HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—As the setting sun lit the skies on Oct. 27, hundreds of locals and visitors gathered in front of a stage with the backdrop of the pier adorned with American flags moving with the wind.
The evening was set for eight conservative candidates—all of whom are longtime residents of Huntington Beach—who are running for various seats representing the city, state, and nation in the November election.
Speaking first, Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, who's running for reelection against former assistant city attorney Scott Field, vouched for four of the city council candidates sitting to his left, all of whom he said were united in restoring “law and order” through proactive policing and fighting against Sacramento policies that they feel are disproportionally affecting the city.
“When bad things happen to the city, it's because we're not fighting hard enough,” Gates said. “Which is why I've been on the campaign trail with these council candidates. They too want to fight for Huntington Beach.”
The next speaker was business owner Casey McKeon, a third-generation Huntington Beach resident who's running for city council.
McKeon said that of the 18 candidates running for city council, many aren't in agreement with the state-mandated affordable housing quota, which is requiring the city to zone for more than 13,000 additional units by 2029.
“We're talking about hundreds if not thousands of those buildings in our city, [which] will fundamentally transform our city to something that is unrecognizable, and we want residents to be able to vote on it,” McKeon said. “I'm going to use my commercial real estate experience with this team and use every fiber of our being to fight these mandates.”
Up next was city council candidate Gracey Van Der Mark, a 22-year resident of Huntington Beach and business owner whose parents came from Central America to pursue the American dream “to find a safe country to raise a family,” she said, stating that the city has recently taken a downturn.
“Our kids are watching nudity because there are people using these outdoor showers out on the beach [and] take showers nude in front of our children. We shouldn't have to live that way, and we shouldn't be ashamed to say that we want to protect our children from all of that,” she said. “Right now, we have all the laws and policies in place to clean up our city within just days.”
Pat Burns, who's also running for city council, took the stage next, sharing his experience as a former Long Beach Police Department officer who saw the city he worked in go from a “cool town” to an over-developed “metropolis,” challenging the quality of life in residential areas.
“We don't want that here, we're not going to tolerate it, and we're going to try to fight it the best we can,” said Burns, a 29-year resident of Huntington Beach. “We are here to bring the integrity to serve you guys.”
The next speaker, business owner and Finance Commissioner Tony Strickland, who's also a former state senator and assemblyman, said reducing crime and homelessness are among the top agendas for him and his colleagues on stage.
“We have a 90-day plan to solve the homeless crisis here in this town,” Strickland said. “It's unacceptable to me right now, and we need to incorporate church organizations and nonprofits because they know how to fix this better than the government does.”
Taking the stage next were state and federal candidates, who were united in sharing not only their fiscal concerns for the region but also sympathy for the state’s high taxes, along with combatting homeless and crime.
The first state-level candidate to address the audience was Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen, a Republican who's running against Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr, a Democrat, for the state's 36th Senate District, which encompasses Seal Beach to San Clemente and reaches inland to include Westminster, Fountain Valley, Cypress, Buena Park, Garden Grove, and Cerritos.
Coming from a family that had escaped communism in Vietnam before immigrating to Orange County more than 30 years ago, Nguyen said she was adamant about fighting to maintain freedom in the United States.
“America [is] the land of the free, the land of democracy and opportunity that no one [else] can ever have. We live in a great nation,” Nguyen said.
Speaking next was Newport Beach City Councilwoman Diane Dixon, who's running against animal rights activist Judie Mancuso, a Democrat, for the 72nd Assembly District, which includes the coastal cities from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach and stretches up to portions of Aliso Viejo and Lake Forest.
Dixon said she feels a “red tide” is coming to California, symbolizing that more Republicans might be elected.
“Are we tired of high gas prices? Are we tired of high taxes? Are we tired of a one-party state that makes all these policies?” she said. “This is our year. It's so exciting to be here with all of you. And I am so proud to hopefully represent the City of Huntington Beach, the largest city in the district.”
Speaking last was Huntington Beach resident and former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh, who's running against Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) for the newly drawn 47th Congressional District, which includes Irvine, Costa Mesa, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.
Focused on fixing the state’s growing debt, Baugh said getting the United States back “on the right track” begins with retiring his election opponent and firing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“You will restore common sense to America. We'll have secure borders. We will fund our police, and we will stop spending so much money. We will quit paying people not to work,” Baugh said. “I know Tony [Strickland] mentioned his father talked about leaving the country in a better place for his children. Well, we have $31 trillion in debt. That's not the America that your father talked about.”
The other candidates in the running for Huntington Beach City Council include the following: Kenneth Inouye, a retired CPA; Bobby Britton, an entrepreneur; Brian Burley, a local business owner; Oscar Rodriguez, a planning commissioner and asset manager; Robert Reider, a senior business consultant; Mike Vogler, an attorney; David Clifford, a transportation executive and business owner; Gina Clayton-Tarvin, a school board member; William “Billy” O’Connell, a nonprofit CEO; Gabrielle Samiy, a college student; Jill Hardy, a high school teacher; Amory Hanson, a Historic Resources Boardman; Jeffrey Hansler, an organizational development consultant; and Vera Fair, a project manager.