Orange County

Former West Covina Mayor Mike Spence Found Dead in Motel Room

What to Know

  • Former West Covina Mayor Mike Spence was found unconscious in a hotel room in Costa Mesa on May 4, 2018
  • A woman placed a call to 911 suggesting he had overdosed on heroin.
  • Spence was not arrested, but police filed a case with prosecutors who found no evidence of a crime

Mike Spence, a former Southern California mayor and longtime conservative activist who openly struggled with substance abuse, was found dead in a Southern California motel room. He was 52.

An autopsy is pending. Police said an initial investigation is looking into the possibility of an overdose, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported Friday.

Spence was a former mayor of West Covina, a former president of the conservative California Republican Assembly and a familiar figure in state GOP circles.

Authorities were summoned to the Ontario, California, hotel after staff reported finding an unresponsive man in a room. Spence was pronounced dead at the scene.

Last May, police found Spence unconscious in a Costa Mesa, California, hotel with what were described as controlled-substance items. He was later stripped of the title of mayor. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of methamphetamine after driving his car into a utility pole in 2016.

His substance abuse problems belied his reputation as a devout, conservative politician known to rail against runaway government spending, liberal values and taxes.

He accused Republican moderates of "castrating conservative ideas" in 2011 when they proposed a rewrite of the California Republican Party platform that retreated from opposition to same-sex adoption and avoided any mention of overturning the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Steve Frank, a conservative activist and blogger who had known Spence for decades, said friends had tried to steer Spence into rehabilitation programs to deal with his "demons."

"How could you say that someone who is a devout Mormon and as solid a conservative as you would want to know ... is a drug addict?" he asked.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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