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Tuesday, November 08, 2005 | As was the case in 2002, the voters of Districts 2 and 8 will be lining up at their local polling places Tuesday to elect someone to represent them on the City Council.
This time, however, the ballot will be filled with many more names in both races, and voters will be looking to the candidates for more than just filling potholes, beefing up police in the neighborhood, and keeping jobs in the area.
The 2002 council election resulted in the installation of two young, charming up-and-comers on the City Hall scene. Both Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza – who were elected to represent Districts 2 and 8, respectively – both served in council offices before running their own. In August 2003, both, along with the late Councilman Charles Lewis, were indicted on charges that they had taken money from a Las Vegas strip club owner in exchange for their promise that the city’s “no-touch” ordinance would be repealed.
This summer, a federal jury convicted both councilmen as well as the strip club’s lobbyist on corruption charges, effectively suspending Zucchet and Inzunza from their elected posts. Both men resigned within a week, opening up their council seats for the 17 contenders in District 2 and the nine in District 8.
Tuesday’s election comes two days before both fallen politicos are sentenced by a federal judge. Both councilmen say they are appealing the guilty verdicts.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent on Tuesday, the top two vote-getting candidates in each race will square off in a runoff, which is scheduled for Jan. 10.
The two new council members will have more on their plate than their district-specific responsibilities. When elected, they will be making decisions on how the city will set its finances straight in the wake of various federal and local probes into the government’s books, working to restore a disconnect of trust between their constituents and City Hall, and embarking on the mystery that will be the strong-mayor form of governance. The city switches to the new governing structure on Jan. 3.
Read the candidates’ ideas on citywide issues such as the pension, bankruptcy and redevelopment as well as district-specific issues.
Political consultant Jennifer Tierney, who is working for District 2 candidate Kevin Faulconer’s campaign, said that this election’s climate has changed from when she advised Zucchet three years ago.
“The idea of corruption in city government wasn’t on anybody’s radar in that race,” Tierney said. “It was all about police and fire, clean beaches and bays. Those are important this time around, but now it’s about who can fix the finances so that we can pay to keep the beaches and bays clean.”
Marco Polo Cortes, a South Bay consultant, said District 8 residents are looking for a candidate they can trust to do what’s right for the older, southern neighborhoods. Citywide issues are important, he said, but the District 8 voters want to know when their sidewalks and streets are going to be looking as nice as those around the rest of town.
“There are going to be some challenges for the next council person,” Cortes said. “There have been lost opportunities in the district and it gets to your psyche. If there’s a broken window and nobody comes to fix it, it’s going to play on you.”
The partisan breakdown in both districts has changed slightly as well, becoming slightly less conservative with more voters breaking away from the two major political parties. The demographic shift may have some effect on the election’s results, but the attention paid to more publicized ballot measures – the mayor’s race and the state propositions – will likely mean that voters will vote for candidates whose name they recognize from mail pieces and yard signs.
“This will come down to name I.D.,” former political consultant John Dadian said. “The corruption cases haven’t really come up.”
Read how candidates have been trying to convey their message to the voters.
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