While Orange County Republicans celebrated the re-election of George W. Bush and their governor’s triumphs on various statewide ballot initiatives, one result dumbfounded them: Irvine’s solid support for Larry Agran and his liberal slate.

“What the hell happened?” asked GOP strategist Mike Schroeder as he stared at election results around midnight inside the local party’s War Room at the Sutton Place Hotel. “I’ve got to hope it’s just early.”

But Wednesday dawned, and the Republicans were no better. Agran ally Beth Krom defeated Mike Ward for mayor. Agran and fellow Democrat Sukhee Kang grabbed two of three open council seats. Only Steven Choi, the least prominent of the Republicans, won. He’ll join Christina Shea as the only two conservatives on the council.

The results shouldn’t have been a surprise. Like Bush, Agran peddled fear. In a whopping 35 negative mail brochures against his “Irvine First” opponents, Agran falsely claimed that Ward planned to build a casino or a racetrack at the Great Park and that Greg Smith is a stooge for “out-of-town interests” who want to build an airport at El Toro.

“Larry clearly doesn’t bother with the truth,” said Sergio Prince, campaign strategist for the Republican candidates. “The guy is devious.”

In a county where Republicans usually outfox inattentive Democrats, Agran is in a league of his own. Not content to rely on merely smearing his opponents and overstating his own accomplishments, Agran also insured Krom’s election as mayor by running Earle Zucht, a fake Republican, to steal GOP votes from Ward.

Who secretly managed Republican Earle Zucht’s campaign? Agran.

Who paid for Zucht’s five glossy mailers sent to Republican households? Agran.

Who inspired Zucht’s fraudulent message to Republicans that Ward is a Democrat? Agran.

The scheme worked. Zucht siphoned 3,500 conservative voters away from Ward. Krom won by 1,500 votes.

Victorious, Agran can now celebrate for a couple of days, plot revenge on his defeated opponents and pray the grand jury doesn’t turn its attention to Irvine.

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