Stephen Whitburn, a former candidate for City Council, announced his candidacy for county supervisor tonight at a press conference in University Heights, hoping to brand himself as “one, fresh Democratic voice” to challenge incumbent Ron Roberts, a moderate Republican who’s held the seat for 16 years.
“It is the right thing to do,” he said.
Here are some of the points Whitburn made tonight:
Weighing Blue and Red: Whitburn emphasized the two-to-one Democratic-to-Republican advantage in the Fourth District. “Yet the power of incumbency is so strong that Democratic voters have had a Republican representing them for more than 15 years,” he said. “That should not be.”
He summed up the five current supervisors as “like-minded Republicans” and said he’d push for a “robust discussion of the issues.”
Rebranding County Government: “Too few people even know what our county government even does,” he said. “That’s what happens when there is little debate, when the same five Republican supervisors decide among themselves what they want to do.”
Social Services: Whitburn led off with a focus on the county’s vast social services responsibility for children, seniors, the poor, veterans and immigrants.
“Our county Board of Supervisors has often failed these people,” he said.
Whitburn said that as a gay man, he has witnessed what his friends living with HIV/AIDS go through to get help from the county. “I have seen firsthand the lack of services,” he said.
“The county has so many responsibilities; it has come up short on many of them,” he said.
As we noted in our recent special report, the county ranks at or near the bottom with other places in California and nationwide in connecting eligible residents with last-resort social welfare aid and has fought the state for decades over its obligation to provide social services.
Environment: “We have to protect our backcountry from unnecessary sprawl and insensitive development,” Whitburn said.
Funding the Campaign: Whitburn said he wrote a check for $1,400 today to file his nomination papers — “I hadn’t exactly budgeted for that,” he said — and will write another for $1,200 tomorrow — “That’s not in the budget either.”
Whitburn said afterward he will not be investing personal cash the way he did for his 2008 City Council race, when he put in more than $210,000 of his own money. “I’m going to be counting entirely on the voters’ help in this campaign,” he said.
You Cool with Only Eight Years? Whitburn nodded to the labor-backed ballot initiative that would limit supervisors to eight years in office.
“If elected, I will give everything I can to serve you well for eight years, and then I’d make way for another fresh voice on the board,” he said.
After the conference, I asked him if he’d patched things over with labor after a blowup in that race. My editor Andrew Donohue summed up that back story today.
“I am a strong supporter of working people, and the Labor Council has always known that,” he said. “And I always strive to have a good relationship with the people who are working every day.”
The Push to a Runoff: Whitburn said going up against an “entrenched” incumbent won’t be easy. “I have no illusions about the challenge that lies in front of us,” Whitburn said.
He pleaded with his supporters to help him get to a runoff with Roberts in June to buy the campaign time to shoot for success in November’s general election.
— KELLY BENNETT