Lydia Sondhi (R-Cypress) served on her City Council from 1998 until terming out in 2006. Councilmen Phil Luebben and Todd Seymore are termed out this year, creating the first open seats on the Cypress Council since Sondhi, Frank McCoy, and Mike McGill all termed out in 2006.
Sondhi’s husband, Jay Sondhi, pulled papers for Council on the first day papers could be pulled, Monday, July 16, and then filed them on Friday, July 20.
The Law Offices of Jay Sondhi are located in Cypress. Sondhi graduated from the University of Missouri Law School and was admitted to the California Bar in 1986. He was a corporate attorney who spent two decades in insurance. He’s now a legal consultant for insurance companies. Sondhi is a Cypress Chamber Board Member, the Treasurer of the Cypress Police Foundation, the President-Elect of the Cypress Kiwanis, and a former President of the Cypress Boys & Girls Club.
Lydia Sondhi was Mayor Pro Tem of Cypress in 2001 and Mayor in both 2002 and 2006. (She was on the Cypress Council during the City’s effort to seize land owned by Cottonwood Church to give to Costco, but she did not vote on the issue due to a conflict of interest from her home’s proximity to the land in question.) She came in third out of ten candidates for three council seats when Frank McCoy, Mike McGill, and she all won their first council terms in 1998 (future Councilman Todd Seymore came in ninth out of ten). She came in third out of eight candidates for three council seats when McGill, McCoy, and she were all re-elected in 2002. She has been a Professor of Consumer Affairs at California State University Long Beach since 1986 and previously served on the executive board of the California Faculty Association, the CSU professors’ union.
It looks like Sondhi will be downplaying his wife’s prior council tenure during the campaign, as the press release announcing his candidacy only made this brief half-sentence mention of his wife: “Jay Sondhi is married to Lydia Sondhi and has lived in Cypress for 26 years.”
Sondhi likely realizes Orange Countians aren’t exactly keen about electing spouses of living elected officials:
- In 2010, Sandra Crandall didn’t even mention her husband’s name in her campaign biography in her successful bid for the Fountain Valley School Board. Her husband, Larry, has been on the Fountain Valley City Council since 1998 and was on the school board from 1990-1998.
- In 2009, Linda Ackerman made an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly. The press coverage of that race repeatedly mentioned her husband, former Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman.
- In 2006, Dianne Harman made an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly. The press coverage of that race repeatedly mentioned that the incumbent, Tom Harman, was her husband.
- In 2004, Gayle Pacheco made an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly. Bob Huff came in first in all three counties but Pacheco came in third in Orange County while coming in second in both Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. (Villa Park Councilman Bill MacAloney came in second in Orange County and third in the other two.) Her campaign’s press releases repeatedly mentioned that the incumbent, Bob Pacheco, was her husband.
- In 1980, Beverly Nestande made an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly seat vacated by her husband, Bruce, when he won a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
(Widows and widowers are rarely tested, as relatively few Orange County officials have died in office in seats where special elections were held to fill the vacancies; OC’s dead elected officials have generally held offices where vacancies are filled by appointment.)
While a number of political spouses have been successful in California politics (George and Sharon Runner, Tony and Audra Strickland, Judy Chu and Mike Eng, and Ted and Beth Gaines), few have been successful in Orange County.