On June 1, 2021 Tito Ortiz resigned from Huntington Beach City Council, a position he was elected to last November. His tenure on city council, which included a turn as Mayor Pro Tem, was marked with battles between fellow council members and his refusal to wear a mask in city hall.
On the campaign trail Ortiz relied on wild conspiracy claims about the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues propagated by the extremist cult Qanon. Since he has left, those who voted for him based on those issues, have lambasted city council and demonstrated against his replacement Rhonda Bolton. The demonstrations against Bolton, the first African-American woman to sit on city council, have included racist attacks.
After Ortiz vacated city council, it was the responsibility of the six remaining council members to find a replacement.
Ortiz campaigned for Gracey Van Der Mark to be that replacement. Van Der Mark was the subject of the Daily Beast article ‘She Wants to Be the MAGA Queen of Orange County. Will Her Ugly Past Stop Her?’. That article detailed Van Der Mark’s history of involvement with far-right groups including the Proud Boys and their paramilitary wing the ‘Alt-Knights’.
Van Der Mark ran for city council at the same time as Ortiz and finished with 8% of the vote, which was good enough for fourth place. The top three vote getters in that election were elected, included Ortiz who finished third.
City council named Bolton to Ortiz’s old seat after what NBC Los Angeles called a “contentious special meeting” on July 28. When Bolton, a former member of the city’s Human Relations Task Force, was announced Van Der Mark supporters booed and screamed the word “Transplant”.
Bolton’s first day as a city councillor was met with more ugliness according to the Los Angeles Times. That outlet reports that on August 3 Bolton was again booed by Ortiz and Van Der Mark supporters. Bolton was also the subject of absurd claims thrown by members of the public who participated in the public comments portion of the session.
Among the claims hurled at Bolton were that she wanted to impose a “radical agenda” against the children of Huntington Beach and that she was “hateful, spiteful and anti-white”. A group of State Senators spoke to the OC Breeze to condemn the comments.
“This type of thinly veiled anti-Black racism is absolutely unacceptable in 2021, in Huntington Beach or anywhere else,” said Dave Min, a Democrat who represents Irvine.
The LA Times describes Huntington Beach as “a city notorious for its white supremacist scene”. The city has a well documented history involving both the Klu Klax Klan and Neo-Nazi groups. In recent years Orange County has seen a number of hate crimes and the creation of new far-right organizations.
Supporters of Ortiz and Van Der Mark are now attempting to recall Bolton, something they can’t do until Bolton has served at least 90 days on council. Those supporters are also trying to recall the rest of city council, except for Erik Peterson (who was viewed as Ortiz’s lone ally in city hall).