In the race for Irvine’s next mayor, five candidates from a range of professional backgrounds are vying for the seat to represent the city for the next two years.

Incumbent Farrah Khan, who was in a first term on the City Council when she was elected mayor in 2020, is running for a second term. Her challengers include Branda Lin, a paralegal who started the local blog Irvine Watchdog; Simon Moon, a pastor at Irvine Onnuri Church and an Army reserve officer and chaplain; Tom Chomyn, a senior account executive; and Katherine Daigle, an author and former legal consulting firm president who has run for a number of elected positions over the years, including Irvine mayor and City Council.

The city’s mayor is elected every two years and is considered the presiding member of the City Council. Both the mayor and council members are limited to two consecutive terms in office.

Irvine is one of Orange County’s most populous cities and is one of only a handful of major cities that still conducts its elections at-large, meaning the mayor and all other candidates run to represent the entire city and the top vote-getters win the open seats.

In recent years, numerous municipalities and special districts up and down the state have switched to by-district elections, some in response to legal challenges over their voting methods.

But Irvine leaders earlier this year decided against putting a measure on November’s ballot that would have asked residents if the city should switch to district elections and if the council should expand its number of seats from five to seven.

Most mayor candidates said they were supportive of switching to district elections when asked during recent forums, some citing the potential for better representation of specific communities’ issues.

Lin during one forum argued holding at-large elections “actually makes it very difficult to run a viable campaign,” saying that “it’s cost prohibitive for people who lack major funding, perhaps from corporate donors, political action committees or labor unions” to run at-large, in part due to the cost of mailers and ads that need to be distributed throughout the city.

Khan during the same forum, held by the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, said it was a change she would support if district elections are “done the right way,” but added she’s wary whether the switch from at-large format would lead to fewer Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates than are on the dais now.

In addition to the elections question – which is sure to resurface – Irvine’s next mayor will enter the role amid a bevy of issues at play in the city, including ongoing calls to shut down the All American Asphalt plant, development plans to build out the Great Park, Irvine’s participation in the fledgling, but controversial, Orange County Power Authority and – like many other cities – concerns over housing affordability, development and inflation.

Among a list of needs Chomyn considers the most pressing facing Irvine right now is shutting down the OCPA, switching to district elections, closing the asphalt plant and creating a veteran’s park at the Great Park, he wrote in a response to a questionnaire sent to all candidates for November’s election.

Khan said “housing, transportation and environmental sustainability” were the city’s biggest needs, while Moon said a fix to Irvine’s “downturn in our quality of life in many of our villages and in the city overall.

“As a new mayor, I will enhance public safety and maintain lower taxes and a balanced city budget,” he added. “I will protect our residents from pollution and ensure to build retail centers in Great Park.”

Daigle listed high costs of living in Irvine as an important issue, as well as what she said is critical race theory being taught in Irvine Unified School District. Daigle during candidate forums and on her website has proclaimed she is against critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how race plays a role in society and how racism has been ingrained in legal institutions and policies. School officials in Orange County have said the typically college-level area of study is not being taught in K-12 schools, but opponents say the ideas have seeped into teachings.

As mayor, Daigle said she would advocate for school choice and “challenge” any critical race theory teachings.

Lin, who is a former Irvine Community Services commissioner, said affordable housing for Irvine’s growing workforce is a major need in the city right now, and if she were elected mayor, she’d “initiate a program to build partnerships that result in workforce housing close to jobs.”

“Developing mixed-use neighborhoods in the Irvine Business Complex and the Spectrum areas for different income levels with dependable shuttles to business hubs would alleviate traffic and workforce housing needs in these denser parts of the city,” Lin said.

Over the next several years, Irvine is faced with a state mandate of having to plan for almost 24,000 additional housing units to help meet the need in the region – more than any other city in Orange County. The candidates had varying suggestions for how to achieve this state planning requirement and meet the local demand for housing, while balancing the preservation of existing neighborhoods.

Khan said she has worked with city staff and developers to plan the units near the Irvine Business Complex, Great Park and Irvine Spectrum Center, “thereby maintaining our master planned communities while creating opportunities for dense/mixed-use housing with access to public transit.”

Daigle and Lin also suggested adding more housing units near transportation and retail centers and job locations. “This will preserve the existing villages central to Irvine while meeting housing needs,” Lin said.

Chomyn said the city could build a range of options including multi-use housing and single-family spaces. But Moon noted he’d first look at the city’s existing housing inventory “to provide more affordable, workforce housings for the residents, instead of looking to more extensive development.”

On why he thinks he would make a good leader for Irvine, Moon, who has been a pastor at Irvine Onnuri Church since 2013, said he would make it his “first duty” to “serve and protect Irvine residents.”

Lin said that while many residents feel unheard by the city’s leaders, her experience running Irvine Watchdog, a nonprofit organization, means she has “advocated alongside numerous community groups, provided a platform to share questions and concerns, and helped residents navigate our municipal government, regardless of my personal position on the issues.”

“I exemplify issue-focused leadership and shared community values in a nonpartisan manner – the way it should be in municipal government,” she said.

Khan touted her participation at community events and willingness to listen to and be accessible to residents as reasons she would make a good leader and representative of Irvine’s diverse communities.

“From standing up to hate against our API, Jewish and Black community members to celebrating our diversity through Pride, Juneteenth, Mid-Autumn festival, and Hispanic Heritage, all inaugural events – I have worked to uplift our diverse community to provide an inclusive and safe environment for all,” she said.

As mayor, Daigle said she would “bring together highly respected team leads to get this city in order,” and said her experience as an executive for a mid-sized company for 20 years makes her a capable leader.

Chomyn said part of what would make him a good mayor is that he’d advocate in favor of a site supporting veterans at the Great Park, honoring a 2020 citizen’s initiative to designate a piece of land at the park for that purpose. He’d also work to increase participation at City Council meetings, he said, suggesting “local town hall meetings on a quarterly basis to share the issues with the residents and bring them up to speed on the important issues of the city like the veterans park, OCPA, how district elections will benefit their section of the city.”

Election Day is Nov. 8, and ballots have been sent out to all registered voters in the city that can be mailed in by that day. Vote centers begin opening on Saturday for in-person voting and there are secure drop boxes for ballots available throughout the area. Find locations and other information at

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