If you're a liberal, Allan Bartlett most definitely holds an opposing political view, but the amicable Irvine resident and city finance commission chairman isn't your typical, knee-jerk Orange County Republican. Sure, he'll roll his eyes at the mention of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, but in a county in which partisanship almost always trumps principle, regardless of party affiliation, Bartlett is a rare breed. He's a self-employed businessman and relentless political activist who is unafraid to challenge his own party and its characters, even powerful ones, when they screw up.
In 2012, Bartlett's reasons for leading an underdog revolt on the local Republican Party central committee to deny GOP Congressman John Campbell an endorsement were twofold. He loathed Campbell's vote for President George W. Bush's 2008 plan to send taxpayer money to private, Wall Street companies that made lousy investments. Worse, in Bartlett's view, was the wealthy congressman's elitist attitude that resulted in shunning contact with residents.
"He didn't want to get his hands dirty with us," says Bartlett, who, incredibly, managed to gather the votes to block a sitting congressman's endorsement. Campbell chose to not seek re-election in 2014. "He blamed not liking to take the trips back to D.C., but I like to think we had an impact on his decision."
Other examples illustrate Bartlett's independence. Though he grew up Catholic and graduated from Mater Dei High, he refused to remain silent about pedophile-priest scandals. Though a Republican, his libertarian leanings prompt him to loathe the Patriot Act and "NSA snooping" as sneaky assaults on freedom. Though an activist who supports real-estate development, he cherishes daily, 4-mile nature-trail walks near Irvine's Shady Canyon. Though married to his gorgeous wife, Lynn, he isn't alarmed by increasing legal protections for gay citizens. Though someone who gets misty-eyed looking at an American flag, he feels nothing but anger that "neo-conservatives" advocate a policy of "let's go bomb people at the first sign of a problem overseas," calling it "a colossal waste of lives and money."
Those are undeniable transformations for a guy who two decades ago stridently labeled himself a "raging neo-con" who took marching orders from Rush Limbaugh.
"I wasn't an original thinker," says the Bartlett of today, a potential future Irvine City Council candidate and Rand Paul backer hoping his outspokenness is contagious. "A lot of Republicans think like I think, but they feel like they just can't say it. I like to set a good example. It's okay to speak out and not take the party line every single time."
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His biggest political accomplishment?
"Being part of the team that defeated [Irvine Democratic boss, longtime councilman and squanderer of Great Park funds] Larry Agran in the last election," he says without hesitation. "At first, Agran was an honest left-winger, but he morphed into [being] totally corrupt."