By Collin Breaux | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @collin_breaux
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 28 to include information from a Libertarian Party of Orange County press release and Oct. 29 to include comments from John Alpay.
Days before the Nov. 3 general election, city council candidate Howard Hart is able to resume campaigning after the Libertarian Party of Orange County rescinded its endorsement of his political rival John Alpay.
Hart and Alpay are vying for the District 5 seat on the San Juan Capistrano City Council. Alpay has alleged that Hart, as a federal employee with the Department of Homeland Security, violated the Hatch Act since Alpay received endorsements from the Libertarian Party of California and Orange County, therefore turning the city council race—traditionally a nonpartisan election—into a partisan one.
Those endorsements have since been reversed. Hart shared an email with The Capistrano Dispatch from Libertarian Party of Orange County (LPOC) Chair David Naranjo, in which Naranjo told Hart the LPOC Executive Committee rescinded its endorsement of Alpay this past weekend.
“I am very happy that San Juan voters in District 5 will have a choice for their next city council candidate,” Hart said. “Though remaining silent for the most crucial period of the election cycle was difficult, I am humbled by the support I have seen towards myself and my family from members of the community in the past few weeks.”
In a press release sent Wednesday, Oct. 28, the LPOC said the rescinding of Alpay’s endorsement was made after Hart asked the party’s Executive Committee to reconsider its endorsement after Alpay filed the complaint. The committee opened an internal inquiry and spoke with both candidates.
“As a policy matter, we do not agree with the authority granted to the OSC—to arbitrarily declare an election designated as nonpartisan by state or local law to be partisan—it reduces voter choice and limits their right to consider all legitimate alternatives,” the LPOC press release said. “We find it highly problematic that a federal employee running for office could be held accountable for the actions of another candidate who engages in typical electioneering activities. In addition, the OSC’s delay in deciding this matter has deprived voters of important information to consider when casting their ballots.”
In a statement sent Oct. 29, Alpay’s campaign said he was still in possession of the LPOC’s endorsement. The press release said, under LPOC bylaws, the LPOC Executive Committee must call a meeting—requiring at least seven days’ prior—to either endorse a candidate or, by implication, revoke an endorsement.
“Since its last meeting of September 23, 2020, the LPOC has not provided any proper notice of any Executive Committee meeting,” Alpay’s campaign said. “As LPOC has not provided any proper notice pursuant to its bylaws and with the November 3rd general election only six days away, John Alpay for San Juan Capistrano City Council District 5 is continuing its campaign with prominent use of the LPOC endorsement which was originally approved by the LPOC Executive Committee on September 23, 2020.”
LPOC Chair David Naranjo said Alpay is correct that the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Orange County may endorse a candidate and rescind an endorsement, but mistaken that a formal meeting of the Executive Committee must be called.
“Our party bylaws state that the Executive Committee may ‘conduct business in-person and by telephone, mail, email, or other communication method’ (Article VI, Section 1, Part D). Mr. Alpay’s endorsement was rescinded by email ballot,” Naranjo said. “Mr. Alpay may seek to overturn any action of the Executive Committee by getting a majority vote of the Central Committee of the Libertarian Party of Orange County (Article VI, Section 1, Part C).”
Since Alpay is a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party of Orange County—which makes him a member of the Central Committee—he may call a special meeting of the Central Committee, which would require a minimum 14-day advance notice, Naranjo said.
“Until such time as the Central Committee of the Libertarian Party of Orange County overturns the action of the Executive Committee, the rescinding of Mr. Alpay’s endorsement stands,” Naranjo said. “As a result, any current use of the Libertarian Party of Orange County’s endorsement by Mr. Alpay is unauthorized.”
In response, Alpay said Naranjo “seems to suggest that I am subject to a 14-day period but notably refuses to address the 7-day period required for himself and the Executive Committee.”
“I am grateful for his admission by omission,” Alpay said. “Otherwise, his suggested interpretation of the bylaws would be strained and inconsistent with the Libertarian Party Statement of Principles Mr. Naranjo professes to uphold.”
Hart said he is going to continue his campaign and discuss the topics of interest to San Juan voters, and encourages Alpay to do the same.
“The Libertarian Party of Orange County has already spoken in a press release which clearly outlines their decision to rescind Mr. Alpay’s endorsement,” Hart said. “If Mr. Alpay wishes to live with the fantasy of an endorsement he no longer has, that is his prerogative.”
The LPOC said Alpay applied for an endorsement on Sept. 17 and was granted the endorsement on Sept. 23 after being interviewed by the Executive Committee.
“The party may endorse candidates for nonpartisan office who are registered to vote Libertarian or No Party Preference,” the Sept. 28 press release from the LPOC said. “Mr. Alpay was endorsed because of his support for limited and less intrusive government, and economic growth—his positions on issues generally line up with Libertarian principles.”
Alpay’s endorsement from the Libertarian Party of California was deemed null and void on Oct. 5 during an Executive Committee meeting of the party, since Alpay was not registered as a Libertarian at the time of the endorsement.
The Hatch Act is a United States federal law that, in general terms, prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity.
Hart received the go-ahead to resume campaigning from the Office of Special Counsel—which Alpay had registered his complaint with—after the LPOC’s decision. Hart had temporarily ceased campaigning after Alpay’s allegation, but he has remained on the ballot throughout the election.