Huntington Beach City Council Reaches Stalemate on Filling Tito’s Ortiz’s Seat

The former UFC champ left a mess in his wake when he resigned his post in June

A month after a string of controversies led former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz to resign his post as a Huntington Beach City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem, the remaining council members can’t agree on how to fill the empty seat the Trump-loving anti-masker left behind. In fact, even their vote on whether to hold a citywide vote to decide the question went nowhere.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, although each council member was allowed to bring up three names for nomination from the 105 people who interviewed for the job on July 9 and 10, every attempt to agree on a replacement ended in quagmire at the council’s 140-minute special meeting Monday night. A vote to hold a special election also didn’t garner enough support to move forward.

Ortiz was in attendance to back Gracey Van Der Mark—who finished fourth in the November election behind Ortiz and current council members Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser—along with members of the crowd wearing T-shirts and carrying signs reading “honor the vote,” because they consider her the runner-up. Only Councilman Erik Peterson, however, voted for Van Der Mark.

Moser, meanwhile, told the Van Der Mark fans that they misunderstood election rules.

“It is time to shift the community back to our community, to public safety, and away from extremism,” she said, reportedly to jeers from the audience. “The work of our city does not stop because an elected official abandons his position… We did have an election. There were three open seats. Tito Ortiz, Dan Kalmick, and myself were elected. There is no fourth place. There isn’t. There were three open seats, and here we are. Unfortunately, Council Member Ortiz did not honor the vote, and we are here.”

Business owner Dom Jones and former Mayor Jill Hardy—who termed out of the council for a second time last year but decided to go for it again after Ortiz quit—both failed to get a nomination.

After three tries, no candidate ended up with the four votes necessary to be appointed, and the council was left with civil rights attorney Rhonda Bolton, AT&T executive Jeff Morin, and Van Der Mark as contenders. A motion for a special election—which would cost the city an estimated $1 million—failed 4 to 2 and 3 to 3.

The council agreed to meet again and resume negotiations within seven days. If they are still deadlocked by the end of the month, a special election will automatically be triggered and held on November 2.

“We’re really at a stalemate on moving forward and naming somebody tonight, and the only thing that’s fair is a special election,” Councilman Mike Posey told the crowd. “Whether it costs $1 million or $2 million, that’s the cost of democracy… There is a three-and-a-half year term still left. We have 85 percent of the term still left, and that’s significant.”

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