HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – We are just weeks away from Election Day. In addition to the presidential race, there are also many local races. In Huntington Beach several of the incumbent city council members have decided not to run for reelection and one council member is terming out.
That means there are three open seats up for grabs.
At least 15 people have signed up to run for the open seats, and at least two of them have a connection to sports. One is an mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and the other is a surfer.
Tito Ortiz usually steps into the cage to fight. But the MMA Hall of Famer has entered a different type of battle in his hometown, Huntington Beach.
Ortiz said, “I’m just here to make it safe for the future of my children, my grandchildren, and my community.”
It’s the same fight long time surfer, Eric Silkenson, who the locals call “Silk Brah,” is also facing.
“There’s an old saying, ‘Decision are made by those who show up.’ So, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and show up,” Silkenson said.
Ortiz and Silkenson are both running to become city councilmembers in Huntington Beach. Besides a love of sports, they also have other things in common. They both grew up in the beach town.
“We also both graduated from Huntington Beach High School, Tito and I,” said Silkenson.
This is also both of their first times running for political office.
“I thought I could do a good job for the city. I’m not part of special interest. I’m the only teacher running, so I have a unique perspective,” Silkenson said.
Also in the running are an IT analyst, two former city council members, an activist, at least one candidate in their 20s, an Eagle Scout, and several business owners. A full list of candidates and their statements can be found here.
One of the business owners is Ortiz. He says while he’s lived in town for a long time, he didn’t think about running for office until the BLM protests in May. He said he saw a social media post by a group of alleging to be protesters that had planned to return to Huntington Beach in June after the first day of protests in late May.
According to Ortiz, the post, “Said that they didn’t do their job right. That they’re gonna burn this city down. Not on my watch.”
Ortiz organized and was able to get at least 30 locals and some military friends to stand by for 10 hours in the downtown area to help keep watch.
“This is my town and I’m going to protect it,” he said.
After that day, Ortiz says he wanted to do more for his city. “I believe in doing the right thing. I’m a patriot, and I just want this city safe again,” he said.
So after a friend had mentioned open spots coming up on the city council, Ortiz decided to run for office. Safety is his main campaign objective and even part of his slogan, “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again,” a play on President Trump’s MAGA slogan.
Ortiz and the president met while Ortiz was on The Celebrity Apprentice. Safety is the reason Ortiz met with some members of the “Take Back HB” community group at Edison Park back in September. The residents of Huntington Beach told Ortiz they’re worried about homelessness and crime in the area and shared stories of crime they’ve witnessed at the park.
Ortiz says hearing the stories, “Makes me angry because city council members, and mayors, and leaders would let this happen.”
Ortiz says he use to hang out in Edison Park when he went to school. But he says when he was in school, the city was a different place.
“Nineteen-ninety-three, 1994, 1995, Huntington Beach was the safest city in America. Right now, we’re 90th in our state,” he said.
Silkenson says the homeless issue is also a top priority for his campaign and shared similar concerns some of the local groups voiced, such as crime, but also getting help to the homeless people in the city. Another priority for Silkenson is related to the pandemic.
“I want to get our restaurants, bars, hotels, everything running as much safe capacity as we can, following state guidelines. Because that business gives us the chance to do all the other things we want to do,” he said.
Silkenson says that tourism is a big part of the city’s revenue.
The surfer says it won’t be easy but he’s excited to run.
“I feel I have a good chance because I’ve lived here my whole life. I do have some name recognition," he said.
He says anyone who regularly surfs in Huntington Beach knows him, or at the very least, would recognize him in the lineup.
The MMA fighter also agrees this political race won’t be an easy battle.
“Every fight, no matter if it’s the cage, or in life, they’re always hard,” said Ortiz.
The Huntington Beach City Council has seven members. Mayor Lyn Semeta and Patrick Brenden said they will not be running for reelection. Councilwoman Jill Hardy will be terming out.
The other candidates running for Huntington Beach City Council include: Armory Hanson, Brian Burley, Dan Kalmick, Gracey Van Der Mark, Jeff Morin, John Briscoe, Matthew Harper, Natalie Tomich Moser, Oscar D. Rodriguez, Sonya Green, Thomas Matthew LaParne, and William Billy O’Connell.