City attorney with right-wing agenda fights for survival in increasingly blue Huntington Beach
The fight for Huntington Beach’s future in local and state politics is often a lonely one.
The city’s law department and the city attorney are both Democrats, but a rare pair of Republican attorneys, Dan Abrams and Steve Adubato, have emerged to challenge the city’s Democratic leadership this year. Adubato has argued that the city needs to get beyond party politics and embrace a pro-business agenda, while Abrams has taken up the position that local government is too political.
The city’s top elections officer is also a Democrat, but the position usually comes with the blessing of the city attorney.
The city attorney, David M. Baker, has made several efforts to cut the number of elected judges, and is pushing for the city’s annexation of more territory, where there are none.
The current city attorney, John C. Kekeris, also is an attorney for the city’s business industry, and he has taken a very aggressive stand against the city attorney’s opponents.
In this week’s issue, we examine the battle over local government and the roles of lawyers as political and legal figures in California cities.
In Huntington Beach, the battle has taken a surprising turn. The city attorney was initially appointed to his seat only by the city’s Democratic majority in 2009, but the city attorney has since become the de facto chief law officer, with the backing of Mayor Bob Foster, who is running for state attorney general this year.
The mayor has been largely supportive of the attorney’s agenda. But the city attorney has made a series of moves that opponents say are too far to the left to be reconciled with the city’s progressive agenda.
To understand the relationship between lawyers and local government, it helps to look at Huntington Beach’s history, which began with the founding of the city in 1875. In the 1920s, when Huntington Beach was the second largest city in Orange County, its chief law enforcement officer was a Democrat, Harry T. Williams. Then in 1965, Williams died and his lieutenant