Wednesday, April 27, 2005 | The City Council is expected to make a decision next week on how to proceed after Mayor Dick Murphy’s resignation on Monday. Whether it’s by appointment or through a special election, someone is going to be selected to take a crack at righting the Good Ship San Diego.

When Voice made its rounds to learn where the allegiances in the Political Peanut Gallery lie, it seemed difficult for the insiders, community leaders and gadflies to give their honest opinion before the “rumored candidates” became the “official candidates.”

Here’s a rundown of the potential candidates and some gut feelings from the anonymous Political Peanut Gallery.

Dede Alpert. A seasoned Democratic legislator with two terms in the state Senate and three terms in the Assembly, she is most recognized as an advocate for strengthening public education. But the key to Alpert may be that she is being heralded by some as the compromiser San Diego needs. She is currently a senior college commissioner for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “Experienced, but does she want it?”

– “Yesterday’s news.”

– “The perfect choice.”

Alan Bersin. He will step down from his post as superintendent of San Diego City Schools on June 30, just in time for a run at a position slightly more controversial than his last. His controversial doctrine, “Blueprint for Student Success,” was labeled as innovative to reformers and cumbersome to teachers. Bersin is admired and hated for the persistence he exhibits at City Schools. Bersin served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California for five years and practiced law in Los Angeles before that.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “The California Teachers Association would kill us.”

– “I could be drawn and quartered for this, but he had knowledge about the region and its problems before he became superintendent and I believe he is a person of integrity.”

– “Same height and toughness as [City Attorney Mike] Aguirre.”

Stephen Cushman. When the City Council considered a living wage this month, the president of Cush Automotive Group spoke out in favor of the city’s workers. A businessman sympathetic to labor? Get out! Cushman currently sits as a commissioner for the Unified Port of San Diego and held chairman posts for the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Convention Center Corp.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “The king of compromise.”

– “A well-known and respected businessman who is very involved in community affairs. I’m just not sure about his out-front political leadership.”

– “The last thing we need is a used car salesman to lead San Diego.”

Peter Q. Davis. A successful banker who would be running for mayor his third time if he decided to jump into a special election. Besides his visibility in past mayoral campaigns, Davis has chaired both the Unified Port of San Diego and the Centre City Development Corp., the city’s downtown redevelopment panel.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “The Mount Rushmore of San Diego, he’s solid.”

– “The wrong man.”

– “One more loss and he would fit into the three-strike rule.”

Bob Filner. Before representing a South Bay district in the U.S. House, Congressman Bob taught history at San Diego State University and entered politics as a board member of City Schools. Filner was elected to the San Diego City Council in the ’80s. Currently in his seventh term, he prides himself as “California’s Border Congressman” and a champion of veterans’ causes.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “He’s mean and he’s ugly, but he’s tough.”

– “He’s something of a hero to me with his commitment to the underserved community, but he has more power to do good in Congress.”

– “He’s always wanted to be mayor.”

Donna Frye. Her status as the minority of one on the council has helped her distance herself from today’s mess at City Hall. She became a local star and national media darling after nearly winning November’s mayoral election. In fact, many believe she’s the rightful winner and the favorite as of today. The election of a left-winger scares the trousers and suspenders off of the downtown business crew, and her allegiance to Aguirre could alienate her labor support as well.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “I can’t remember if I filled in the bubble or not, but I saw her as a breath of fresh air and was very unhappy with the things she said and did as the post-election drama unfolded.”

– “The current San Diego rockstar.”

– “The public loves her, but do they really know her?”

Brian Maienschein

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “A North County loser fresh from the white guy factory.”

– “A well-dressed empty suit.”

– “A thoughtful decision maker, but is he too safe?”

Steve Peace. The former state senator and state budget director wrote the horror movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and is blamed by some for another horror: the state’s 2001 energy crisis. Peace helped craft the 1996 energy deregulation plan and had contemplated statewide office a few years ago.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “A visionary who may still be shocked by energy deregulation.”

– “The man behind the ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’ running our city? No thank you.”

– “Wow, wouldn’t that rock the foundation of City Hall?”

Scott Peters. He’s an environmental attorney who made environmentalists really mad by allowing La Jollans to swim with seals. Peters’ middle-of-the-road ideology may appeal to many at this time, but his ties to the current problems and the mayor are likely to be key issues in an election that will center on the pension plan and City Hall crisis.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “He’s a consummate liar, but good at it.”

– “He survived a big re-election, but can he move up a weight class?”

– “Scott Peters would be better off running for the mayor of Tijuana.”

Ron Roberts. Could the fourth time be a charm? Roberts has run for, and lost, the mayoral seat three times. He’s a career politician with definite name recognition. A fourth try could be too much for the former councilman and would cut into the fundraising and organizing needed for an anticipated challenge to his supervisor seat from City Councilwoman Toni Atkins in 2006.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “You wonder what would’ve happened had he won.”

– “A great guy, but please retire.”

– “Is seventh time the charm?”

Jerry Sanders. This former police chief came up through the rank and file of the department. He is credited with reorganizing a once-wayward United Way and has gone on to be chief operating officer of Virtual Capital of California, a firm that works to bring technologies from universities to corporations.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “I thought his tenure as police chief was too short. I’m not sure what plan he would have in mind, but he’s someone I would trust to put everything into it.”

– “We thought we had a good guy in Murphy.”

– “Given the number of indictments coming down, having a former police chief as mayor might make some sense.”

Pat Shea. A local attorney who made a reputation – and allegedly a fortune – working in the Orange County bankruptcy case. His wife is pension whistleblower Diann Shipione and his good friend is City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Those two tidbits serve as both his electoral strengths and weaknesses, depending on the crowd. He is buddies with both Donna Frye and President Bush, which is confusing.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “The man behind the woman.”

– “If we can’t have a cargo airport, there will be plenty of baggage at City Hall.”

– “He did get Orange County out of bankruptcy.”

Juan Vargas. A charismatic former councilman and current state assemblyman. Vargas, a Latino with plenty of appeal north of Interstate 8, is gearing up to challenge Rep. Bob Filner for his congressional seat. It’s a job he’s reportedly coveted his entire career.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “A charismatic Latino who doesn’t scare the white voters north of I-8.”

– “Nobody knows what Juan’s running for these days.”

– “He’s Harvard-trained, but didn’t we already have someone like that?”

Pete Wilson. Wasn’t this guy already mayor? The boyish Wilson served as San Diego’s leader from 1971 to 1983 where he broke ground on the downtown redevelopment efforts and imposed property tax cuts and growth limits on the city’s budget. Wilson went on to the U.S. Senate and the Sacramento statehouse where as governor he lost his edge as a moderate by coming down hard on illegal immigration and environmental regulation. Since making a run at the White House in 1996, he has held a fellow position at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute and now lives in Los Angeles.

The Political Peanut Gallery says:

– “He was the strong mayor before there was a strong mayor. And I can hear the Hispanic community screaming from here.”

– “Old-school Pete Wilson would be great, but he sold his soul to the devil.”

– “As the man riding into the sunset, maybe he should ride back into town.”

– Voice Staff

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