Reelected Orange Mayor Tita Smith and Councilman Fred Whitaker, along with newcomer Kim Nichols, will be sworn into office at a special city council meeting, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.

Smith handily beat opponent Eugene Fields, who challenged the popular mayor after living in the City of Orange only two months.  Voters apparently did not believe that the recent resident had enough governing experience or knowledge of the city to replace the fourth-generation incumbent mayor, former council member, planning commissioner and Orange preservationist.  Smith was reelected with 81 percent of the vote. 

Anyone’s guess

While incumbent Fred Whitaker’s reelection was expected, the bid for the open seat vacated by termed-out Denis Bilodeau was predicted to be a close call between Nichols, Jon Dumitru and Ray Grangoff.  Instead,

Nichols came in just two percentage points short of Whitaker and 7.6 points ahead of Dumitru.  Grangoff ran way behind with just 12 percent. 

Nichols’ rise from a candidate with virtually no name recognition to the number two finisher speaks to voters’ desire for a change in city government – a city council more responsive to residents and less sympathetic to outside interests.  The current council (Mike Alvarez, Mark Murphy, Smith, Whitaker) has already demonstrated a willingness to put citizens’ needs above those of well-financed speculators.  By selecting Nichols over Dumitru and Grangoff, voters appeared to be strengthening that focus.

Outside lookin’ in

Neither challenger drew strong support from within the city’s boundaries.  Some 55 percent of Grangoff’s reported financial backing came from outside of Orange. 

Dumitru accepted campaign donations from 21 separate building industry consultants, contractors and associations who donated more than half of his receipts.  The controversial Sully-Miller developer Milan Capital came in with $750, Milan Chairman Claus Dieckell donated $250, Leilani Martin, wife of JMI Partners’ John Martin (Ridgeline, Sully-Miller), kicked in $1,000, and Milan consultants KTGY contributed $500.  

Ninety-five percent of Nichols' financial support came from City of Orange contributors.

“It has been an exciting campaign,” she said.  “The volunteer effort has been extraordinary.  It’s wonderful to see people who care deeply for their city and their willingness to participate in order to make a difference. The generosity of community members in the form of time and money is simply amazing.  I appreciate the faith and trust of all my supporters and those who endorsed my campaign.”

Orange race results add new flavor to old favorites

                        By Tina Richards