Larry Agran is Stealing Another Election in Republican-Heavy Irvine
|Meranda Carter / OC Weekly|
The documents--a series of emails spanning a recent two-month period--outline how a Republican Agran ally and corporate lobbyist lured a decoy Republican candidate into the mayoral race to siphon critical votes away from legitimate Republican contender Steve Choi, a move that assures Agran of winning the Nov. 6 election.
A Republican businesswoman, Katherine Daigle's political claim to fame is that she won a slot on her neighborhood association board. Earlier this year, she announced she would seek a seat on the Irvine City Council. The odds of her grabbing public office weren't great, but they also weren't impossible. She was one of seven candidates vying for potentially three open council seats.
In early August, on the last day to officially declare candidacy, Daigle abruptly switched to the Choi-Agran race, a contest she has no chance of winning--or even grabbing second place. In addition to enjoying the get-out-the-vote resources of their respective parties, both men are political veterans who'll each spend significantly more than $200,000. Daigle's campaign, on the other hand, has received on average less than $16 per day for a contribution grand total of just $825. The one undeniable impact of her move to the mayor's race is to cripple Choi by robbing him of thousands of votes he needs to win.
|Meranda Carter / OC Weekly|
|Agran and Daigle enjoying themselves at Probolsky's rigged Oct. 10 forum.|
The tactic isn't new to Irvine. In 2004, Agran wanted Beth Krom, a robotically loyal member of his machine, to capture the mayor's office over Republican Mike Ward, a distinguished conservative activist. The sly Democrat quietly employed Earle Zucht, an unknown character without any prior political activity in Irvine, to run for the city's top job as a Republican. He even ordered his Democrat allies to pay for Zucht's campaign mail.
As a result, instead of comfortably winning the election, Ward lost to Krom by 2,004 because Zucht's fake candidacy fooled nearly 5,000 voters. His mission accomplished, Zucht quickly disappeared.
Daigle adamantly denies she's the 2012 version of Zucht. To help bolster her alleged innocence, she has been telling people she never met Agran before announcing her mayoral candidacy. It's probably a true statement. But it's also misleading.
What Daigle has kept secret from the voters is that she switched races after intense, secret meetings with Starpointe Venture's Patrick B. Strader, a longtime Agran ally and campaign contributor who is a paid Republican lobbyist for FivePoint Communities, the real-estate developer seeking government entitlements to build a massive residential/commercial project around the proposed $1.6 billion Orange County Great Park, the most expensive public endeavor in the city's history. In July, Agran and his allies, Krom and Sukhee Kang, overruled city staff and Republican council member objections to prematurely issue an environmental-impact report favorable to the real-estate firm. In the aftermath, Emile Haddad, the man running FivePoint, has made no secret that he wants the Agran machine to remain in power. "Katherine hadn't once thought about running for mayor until she met Patrick," a source who knows both individuals told me.
At 10:26 a.m. on July 24, Daigle sent an email to Strader, who Agran appointed to the powerful Irvine Community Land Trust in 2006. "Good morning, Patrick," it read. "Thank you for your call."
Thirty minutes later, Strader replied that he wanted to "chat with you guys"--Daigle and Roger Lee, a veteran Washington, D.C.-based liberal consultant who worked for the Clinton-Gore campaigns, as well as the Democratic National Committee, pro-choice Emily's List, NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and the United Auto Workers.
At 10:08 p.m., Daigle told Strader in an email, "I enjoyed our discussion this morning. I am looking forward to seeing you again."
Three days later, on July 27, Daigle told him, "I appreciate you wanting to get involved. I am looking forward to working with you."
Strader replied, "It was my pleasure."
On Aug. 7, he emailed her again. "I had a nice conversation [with a consultant] and am waiting to see something in my email. In the meantime, I have some checks. Do you have a campaign account open yet? Can you send me the information? I will call to discuss something else tomorrow as well."
On Aug. 8, Daigle told a campaign staffer via email that Strader was writing her statement of candidacy with the aid of Marc O'Hara, a liberal strategist who insists that his "firm is as non-partisan as it gets," but has worked with Michael Dukakis' 1988 Democratic presidential campaign; the California Democratic Party; Montana Democratic Party, Colorado Democratic Party, Senator John Kerry (D-Massachussetts); the United Domestic Workers union; and former California State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a San Francisco Democrat.
O'Hara emailed his draft of the candidacy statement to Strader, who replied, "Really good. What about referencing her work with the seniors of Irvine?"
The Agran ally then asked O'Hara, "What ballot title are you going to use [for Daigle]?"