While the swallows may return to San Juan Capistrano two (3 term) incumbents will not

Having read numerous posts and comments on the city council race in Santa Ana I thought it appropriate to report on another OC City where they had a Revolution.

While 90 percent of incumbents running for re-election are typically returned to office, that was not to be the case in the city of San Juan Capistrano in 2006. With three open seats in this cycle Councilmember Diane Bathgate, who was appointed in 2000 and elected in 2002, chose not to run for re-election. However Orange County GOP endorsed candidates Councilmember Wyatt Hart and Mayor David M Swerdlin both threw their hats into the ring. They finished fourth and sixth respectively in a field of ten candidates. Normally the larger number of contenders with their own contingencies makes it more difficult for these outsiders to succeed in grabbing the brass ring.

To understand this rejection one only needs to look back at the 1996 adopted city Motto which states “Preserving the past, to enhance the future.”

There has been virtually zero media coverage of San Juan Capistrano’s Measure Y which is the key to the outcome of this year’s council race. By a vote of 2:1 the citizens rejected Measure Y which reads. “shall those portions of City Resolution 06-02-03, approving a General Plan Amendment designating a 10.5 acre site, owned by San Juan Hills golf course on San Juan Creek Road, from Open Space Recreation (“OSR”) to Planned Community (“PC”) with a maximum density of 18 dwelling units per acre, for the purpose of allowing a senior housing project be approved?”
I attended a city council meeting where both of the defeated candidates approved a zone change for this golf course plan over strong opposition from a standing room only council chambers. This led to residents successfully gathering signatures for a Referendum which became Measure Y.

Who are the winners?

Mark Nielsen finished first followed by Tom Hribar and Londres Oso. Let me repeat the question. Who are these newcomers that just defeated two “three term” OCGOP endorsed incumbents? For starters the OCGOP should not engage in endorsing candidates in nonpartisan city council races when members of the Central Committee are not familiar with the local issues and players. I have expressed this concern to their leadership. What does this outcome say for their selection process?

Councilman-elect Nielsen was endorsed by the OC League of Conservative Voters, the OC Professional Firefighters Assoc and the Sierra Club. In addition he was endorsed by outgoing Councilmember Diane Bathgate and three former San Juan mayors Ken Friess, Gil Jones and Carolyn Nash.

Councilman-elect Tom Hribar’s only endorsement of note is from Dana Point councilmember Diane Harkey.

Finishing third was dentist Londress Oso who did not seek any endorsements.

What they all had in common was their priorities which focused on “preserving open space, resolving the growing traffic problem and maintaining their small town character.” I believe they each opposed the golf course request to add senior housing and a new clubhouse on this privately owned property.

It appears that virtually no election is without controversy. Voters in San Juan Capistrano received a “hit piece” mailer with allegations that Mark Nielsen was in court for fraud and that Dr. Lon Uso had a malpractice suit filed against him.

This confirms my advise to any candidate that they better have a thick skin and no skeletons in the closet when running for elected office. And if there are none surprisingly some will be created. It’s unfortunate that this has become the current trend and will continue to be the future picture of the political scene. Wouldn’t it be nice to have candidates discuss the issues and their recommendations for resolving them rather than spending valuable resources trying to squash questionable mailers. And we question voter apathy. Simply look at the campaign mailers to see part of the reason.
Larry. That’s my point of view. I welcome yours!

OC Registrar of Votes election results as of Monday Nov 27th.

Number To Vote For: 3
Completed Precincts: 27 of 27
Vote Count Percentage
MARK NIELSEN 4664 18.9%
TOM HRIBAR 4180 16.9%
LONDRES USO 3487 14.1%
WYATT HART 3049 12.4%


About Larry Gilbert