Tuesday, August 02, 2005 | The City Council decided Monday to hold elections on Nov. 8 for the two council seats that are up for grabs since Councilmen Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza resigned in light of their felony convictions.
San Diegans from Districts 2 and 8 will select new council members on the same date that voters citywide will choose between Councilwoman Donna Frye and former police chief Jerry Sanders to determine who will be the next mayor. San Diego’s contests will be tacked onto a statewide special election scheduled for that day, meaning the probable runoffs for the two vacant council seats will most likely be held in January.
Zucchet and Inzunza, from Districts 2 and 8, respectively, were convicted of accepting bribes from a strip club owner in exchange for helping repeal a city ordinance that banned nude dancers from touching patrons. Councilman Jim Madaffer was appointed mayor pro tem by the council Monday, allowing him to supervise the day-to-day functions of the offices vacated by Zucchet and Inzunza in addition to filling in for Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins as acting mayor when she is absent.
Potential candidates are currently lining up support from community groups and asking consultants to gauge their chances of winning Districts 2 and 8 after their former delegates stepped down a week following their guilty verdicts.
In the upcoming District 2 race, several individuals have been mentioned as possible candidates.
– Kathy Blavatt, a graphic designer and progressive activist, said she is considering a run. “I’ve had a couple hundred calls in the last few days asking me to run,” she said last week. A strong Frye supporter, Blavatt sits on the city’s Peninsula Community Planning Board, and is a co-founder of the San Diego Coastal Alliance. She has also been a vocal critic of redevelopment that uses eminent domain as well as the city’s agreement with the Corky McMillin Cos. to develop the Naval Training Center properties. She resides in Ocean Beach.
– Carolyn Chase, a planning commissioner and Pacific Beach resident, said she is probably going to run. City Hall insiders say she has been running since before Zucchet’s trial even started, but she maintains that the decision is still under consideration. Chase is a volunteer for the Frye campaign, a transit advocate and the political chair for the local Sierra Club chapter.
– Cynthia Conger, chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board, said she is considering running, but may not want to put up with the “big politics” that are required for the race. A realtor in Ocean Beach, Conger is a critic of redevelopment at NTC.
– Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Zucchet in 2002, did not return calls seeking comment but several political consultants said he has called them seeking advice about a potential run. Faulconer chairs the city’s Mission Bay Park Committee and has sat on advisory panels for the wetlands, charter reform and parks and recreation.
– Lorena Gonzalez was out of town when contacted for this story, but her brother, attorney Marco Gonzalez, said she is running. Lorena, an attorney herself, is active in local environmental groups and is Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante’s alternate to the state Lands Commission after serving as director in his Southern California office. Gonzalez and her brother successfully sued to have the wording of last November’s strong-mayor ballot initiative made more impartial. She is a volunteer for Frye’s mayoral campaign and resides in Crown Point.
– Bruce Henderson, former Pacific Beach councilman, said he is considering running but that it will be difficult for him to win because he believes the Spanos and Moores families, owners of the San Diego Chargers and Padres, respectively, will spend parts of their fortunes to defeat the avid critic of subsidies to both teams. Henderson’s criticism of the Charger ticket guarantee and the public financing of Petco Park extended into courtroom battles, but his name identification in a crowded field may prove helpful, some consultants said.
– Don Mullen, Zucchet’s policy chief, said he is also mulling a run. Mullen ran a surf shop in Pacific Beach before joining the District 2 staff, and was formerly the executive chair of the College Area Economic Development Corp. A number of people have asked him to run, he said, but he is still undecided.
-Wayne Raffesberger, like Faulconer, ran for the District 2 seat in 2002. Although he failed to reach the runoff, Raffesberger was later appointed to the city’s powerful downtown redevelopment arm, the Center City Development Corp. The land-use attorney has resided in Point Loma for two decades and has in the past chaired the area’s town council and served on the Peninsula Community Planning Board. Raffesberger was also one of 26 members of the NTC Base Reuse Committee.
Raffesberger said he does not know whether he will run.
“It is pretty flattering and, frankly, some fairly prominent folks are asking me to run,” he said.
– Ian Trowbridge, a retired Salk Institute professor, said he wants to wait out the filing period to see if any other like-minded City Hall critics will run.
“I will only run if no other independent, progressive candidate comes forward,” said Trowbridge, a Mission Hills resident.
The British-born gadfly worked at Salk for 30 years, retiring as the director of cancer biology.
In District 8, several residents said they were thinking about throwing their hat in the ring.
– Luis Acle, the newly elected president of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education, has been preoccupied the past few weeks with the installation of a new superintendent, but has been mulling the idea of a run at the council seat, political consultants say.
– Richard Barrera, the San Diego-Imperial Counties regional director for the United Domestic Workers of America, said he will run only if he can convince himself that he can help District 8 residents on the same level he feels he does now. When Inzunza’s seat became available in 2000, he led a voter information effort that resulted in the district’s highest ever turnout for a council-only election.
– Richard Babcock, a pollster whose Datamar surveys were featured prominently in the recent mayoral primary, is one of the few Republicans pondering a run. The Golden Hill resident has been involved locally in the Southeastern Development Corp. and Casa Familiar. He said his decision hinges on his family’s interests in enduring the scrutiny of a campaign. Babcock is the chair of the San Diego chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
– Dan Coffey, a private attorney, said he will pull candidacy papers but that he will hold off until the field of opponents shapes up. Coffey, an Otay Mesa Democrat, recently resigned from the Park and Recreation Board in protest of the treatment of volunteers, such as the pension trustees, by City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Coffey and his wife, Pepper, were both ardent opponents of the Brown Field airport proposals, and Coffey claims that defeating the proposal saved the city $500 million. Pepper Coffey was also rumored to be running, but she denied any intentions Monday.
– Raoul Lowery Contreras, an author and syndicated columnist, said he wants to wait to see if Acle or Babcock runs before tossing his hat into the ring. Contreras currently lives in Del Mar Heights, but said he will move back to Logan Heights, where he has resided before, to qualify for holding office. Contreras currently operates a tour group, but has continued to pen a column that has at times been carried nationally. His commentaries run in the North County Times every two weeks and regularly at Calnews.com. Contreras also sat on the Proposition C steering committee, the panel charged with garnering support for Petco Park.
Candidacy papers will be made available by the City Clerk’s Office today and must be filed by Aug. 12.
Before the council voted to consolidate the elections, Henderson, alongside former county Supervisor Lou Conde, Mount Soledad Cross proponent Phil Thalheimer and others released a proposal to conduct the district elections by mail-in ballot. Henderson, who heads the Association of Concerned Taxpayers, said the move would allow voters to more rapidly fill the vacant council seats, as early as Sept. 19 and as late as Oct. 31.
“If we delay filling these seats by filling them six months from now, we’re waiting too long,” Henderson said.
Henderson highlighted gadfly Mel Shapiro’s idea to run debates and video statements by the candidates on Channel 24, the city government-run television station, to reduce the pressure of fundraising to purchase expensive advertising time on private channels. He also called for a Grand Jury audit of the July 26 election, which the county Registrar of Voters estimated to cost $3 million.
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