Huntington Beach's police and fire associations have endorsed the same three candidates for City Council this year, each backing Jill Hardy, Jim Katapodis and Billy O'Connell out of the field of 12 contenders.
The Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn. selected the candidates last week, according to President Jason Melschau. The Huntington Beach Firefighter's Assn. endorsed the trio in an undated post on its website.
Melschau said the association's committee conducted interviews with all the candidates who responded, although he declined to give an exact number. High on the association's list of priorities is maintaining police staffing, which Melschau said is currently at "below 1986 levels" for the city despite the population increase over the last quarter-century.
"They're proponents of public safety in the city of Huntington Beach, obviously, and safe communities," he said of the three candidates. "They have a fiscally responsible approach to the budget."
Fire association President Darrin Witt said his group conducted interviews separately from the police association, but when the two groups shared their endorsements with each other, they found they had made the same call.
"Once we met with them, it became clear that those were three candidates who really put public safety to the forefront," he said. "It's very challenging times, obviously, with budget issues and other things going on in the city, and those three candidates really stood out above the rest in wanting to put public safety first."
In recent years, police and fire endorsements have often been indicators of victory in Huntington Beach. For a stretch over the last decade, every candidate who got public safety backing went on to win: Don Hansen and Keith Bohr in 2004, Gil Coerper, Cathy Green and Hardy in 2006, and Hansen, Bohr and Devin Dwyer in 2008.
In 2010, both associations backed Joe Carchio and Connie Boardman, who won seats on the dais. However, the other candidates they favored came up short: Katapodis, endorsed by the police, Blair Farley, endorsed by the firefighters, and Fred Speaker, endorsed by both.
Hardy, a Marina High School math teacher and former mayor, was termed out in 2010. Katapodis, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, and O'Connell, executive director of the nonprofit Colette's Children's Home, both ran unsuccessfully two years ago.
Hardy has racked up several other endorsements in recent weeks. Huntington Beach Tomorrow, a grass-roots group dedicated to community advocacy, announced earlier this month that it has endorsed her and former Mayor Dave Sullivan.
The group declared its endorsements after sending a questionnaire to all 12 candidates in the race. Sullivan, who served on the council from 1992 to 2000 and from 2002 to 2006, is the only former mayor running this year.
"Jill Hardy and Dave Sullivan have gained valuable experience and knowledge over decades of service as members of city boards and commissions and as council members and mayors on the Huntington Beach City Council," the group's release stated. "Their service has produced many positive results for the citizens of Huntington Beach."
David Rice, president of HB Neighbors, has also endorsed both candidates, while Boardman and Kim Kramer, leader of the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn., have backed Hardy.
The election will take place Nov. 6.