Wednesday, November 09, 2005 | The election to replace two former city councilmen who were convicted of taking illegal campaign contributions was won by the candidates who raised the most money and appeared to already have community connections, although no candidate won Tuesday’s council primary outright.

Public relations executive Kevin Faulconer of Point Loma and organizational consultant Ben Hueso of Logan Heights won the most votes in the Districts 2 and 8 council races, respectively, but the multitude of candidates in both contests allowed neither candidate to garner the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Faulconer, who won 35 percent, will square off against environmental attorney Lorena Gonzalez of Crown Point in a runoff election for the vacant District 2 seat. Gonzalez garnered nearly 25 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

Hueso won the District 8 primary with about 39 percent of the vote. He will compete against school board president Luis Acle of Golden Hill, who finished second with about 19 percent.

Both runoff elections are scheduled for Jan. 10. The runoff winners will join the council after the city transitions to a strong-mayor form of governance, and will face myriad challenges ranging from ongoing investigations into the city’s financial dealings as well as how to tackle the city’s ongoing budget obstacles.

The primary race unofficially began in July after the convictions of former Councilmen Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza, who were found guilty by a federal jury to have accepted campaign contributions from a strip club owner in exchange for the elected officials’ word that they would help lift the city’s ban on touching at adult entertainment parlors. Zucchet and Inzunza contended their actions were just doing their jobs, and that campaign donors often speak with officials about public policy.

The advancing campaigns touted their message and experience as the reasons for their success.

“People want someone who is involved in the community but not immersed in the City Hall culture,” Faulconer said.

However the throngs of “also-rans” feel they were just that because of the political connections and well-stocked campaign coffers of their victors.

“I learned a lesson with respect to money deciding races, and that lesson is that we haven’t learned our lesson,” said retired carpet business owner Greg Finley of Point Loma. “This race was supposed to be about avoiding the mistakes that got us into this mess.”

More than $350,000 was spent on behalf of Faulconer after combining the expenditures of his own campaign committee; independent spending from groups such as the firefighters union, the conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a local association of apartment landlords and hotelier C. Terry Brown; and the local Republican Party’s advertisements to voters registered with the GOP.

The $350,000 figure used for pro-Faulconer yard signs, direct-mail ads and phone banks was seven times more than all of the combined expenditures spent on behalf of Gonzalez, the next highest spender.

About $50,000 was spent on Gonzalez’s behalf through her campaign committee; the independent expenditures of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the county Democratic Party’s efforts to communicate with voters in District 2 who were registered Democrat.

District 2’s third place candidate, planning commissioner Carolyn Chase of Pacific Beach, won nearly 9 percent of the vote. Chase trailed Gonzalez by 16 percent.

As was the case with District 2, the two District 8 campaigns with the most money spent on their behalf also advanced to the runoff. More than $89,000 was spent on Acle’s cause after combing his campaign committee’s own expenditures; the independent spending by the local Lincoln Club and Brown, owner of the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center; and the member communications of the Republican Party of San Diego County.

Hueso benefited from almost one-third of the money spent on Acle’s cause. About $33,000 was spent on promoting Hueso through the candidates’ own campaign committee as well as the independent expenditures made by the firefighters union and the local apartment owners association.

Remy Bermudez, a teacher from Sherman Heights, won the Democratic Party’s endorsement and enjoyed the member communication money spent by the local party on her behalf, but was unable to advance to the runoff. She won about 15 percent of the District 8 vote, good enough to trail the second-place Acle by 5 percentage points.

Hueso, Acle and Faulconer were also able to benefit from their prior experiences running for elected office before. Faulconer lost to Zucchet in 2002, but was able to gain name recognition and a good chunk of community support in the losing effort.

Acle battled Hueso for a school board position last November, and Acle narrowly prevailed, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Turnout in District 2 appeared to be about 40 percent, and about 37 percent turned out to vote in District 8, according to the county registrar’s numbers at press time.

Nine candidates vied for a seat in District 8 and 17 candidates competed in District 2.

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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