I’ve lived in Irvine for 21 years and have watched every local election closely. My favorite rumor to knock down, regularly, is the notion that former Mayor and City Council Member Larry Agran has an army of “puppets” who do his bidding. Depending on who you listen to, Beth Krom was a puppet, Sukhee Kang was a puppet, Todd Gallinger was a puppet, Melissa Fox was a puppet, Marianne Gaido was a puppet, and now Ed Pope — the Democratic candidate for Mayor in the City against two Republicans — is a puppet. That reminds me, even Republican Katherine Daigle was an Agran puppet per OC Weekly, though the “facts” on that are “weak sauce” at best.
I’m almost certain that if you called Beth Krom an “Agran puppet” to her face, you’d lose an eye or another valuable body part. While Agran and his Democratic majority often voted in sync, the claim that those who worked with Agran were puppets is really laughable. Everyone I mentioned is a strong-willed and independent voice on their own and doesn’t require Agran’s urging when it’s time to vote on an issue.
And this leads me to publish this concern that certain social media pages pretending to be for Democrats in Irvine are really a sham.
Some social media pages for Democrats in Irvine are a case study in censorship. The Facebook page for Irvine Democrats is believed to be controlled by Irvine City Council member Melissa Fox’s husband, Michael. It’s perceived he uses a number of identities in social media to promote his wife and her political allies, mainly Lauren Johnson-Norris, as well as Katie Porter, the CD-45 Congressional candidate. The Fox’s have never acknowledged the late great Facebook profile of John Scott Horner III who’s photos were that of Michael Fox’s college classmate from Wisconsin. Lately, longtime IUSD school board member Sharon Wallin has made an appearance because of — wait for it — Fox’s immediate endorsement of her re-election bid. In fact, the endorsement seems more prominent than the announcement of Wallin’s candidacy.
Four years ago, the DPOC’s Jeff Letourneau tried to bully Wallin into endorsing Fox’s campaign for city council (Fox lost that year) and Wallin, who had only met Fox once at that point and did not know her, refused and with her refusal, the Party denied Wallin — a longtime progressive Democrat and one of the most effective elected in OC — the party’s endorsement. It’s unclear if Wallin will seek the Party’s endorsement at Monday’s meeting but if she shows, LeTourneau ought to issue a public apology for his behavior from 2014. Wallin has acknowledged these facts in a comment on this blog months ago.
But back to Irvine Democrats Facebook page for a moment; there’s a sister page called Irvine Democratic Action. It’s also believed to be run by Michael Fox. What both pages have in common is it’s all Melissa Fox all the time. A shocking number of Democrats — many who disagreed with Fox’s stance on Measure B in June and subsequent actions not to begin development of the ARDA site for the Veteran’s Cemetery — are blocked from commenting. If they managed to get a comment in that’s critical, that comment is gone and they are unable to comment again.
What’s particularly fascinating is how a social media page for “Irvine Democrats” is attacking Ed Pope and Agran. Wasn’t the vote margin for Measure B enough evidence that the city’s Democratic voting base is still significant? Here’s a post from 8/12:
Neither of the two Irvine City Councilmembers who were up for reelection this year — Jeff Lalloway and Lynn Schott — both conservative Republicans, have filed to run again. This means that the November election will fill two open seats. It also means that the filing to run for Irvine City Council will remain open until 5 pm on Weds., August 15. Strikingly, Lalloway and Schott were also the only elected officials who were supporters of disgraced former Mayor Larry Agran. Agran’s hand-picked puppet, Ed Pope, 81, a retired high school teacher, will run for Mayor. Two other Agran puppets, Jaci Woods, a lifelong Republican, and Frank McGill, NPP, will run as Agran’s slate for City Council.
The same identical post showed up on the Irvine Democrats Facebook page.
For background, Michael Fox was an administrator of the Facebook page for Democrats of Greater Irvine and our understanding is, he refused to surrender administrative privileges to that site. Considerable time and effort were spent building that page to more than 800 likes and followers. He simply renamed it and the renamed site is designed to promote his wife’s work on the city council and that of her allies. Until recently, Wallin was never mentioned. IUSD trustee Paul Bokota is not mentioned at all. There’s no mention of Farrah Khan or Kev Abazajian. There are comments online attempting to connect Farrah Khan to Agran with not a shread of evidence, as Khan is her own person. You have to love how the pages link Conservative council members Jeff Lalloway and Lynn Schott to “disgraced” Agran (who isn’t disgraced in the eyes of many Democrats in this city) while ignoring Fox’s alliance with the two most homophobic elected conservatives in OC.
My understanding is DGI club leadership is trying to work with Facebook to reclaim the site, but the club published a new page and the hard work of adding followers confused by mixed messages is a tough road. And many Irvine Democrats are blocked from commenting on the “Irvine Democrats” page. Hard to have any sort of meaningful debate when you’re not allowed to get a word in edgewise.
Interestingly, the page shared a blog post of a site critical of Irvine Council member Lynn Schott, who is not running for re-elected due to a serious health issue. This has caused Schott to miss a number of meetings and it’s noteworthy because Michael Fox has criticized this blog for allowing a comment that was unfavorable about him while using a name “Stage Four.” Fox called my character into question for allowing this comment; I’ll ask him to hold up a mirror. I’ll note Schott endorsed Fox in 2016 which ruffled feathers in her own party. But Fox social media has no need for Schott any longer.
With that as a set up, I read Greg Diamond’s post on the OJ Blog with his analysis of Irvine.
Ed Pope is an Agran puppet? No he’s not. Ed Pope is his own man. Ed Pope doesn’t neeed Larry Agran to tell him what to do. Ed Pope has no problem telling Larry Agran “where to go” if they disagree. Ed Pope led the effort to secure 19,000 signatures to get Measure B on the ballot. Ed Pope — out spent and out gunned — outmaneuvered FivePoint, its consultants and every elected in OC who was Yes on B to deliver a nearly 2-to1 victory for the No on B forces. Diamond often speaks highly of OC Veteran Bill Cook; Ed Pope is what Bill Cook wishes he could be.
A few facts about Ed Pope from my friends at Irvine Watchdog:
– Ed Pope was a school teacher in Orange County for 30 years or more. He taught history. (how he’s getting a $1 million pension is absurd)
– Ed Pope won Teacher of the Year.
– Ed Pope has lived in the same house for over 45 years in Irvine.
– Ed Pope’s wife was also a school teacher/counselor.
– Ed Pope is an army veteran.
I don’t think Pope will seek the DPOC endorsement Monday. He doesn’t need it. But if he does, the Party ought to swallow hard and back him for Mayor. DPOC endorsements in Irvine have failed this year. The party was yes of B, yes on Dave Min for Congress, Yes on Hans Kierstead for Congress. The party didn’t endorse Sharon Wallin in 2014. Central Committee members from Irvine (with one exception) regularly speak out on issues Fox promotes only to be outvoted by the Central Committee and then everyone is surprised when actual results differ from the party’s action.
The No on B vote was not achieved by duplicity and confusion of the public; suggesting that’s the case is an insult to Irvine voters who are highly educated and engaged. Let’s not buy into the Internet poll placed on Fox’s blog were anyone in the world could vote. FivePoint has already said it’s moving on from ARDA and the Freeway site, so there doesn’t seem to be any pending litigation in the future. State Rep Steven Choi would bottle up funding? What a great issue for Michelle Duman to run on. And Tom Daly was instrumental in keeping the cemetery alive after Sharon Quirk Silva lost in 2014. There are more allies in the state legislature than one might think. And Irvine CAN afford it — without touching reserves.
Irvine does have Asian voters, but there’s a considerable number of them near ARDA that are not registered voters. The suggestion that Anthony Kuo and Gang Chen would team up — because their both Asian — is laughable. With this “logic,” Sukhee Kang and Choi would have run on the pro-Korean ticket. Kuo is already part of Wagner’s slate, along with Carrie O’Malley, and that’s FivePoint $bread$ for their butter. Chen still doesn’t grasp the duties of City council member vs. a school board member and you’ll still find Irvine residents upset he left campaign signs up for months in 2016 violating an unwritten rule about no political signs until after Labor day. As far as Agran “botching” the election of Beth Krom, which one was that? The only race Krom ever lost in Irvine was for Congress in 2010 which was a terrible year for Democrats in general. Gaido actually lost a close race to Wagner in 2016 and was the subject of vicious mail from various PACs funded by FivePoint and the Tait Family Trust. If Fox runs a write-in campaign to take votes away from Pope to benefit Wagner, her next race for office will have about one-third of the support she did in 2016 with Beth Krom’s endorsement because that will disappear.
Perhaps the biggest clue missed by Diamond is that Wagner really doesn’t want to be mayor any longer. He is terrible at dealing with the homeless issue, development, and traffic. He’s a bully on the dais. And he plans to announce a run for Todd Spitzer’s Board of Supervisor’s seat — win or lose — shortly after election day. For Republicans in the city, if you want a conservative who wants the job of mayor and plans to stick around, Katherine Daigle is a much better vote.
Let’s see how the DPOC endorsement meeting shakes out. I anticipate Khan will be endorsed easily; I’m not sure Johnson-Norris has the votes because she’s asked me for mine.