Costa Mesa Confidential
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Candidate who Lost Council Election Appointed as Mayor

Some decried the move as unfair.

A Costa Mesa city councilmember who was strongly rejected by voters for reelection in 2020 was appointed by the city council to be Costa Mesa’s newest mayor. 

In 2020, Councilman John Stephens lost his seat by a whopping 6-4 margin to businessman Don Harper despite being the incumbent, as voters disagreed with his policies. 

The following year, when then-Mayor Katrina Foley was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, leaving her mayoral seat vacant, many Costa Mesans expected the city council to hold a special election to find their next mayor. 

Instead, the council acted contrary to voters’ decision by appointing Stephens as mayor, arguably contributing to the left-leaning makeup of the council. Staff listed the council agenda item as a “discussion regarding appointing or having a special election to replace the Mayor seat”. Instead, well after midnight the council took a vote and appointed Stephens.

While outgoing Mayor Foley claimed impartiality through “abstaining” in the official vote, she gave heavy input during the meeting that she supported the appointment. 

The move was decried by Costa Mesans as undemocratic. Protesters outside of city hall argued that if voters rejected his campaign for District 1, he certainly should not be mayor of the entire city. 

How will Costa Mesans feel about his leadership this time?

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