IN MY ORBIT: Ahead of the Midterm Elections, TPUSA Faith Mounts Local Candidate Forums

TPUSA Faith and Beacities Community Church Candidate Forum Banner (Credit: Beachcities Community Church)


This is the first in a series of articles, “All Politics Is Local,” highlighting Southern California’s grassroots and local candidates.
TPUSA Faith is mounting candidate forums across the nation, involving local churches in reaching out to their communities to engage, equip, and empower the voters of the community to know their candidates and vote their values, rather than a political party.


In my neck of Southern California, Beachcities Community Church hosted the forum which included over 20 candidates from the coastal cities of Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Fountain Valley.

Make no mistake: The midterm election in California will be decided by Mama and Papa Bears. Many of them were spurred to run for office because of the draconian measures of bureaucrats and elected officials in city councils, school boards, and teachers’ unions. The bureaucratic and tone-deaf responses (or lack thereof) to the Mama and Papa Bears’ cries to reopen schools, help their children return to active life and sports, and remove mask mandates were factors that contributed to the slate of candidates who participated in the forum, and to whom grassroots coalitions are lending their support.

The well-organized forum was moderated by Beachcities Pastor Kent Sparks, who asked one question that each of the candidates answered:

What is the biggest issue facing the city’s [school board/council], and what is the candidate’s plan for resolving it?

As a newer resident to this area of Southern California, it was an education in what makes these cities unique, how each city is run (or not), and why these candidates are fighting to restore the distinct identities and sound leadership back to their hometowns. Much of the malfeasance and poor handling of the pandemic was rooted in policies coming down from Sacramento that local elected officials were attempting to enforce in order to collect funds and curry favor.


It’s a sad state of affairs that was repeated in one form or another in cities, counties, and states across the nation. But California was truly the poster child of this entitlement and overreach on steroids. Casey McKeon, who is running for the Huntington Beach City Council spilled the beans on what is really going on with their council members:

“We always touch on, this is Huntington Beach versus Sacramento. So, in this election there will be three people that remain: Rhonda Bolton, Dan Kalmick, and Natalie Moser, and they want everything coming out of Sacramento. So, a lot of their votes, you’ll see, is to appease their betters in Sacramento.


So, it’s not necessarily who is funding them, but it’s more of who are they more aligned with. And this election, it’s HB versus Sacramento.”

In listening to all the candidates from these individual cities, there is a distinct team mentality among them. They campaign together, coalesce on platform and talking points, and most importantly, they are encouraging voters to not get into “vote splitting.” If you vote for one, then make it a vote for all in order to break up the one-sided rubber stamp mentality that currently exists on their boards and councils.

An interesting strategy, and one that other council and school board candidates from other cities are adopting, as you’ll notice in the stories for the upcoming weeks.

Let’s look at the particular issues facing each city, and see what each candidate had to say about how they will be a part of the solution.

Costa Mesa City Council

Costa Mesa is one of the more monied communities of Orange County. My husband refers to it (disdainfully) as the Woodland Hills of Orange County. He was raised in Woodland Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles at the southwest end of the San Fernando Valley, so he knows of what he speaks.

The problem with having a community that is monied is that its leaders assume one can just keep throwing money at problems without any accountability about the amount spent or the effectiveness of the output. Costa Mesa also has its share of progressive ideology on its council, which has added to the burden. According to City Council candidate Ron Dixon, the issues were the same when the city was under more conservative governance.

“A complete lack of accountability,” he said.

John Thomas Patton, who is running for the other open seat affirmed Dixon’s assessment and expressed,

“Costa Mesa is an echo chamber of bad ideas.”

The city has problems, and Ron Dixon and John Thomas Patton want to work to be a part of the solution.


Newport-Mesa School Board

Kristen Seaburn, the Newport-Mesa School Board candidate for Trustee Area 7, says she wants the school district to, “get back to basics,” not only in terms of curriculum, but in budgeting and finance. Reina Shebesta, of Trustee Area 5, has been maligned and called a racist for protesting curriculum, even though she is of Hispanic origin and has biracial children. Shebesta is spoiling for a fight and says her opponents:


“know they’re on the ropes. We are not fly-by-night candidates. We really are here because we want to be here for the kids.”

Hear their statements, along with Trustee Area 2 candidate Danielle Mills, and Trustee Area 4 candidate Barbara George.


Huntington Beach City Council

Did you know Huntington Beach was one of the 121 charter cities in California? When California entered the union in 1850, the state controlled the formation of cities and their operations. Because of the incessant meddling in municipal affairs (sound familiar?) in 1879, a constitutional amendment was adopted that granted “home rule” power to individual cities, including allowing the cities to become “charter cities” to exempt themselves from state laws applicable to general law cities. This knowledge gives me a keen understanding of not only Huntington Beach’s pride of place and heritage, but why the residents fight so hard against the infringement on their freedoms.

Because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Huntington Beach has its share of homelessness. With a City Council that is more intent on following Sacramento’s diktats rather than what the residents want and need, this overrun of the population has impacted law enforcement response and use of force, been a drain on the city’s resources, and a drain on the local economy. Huntington Beach’s draw as a tourist attraction has been greatly diminished because of businesses closing and leaving due to the vagrancy and filth that followed the homeless influx.


City Council candidate Gracey Van der Mark succinctly outlined what is at stake:

“My parents left their countries of Mexico and Ecuador, because their countries were so corrupt that it wasn’t safe for them to have a family there. I left my home county of L.A. to come to Orange County and raise my family, and now my daughter is talking about leaving California to find a more family-friendly state to raise her family. I’m not willing to let her take my grandbaby. We stay, we fight, we take our council back, and we keep our families together,” she said.

“We want to talk to the community. We want to be a voice, because that is what we want for ourselves and this is our home.”

Hear more of Gracey’s focus, along with the three other council candidates: Casey McKeon, Tony Strickland, and Pat Burns.


Huntington Beach School Board

The four candidates running for the school board in Huntington Beach have a rare opportunity to flip the board, and that is their focus. Autumn DiGiovanni, Meghan Willis (who won her seat in the primary), Julie Norton, and Morgan Westmoreland are fighting for

“the student’s interest, and not broader political gain.”

Angela Salinardi is running in the adjacent Huntington Beach Union High School District and is fighting for transparency in the curriculum.

Hear what they plan to do to make a difference on their school boards.


Fountain Valley

The city of Fountain Valley, which borders Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, and Costa Mesa, appears to be the model of which every school district should take note. In terms of fighting against the creeping crawl toward dumbing down of academic standards, the WOKE agendas of CRT, social-emotional learning, and the gender ideology, the district has managed to “fly under the radar,” as incumbent school board trustee Sandra Crandall so ably put it. Crandall is hoping to have new candidates Dennis Cole and Trisha Rintoul on the board to continue Fountain Valley School District’s pattern of excellence, as well as continue the fight against the encroachment of Sacramento and union controls.


Hear what Trisha Rintoul, Sandra Crandall, and Dennis Cole had to say about why they are running, and what tools they have used to keep the standards high and the outcomes successful for their students.




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