From OC to DC: Former Irvine Mayor Runs for Congress

Former Irvine Mayor Beth Krom announced her bid for Congress against incumbent Congressman John Campbell on March 9. Although the Republican congressman has been challenged before by Democratic candidates like Steve Young, who ran for two terms unsuccessfully against the better-known Campbell, none of them have ever been able to have a fighting chance due to lack of funds or lack of reputation.

Enter Krom. As the former mayor and city council member here in Irvine, Krom believes she is just the person to bring “real change” to both the 48th District and to Washington.

What made Krom so confident in trying to run against Campbell, who has occupied the seat since a special election in 2005? What set her apart from other Democratic candidates in Orange County’s political history? After all, Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook went up against Republican Dana Rohrbacher this past November and only garnered 42 percent of the vote.

“Every district is different,” said Krom. “I’m proud of Debbie, and [Steve] Young built a solid organization, and they should be commended for running an uphill battle. But unless you’re independently wealthy or have a track record, it’s hard to gain votes.”

Unlike these other candidates, Krom stated she has the track record and broad network of constituents and political friends that will help her bring in the funds necessary for running a successful campaign. Aside from money and connections, Krom believes she understands the issues better than Campbell.

“I have every intention of coming before the people to discuss the issues. [Campbell] has refused all invitations for debate, including a congressional panel that was supposed to take place at UC Irvine. You can’t represent the people if you never meet them,” Krom said.

Krom has met with the public through a variety of fundraising events and appearances. An event at Crystal Jade Restaurant in Irvine was geared specifically towards young voters. It seems as if it is these same young voters she is trying to reach through her campaign techniques. Not only does the Krom Campaign have a Web site, but it is also equipped with Facebook and Twitter. Although she believes that there is no substitute for face-to-face contact for her, one of the most interesting parts of the campaign thus far has been learning how to reach her audience through these technological pathways.

Issues that affect young people, including UCI students, are a main focus for Krom. As a former teacher and a strong advocate for a better educational system, Krom is committed to ensuring that the future workforce of America is given the support it needs.

“I support what’s happening at the federal level to stabilize the economy, but I believe that you can’t cut funding for higher education when they are the future,” Krom said.

She then laid out three essential aspects to developing society forward: education, the arts, and science/technology. Not only is she a strong advocate for better funding and access to education, but she also has a respect for not burning through the economy.

In the realm of primary education, Krom is planning on pushing for the federal government to fulfill its financial obligations to the state.

“Education funding in California is a byproduct of state and federal decisions,” Krom said.

In Orange County, for example, some areas and schools thrive while others, such as those in Santa Ana, are slowly crumbling.

“The federal government is not meeting [its] obligation fully for certain types of education, for example, special education,” Krom said.

Krom further detailed her stance on education.

“[It is] important to move the conversation away from the assumption that teachers are bad and that education itself is subversive … Having access to education is important and teachers need to be given resources and smaller class sizes.”

She also encourages families to partner with schools and the state.

“[The] measure of a society is how we treat the most vulnerable … we have to rebuild our country by investing,” Krom said.

Krom’s practicality and business-mindedness have been exemplified through her service to the city of Irvine, both as mayor and city council member. While in office she tripled the city’s financial reserves to more than $30 million. These and other factors have allowed Irvine to become one of the most recession-proof cities in the country.

“Irvine has more jobs than any other city in O.C., but has also lost the most … we will bounce back quickly despite feeling the economic crisis,” Krom said.

Krom describes her city as a major center for finance, medicine and technology. With UCI as the largest employer in the city and many other companies that provide work, Irvine is a great place for recent graduates to settle down. UCI is not only a big employer, but as one of the top public research universities in the state, the university has a certain reputation for excellence that attracts both new students and highly intelligent human capital to the city.

“Everything that is taught at UCI has real-world application. We are working to expand the resources available to its students,” Krom explained.

Because of UCI’s position within the community, Krom believes that the district needs a representative who will care about the issues that are important. With UCI at the forefront, Krom hopes that all the cities in the 48th district will embrace the spirit of innovation.

Krom has also pushed forward the development of Irvine’s Great Metropolitan Park. Responding in part to complaints that Irvine is boring and not conducive to college life, Krom describes how the Great Park will appeal not only to kids and families, but to young adults as well.

“[It will be a] de facto campus environment for those attending universities in O.C.,” Krom said.

The development board has attempted to enhance the relationship between the city and young adults and has even worked with UCI Chancellor Michael Drake in order to bring students into the conversation about the park. All in all, Krom believes she is a strong candidate who will have the courage to move the district forward.

After the formal questioning, I decided to get more in touch with Council member Krom. She describes herself as short, funny and determined. When asked which team she’d choose, “Team Jen” or “Team Angelina,” she responded like a true politician.

“Both of them are strong independent women; Jen has shown that she is resilient and above the gossip, and Angelina has shown that any person can move beyond their circumstances if they try hard enough. They’re over it, so I think that we should be too,” Krom said.

Lastly, I put her on the spot by asking her how she embodied the “Anteater Spirit.”

“Peter the Anteater and I have spent a lot of time together,” Krom laughed, throwing up the “ZOT” sign.

“UCI has always been comfortable in [its] own shoes, and its spirit is really about not marching to anyone else’s beat,” Krom said.

This not only describes UCI, but Krom herself. As a truly unique candidate who is focused on being accessible and available to those she serves, Krom provides heavy competition for Campbell.

Regardless of the outcome, it will definitely be an interesting race with a candidate as determined as Krom on the congressional stage.