Betty Valencia may be back in city council race

betty valencia

Betty Valencia, a Chapman doctoral student, came in third behind incumbent Kimberlee Nichols and newly elected council member Chip Monaco. She could be tapped to fill an empty seat on the council. Panther Archives

Despite coming in at fifth place in Orange’s City Council race the morning after Election Day, a late influx of votes in Valencia’s favor have moved her up to third place, 71 votes ahead of fourth-place candidate John Dumitru.

Valencia, a Chapman doctoral student, still trails projected winners Kim Nichols, the incumbent candidate, and Chip Monaco by roughly 5,000 votes, but the potential to be appointed to the council puts her back in the running.

This year, the council has an unusual potential for a third city council member to be elected, as it’s likely that current mayor pro tempore Mark Murphy, who holds 57.4 percent of the vote in the mayoral race as of Dec. 2, will win, leaving his current city council seat open.

The newly-elected council that will be sworn in on Dec. 11 will have 60 days to fill the vacant seat, said Robert Zornado, Orange’s chief clerk. The council members will have the option to either hold a special election or appoint someone to fill the open seat.

“On Dec. 11, that’s when the clock starts ticking,” Zornado said.

Valencia was caught off guard by the news. She had no idea this was a possibility, she said. After learning about the third open seat, she rekindled a campaign that she thought had run its course.

“We’re not ready to close shop yet,” Valencia said. “We want to make sure we’re representing this campaign until the very last minute.”

Council members can appoint anyone of their choosing, meaning Valencia, the third-place candidate, is not guaranteed the spot.

Fred Smoller, a Chapman political science professor, thinks there is a chance the council will appoint “another white male,” but there is no way to know for sure until Dec. 11.

But choosing not to appoint Valencia could put the Orange City Council in a situation similar to cities like Santa Ana and Anaheim, which decided to make the switch to electing council members by district as opposed to at-large because some members of minority populations felt the council was not representative of its constituents.

“Someone like me could actually get in there,” Valencia said. “I feel stronger … I’m not second guessing anymore.