Lee Lowrey, a local businessman known for raising money for political campaigns, is stepping out from his leadership position in a well-known political action committee to run for a seat on the Newport Beach City Council.
Lowrey, a registered Republican, filed paperwork this week declaring his intent to run for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island and the Fashion Island area.
“I’ve helped a lot of people volunteering and raising money for a lot of years, but I’ve always wanted the opportunity to actually run for office myself,” he said.
If elected, the 45-year-old Balboa Island resident would replace Councilman Ed Selich, who will be termed out this year after serving on the council since 2006. Mike Glenn, an 11-year Balboa Peninsula resident and activist, and Jeff Herdman, a 17-year Balboa Island resident, also have launched campaigns for the seat.
Lowrey, a resident of Newport Beach the past 18 years, moved to Balboa Island nearly two months ago. His wife, Sarah, used to live on the island and the two had long wanted to find a home there.
Lowrey recently co-founded Arbor Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Newport Beach specializing in real estate investment and development in Southern California and Colorado. Before that, Lowrey spent several years as a portfolio manager at Colony Capital managing real estate investment portfolios totaling more than $1 billion.
He said his experience in finance in the private sector would make him an asset as a councilman.
“Growing up during the Reagan years, I experienced the real benefits of a pro-work, pro-business and limited-government culture,” he said. “My passion for public service and a conservative philosophy of governance not only began with the Reagan revolution but continued up to now.”
Lowrey said that if he is elected, he would like to focus on financial transparency, budgetary oversight, improving Newport’s aging infrastructure and maintaining public safety resources.
Specifically, he said the incoming council will have to handle how to fund improvements to the city’s sewer system. The City Council recently turned down a staff proposal to increase customer sewer rates to fund repairs.
Lowrey said an increasing number of teenagers abusing heroin in local schools also is a cause for concern.
“As I learn more about it, I hope I can be someone who tries to bring that issue more to light,” he said.
Lowrey is no stranger to politics in and out of Orange County.
His interest in politics and government was spawned in 1988 as a volunteer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s first U.S. congressional campaign and continued in his time as a student at USC and in leadership roles as chairman of the Orange County Young Republicans.
Most recently, Lowrey has acted as founding chairman of the Atlas Political Action Committee, a non-candidate-controlled committee that raises money in support of certain candidates and in opposition to others.
The committee has supported council candidates in various Orange County cities, as well as politicians running for county supervisor, state Assembly and governor.
During the 2014 council election in Newport Beach, the committee spent thousands of dollars supporting then-candidates Scott Peotter, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Kevin Muldoon, who were ultimately elected. Atlas also spent thousands sending mailers opposing candidates Mike Toerge and incumbent Rush Hill, both of whom lost.
Three council seats are up for grabs in the November election, with at least two candidates running for each one.
Councilman Tony Petros, who represents District 2 — which includes Newport Heights and Newport Crest — is running for reelection. Shelley Henderson also is trying for the seat.
Local lawyers Phil Greer and Will O’Neill and former Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri are running to replace Councilman Keith Curry, who will be termed out of his seat representing District 7 (Newport Coast and Newport Ridge).
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