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My story on San Diego District 8 City Council race focuses on candidates Felipe Hueso and Nick Inzunza Sr., members of two of the most prominent political families in southern San Diego.

Clearly, they have the name recognition to do well in a seven-candidate election this June to replace Hueso’s younger brother Ben as councilman. But is that enough to force a November runoff election between the two? Inzunza thinks so.

“We’re hoping that if we do go into a runoff it will be me and Hueso,” Inzunza said. “Politically the way things are, it should be that way. Just name ID. Because of name ID. That’s a cold fact.”

Inzunza is right that name recognition is important, said Democratic campaign consultant Jennifer Tierney, and that’s especially the case in districts with low voter turnout, like District 8.

But, Tierney added, names aren’t everything.

“It’s one piece of the pie,” said Tierney, who isn’t working for a candidate in the race. “The real question is, what are Hueso and Inzunza doing to fill out that pie?”

Tierney pointed to a third candidate, David Alvarez, a staffer for Democratic state Sen. Denise Ducheny, who’s filling out his pie with money and endorsements. As I noted yesterday, Alvarez’s $33,271 in cash on hand is more than eight times the amount either Hueso or Inzuzna has. Alvarez told me he plans to spend $25,000 on campaign mailers.

Alvarez also has picked up high-profile endorsements from the city’s firefighter and white-collar unions and the local Democratic Party.

“In essence, David Alvarez has leveled the playing field for himself,” Tierney said.

It’s been difficult, Alvarez said, to overcome the weight of the Hueso and Inzunza names. Like Inzunza, Alvarez believes endorsements have been harder to come by because those with business before City Council don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with the council president. That’s a council president whose brother happens to be a District 8 candidate.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Alvarez said.

♦♦♦

I couldn’t fit in my story an interesting observation about the two families from local labor leader Lorena Gonzalez. She told me politics in southern San Diego have changed since Inzunza’s nephew Ralph was convicted of federal corruption charges and resigned his District 8 council seat. Prior to Ralph Inzuzna’s legal trouble, she added, politics were dominated not only by the Inzunzas, but also Ralph Inzunza’s council predecessor Juan Vargas and U.S. Rep. Bob Filner. With the Huesos in the driver’s seat, it’s less polarized.

“I think the Inzunzas had a much more structured political family where I feel like the Huesos are just family,” Gonzalez said.

— LIAM DILLON

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