The contours of the campaign ahead for Mayor of Irvine became a lot clearer following the June 7th statewide primary election, and the announcement by termed-out State Assemblyman Don Wagner that he was entering the Mayor’s race. Wagner becomes the third to declare his candidacy. Long-time Planning Commissioner and former City Councilmember Mary Ann Gaido announced her candidacy in May, and architect Gang Chen has been planting hundreds of Chen-for-Mayor signs along Irvine streets since March.
Wagner’s entry into the Mayor’s race followed the June 7th primary, in which current Irvine Mayor Steven Choi finished in the “top two” in his bid for Wagner’s open Assembly seat. This means Choi will not seek re-election for Mayor, but will instead be on the ballot for State Assembly this November.
Although they are both Republicans, Wagner and Choi are at odds with each other. Wagner backed one of Choi’s opponents in the June primary. And Choi wasted no time in posting a Facebook message, saying “NO” — no endorsement and no support to Wagner for his announced Mayoral bid.
Wagner’s bid is apparently backed by Irvine mega-developer FivePoint Communities. FivePoint, which put more than $500,000 into the 2014 Irvine races to elect a pro-development Council majority, is organizing a slate of candidates. In addition to Wagner for Mayor, FivePoint is expected to be backing Councilmember Christina Shea in her bid for re-election and Planning Commissioner Anthony Kuo. Shea and Kuo have been cheerleaders for FivePoint communities, rubber-stamping approval of thousands of new housing units, wrecking the Irvine General Plan and decades of careful planning, despite warnings that traffic and overcrowding would result.
Even as Wagner was entering the race, the two other active mayoral candidates continued their campaigning. Long-time Irvine Planning Commissioner and former Councilmember Mary Ann Gaido has been in the race since May, saying, “I am running for Mayor to make sure that the people of Irvine, not the big developers, are in charge of our City; and that we recommit ourselves to the highest planning principles.” Gaido has been calling for City ordinances placing strong controls on growth and traffic. This is similar to the program she offered in her 2014 run for Mayor, when she came within 954 votes of defeating then-incumbent Mayor Steven Choi.
Gang Chen has continued to stake his campaign on his opposition to locating a State-approved Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery within the Great Park. Gaido, in contrast, strongly supports putting the Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park, saying, “It’s the perfect place, and the perfect way, for our City and our citizens to honor veterans and their families in perpetuity.”