompanied by the other two members of his slate: Democrat Beth Krom and No Party Preference candidate P.K. Wong.  (Conceivably, another Agran-amenable candidate such as Quimby’s pick Gavin Huntley-Fenner could win, but I don’t see it happening.)  So, presuming an Agran victory and discounting GHF and others for a moment, we’d see either an Agran/Krom/Wong majority with Lalloway and probably Shea in the minority or a Lalloway/Shea/Schott majority with Agran and Krom in the minority.

So, with all due respect to Steven Choi’s personal ambitions, the Mayor’s race is important more as “leader of the slate” than in its own right.  Democrats want voters to learn the name “P.K. Wong” to keep their majority; Republicans want them to remember the names of former candidates Schott and Shea.  If Agran and Krom win and Wong beats out one of them, Democrats retain control; if not, Republicans take over “America’s Safest City” for the first time in 12 years.

The wealthy and hard-core conservative Lincoln Club (a group of Orange County Republicans united to defile the memory of the 16th President, although I understand that they perceive themselves otherwise) is supposedly poised to spend up to $1 million to capture Irvine, which saucily stares at them from the middle of the monied coastal area, taunting them with its Not Republican status.

Agran has had to raise money in a frenzy to defend against this expected onslaught.  He’s evidently doing well, but his success as Mayor hinges on being able to get Irvine residents to vote all of the way down the ticket for the whole “Irvine 2012 Team” slate — including the name that they may not recognize: “P.K. Wong.”


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.