Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | OCEANSIDE — She was the daughter of a Navy man, so that’s just  one plank in a saucy Oceanside lady’s campaign to surface immediately after  going down in a bid for a seat on the City Council.

“I Ain’t Down Yet,” a song from the stage play of “The Unsinkable  Molly Brown” will do as a starter for Shari Mackin – indomitable but not as  uncouth –  as she dives back into the murky waters of Oceanside politics as a candidate in a special election set for June 7.

Molly was a rough-hewn Denver dowager who, legend has it, pitched in with the rowing in a lifeboat that successfully departed the sinking Titanic. Shari, 48, mother of two, but more of a surfer than a soccer mom, lost by less than two percent of the votes to win one of the two open seats in the November election. Mackin and her husband, 23 year Oceanside residents, own a business that installs television news rooms. She was born in Oceanside and lived there as a child.

Mackin’s loss was only the beginning of a shuffleboard game at City Hall. Jim Wood, the retired police sergeant who unseated Mayor Terry Johnson, abandoned a Council seat to take the mayor’s chair. The law says the new Council can pick a replacement or call a special election.

“Why call a special election,” shrugged Wood, when it would cost the taxpayers an estimated $325,000, “and not a penny if we choose Shari Mackin?”

The plot thickens: The old Council reigned, according to some onlookers, by a cabal of now former Mayor Johnson and Council members Rocky Chavez and Jack Feller. Wood and Esther Sanchez were regarded as the minority of the five voting-member body.

Chavez and Feller dug in their heels and made it a 2-2 vote on Shari’s appointment. This resulted in the necessity of a special election on June 7, and the plot only got thicker. The City Council is presumably “non-partisan,” facing no issues like Social Security, war in Iraq or gay marriage. Oceanside’s Republican Club decided another Republican should face Mackin, a registered Independent, in the runoff. A “red” vs. “blue fight inside Oceanside’s city limits? A battle over homeland  —er, home city —  security?

Ironically, Mayor Wood is a Republican, but maybe in another wing of the GOP politics in Oceanside from Chavez and Feller. The Republicans soon found themselves in a party split. Some wanted to endorse former Mayor Terry Johnson, who has re-entered the fray for the Council seat. Others preferred Jim Gibson, a Vista Unified School District trustee.

That may take a little further explanation: Vista’s school district overlaps into Oceanside, so Gibson isn’t a carpet-bagger. The local Republicans don’t see having more than one Republican candidate as confusing. Their viewpoint is that the Council needs “more support for business.”

But Mackin, who shares small business ownership with her husband, is dumbfounded; “Why, everybody knows we need a healthy business climate in Oceanside – not only what we have, but to support the growing developments we already have online.”

Anything can arise in the wonderland of Oceanside politics. Some say the opposition to Mackin started over how big a hotel to build at the ocean’s side. When an old City Council approved a contract for San Diego developer Doug Manchester to build a hotel, Mackin besieged the California Coastal Commission, which ruled the Manchester proposal violated height limits for the coastline. She won.

We’re not through: This battle brought another figure into the forthcoming election scene: Jennifer Orrock, who reportedly  conducted research for Manchester and helped him win a $2.2 million settlement from the City of Oceanside in 2003 after the Coastal Commission’s action, has filed papers for a new political action committee: “People for Revitalization of Oceanside.” Orrock wants PRO PAC to “send Mackin packin’,” as she puts it in indisputable political style. Since then, seven other candidates have taken out papers to run for the vacant Council seat.

First, she filed a complaint against Mackin, alleging that Mackin didn’t properly account for a $10,000 donation to the committee Mackin headed in her effort to bring the Manchester matter before the Coastal Commission. She had “illegally” used a post office box address for the donor, asserted Orrock. Mackin said she didn’t know of that rule, and that the donor, anyway, was always traveling and used the box address so his mail was always available. In a Feb. 11 letter, the Fair Political Practices Commission ruled that the complaint had been filed after the statute of limitations ran out and that the use of a post office box rather than a street address had not produced any significant public harm.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Mackin said, stoutly unwilling to be caught between an Orrock and a hard place.

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