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Based on the latest report from the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Mike Frost and Michael Villar will be the first to represent District 4 and District 5 on the Dana Point City Council, respectively.
Both apparent winners took impressive leads over their opponents, with Frost beating Gary Newkirk by more than 20 percentage points and Villar beating Benjamin Bebee by nearly 65 percentage points. While the Registrar has not yet certified results, all early voting ballots had been counted as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, and all vote centers had reported results. Vote-by-mail ballots, however, were partially complete.
Frost says he attributes his win to the last decade he has spent studying city policies, setting him apart from other candidates during forums, and from networking with people in varying leadership positions for guidance.
“Most importantly, (I attribute the campaign to) hard work,” Frost said. “Nobody was going to walk to more houses, nobody was going to knock on more doors. I enjoyed campaigning and meeting other residents in my district. By walking every street, it gave me better understanding of the community at a micro-level. Each street has a unique set of issues.”
Following Election Night, Newkirk issued a statement to Dana Point Times regarding the results.
“I am very grateful for the support I received from the community and in particular, some amazingly talented and hard-working volunteers, throughout my campaign for City Council,” Newkirk said. “I am humbled to have had the support of so many friends and Dana Point neighbors, and am proud that I ran an honest and honorable grassroots campaign.”
In October, the California Homeowners Association Political Action Committee (PAC) spent nearly $10,000 in negative mailers to oppose Newkirk. The ads accused him of putting a senior citizen at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, using a stock image of a hospitalized elderly patient on a respirator, as well as being in favor of major development projects in Dana Point.
Frost denies that he or his campaign had any involvement in the mailers, and he and Newkirk decried them soon after they appeared in residents’ mailboxes.
“I absolutely hated the negative mailers, and we estimated around 5% lost votes from this junk messaging, which I had to overcome,” Frost said. “I believe these were an attempt to tarnish my campaign. For those who know me, that is not me, not my personality, not something which I would communicate nor how I plan to represent my district.”
In Newkirk’s statement, he asks that his supporters remain engaged and continue to hold elected officials accountable to those they represent.
“The opinion of the majority of residents should always be the most important factor in decisions made by their representatives.” Newkirk said. “It is my most fervent hope that our City Council will listen to residents’ voices and work diligently to preserve and protect the quality of life we enjoy in our beautiful Dana Point.”
After Villar’s apparent victory, he congratulated his opponent Bebee for running a “great campaign that was self-funded” and grassroots.
“I admire his willingness to run for city council, and I hope he continues to be involved with our community,” Villar said. “I want to thank all my volunteers and supporters for all their help getting yard signs out, passing out flyers, and talking to their neighbors about their confidence in me. I have enjoyed every step of this campaign, and I look forward to serving as the first District 5 City Councilman.”
In District 4, the Registrar issued a total of 4,778 ballots. As of Wednesday, the District saw a 55% voter turnout, with 2,643 of the ballots being sent in by mail. In District 5, 5,354 ballots were issued, and the Registrar received back 3,011, yielding a 56% voter turnout for vote-by-mail. It’s unclear what in-person voting turnout looked like for Dana Point voters at this time.
The councilmembers-elect will likely be sworn into office in December. However, a specific date is contingent on when the Registrar certifies the results.