It’s the time of year when mailboxes are stuffed with holiday shopping catalogues, but there’s also a different kind of shopping going on within San Diego’s political community. It’s the hunt for four fresh faces to replace Councilmembers Scott Peters, Toni Atkins, Brian Maienschein, and Jim Madaffer who will be leaving the City Council in two short years due to term limits.

Special interest groups already have a head start on their candidate shopping and in some council districts they have already zeroed in on a candidate. That candidate is typically a politically-savvy and well-connected individual who has dedicated their life to the goal of holding elected office. It’s a recipe for success, but it can also represent the kind of political inbreeding that has not served San Diego well in recent years.

If San Diegans want elected officials that simply put San Diego first; they are going to have to do their own candidate shopping. I’m hoping that through today’s “Café Talk,” we might stimulate some conversation on what kind of person you want to run for City Council – kind of an on-line focus group. Some of you might even want to break the rule of “Friends don’t ask friends to run for political office” and nominate someone.

Who’s got potential? If you ask a political consultant they will tell you first that it’s anyone who can pay their fee and another $250,000 in polling, direct mail, telephone banks, and other voter contact expenses on which the consultant also gets paid commissions. Second, the consultant will tell you it’s someone who can secure the big endorsements from political parties, unions, trade associations and individuals all of whom have a deep pocket for independent expenditures.

Fortunately, few of you who are reading this are political consultants, so all those distasteful details shouldn’t mar your idealism when it comes to thinking of San Diegans who should be drafted to run for City Council. I am confident that voiceofsandiego.org readers are folks who are actively engaged in the civic life of San Diego and know thoughtful people who regularly contribute to San Diego’s quality of life without need of a grand title. These unsung community leaders don’t think of running for elected office because they don’t see themselves as politicians and you think of them as too successful or too nice for politics. Don’t you think it’s time for at least a couple of these folks on the City Council?

CYNTHIA VICKNAIR

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