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Early Tuesday evening, San Diego City Councilman Tony Young entered downtown’s election central, Golden Hall. Proposition D, the sales tax/financial reform ballot measure was taking a drubbing at the polls, and Young was ready to preach fiscal discipline.
“I always believed that regardless of if Proposition D passed, that we were going to have to do those reforms anyway,” Young said of the initiative’s pension and competitive bidding. “I was ready and willing to do it. Now it’s very clear that the public wants that.”
Though he voted to put Prop. D on the ballot, Young made a point of noting that he did not campaign for it. His job, he said, was to let the voters decide on their own if they supported the ballot measure.
Young might not have campaigned for Prop. D, but there’s another election he’s interested in. This one has only eight voters.
Young wants to be council president, a position selected by his colleagues on City Council. The presidency will be open in December because current officeholder Ben Hueso was elected to the state assembly Tuesday.
Hueso’s successor, Young said, will have to make difficult decisions about city finances.
“For me, I think that I can actually do the job as well as anybody,” he said. “That’s my personal belief in my abilities and hopefully there are other people that feel the same way.”
How important is the position? Here’s how my former colleague David Washburn put it the last time the presidency was contested in 2008:
Only the mayor and city attorney have more influence over city affairs under the strong mayor/strong council form of government than the council president, who has powers that are similar in some respects to the Speaker of the House in Congress.
Chosen each year by a vote of the eight members of City Council, the council president controls the council agenda, and, more so than any other council member, dictates the flow of debate at council meetings.
At that time, intense behind-the-scenes wrangling led to a showdown between Hueso and outgoing Councilwoman Donna Frye.
Word around City Hall is that this race is between Young and Councilman Todd Gloria, a fellow Democrat. Both have close ties with Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Young, however, has burnished his reputation with business groups. To their delight, Young tightened Prop. D’s financial reform conditions before it reached the ballot. He also unreservedly applauded the recent last-minute state deal to funnel $6 billion in property tax money downtown without the council’s knowledge. Business groups backed that plan, too.
The fiscally conservative Lincoln Club even endorsed Young’s reelection campaign in June.
And last night was a good one for Young’s candidacy. Both City Council races went his way.
Republican Lorie Zapf defeated Democrat Howard Wayne in District 6, putting a third member of the GOP on the council. If the three Republicans, Zapf and Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio, stick with Young, he needs just one more vote to win the presidency.
In District 8, David Alvarez defeated Felipe Hueso, Ben’s older brother. Though both are Democrats, Alvarez has taken positions against labor’s pet issues, such as required City Council review for large downtown hotels. Alvarez might just be that fifth vote.
In response to questions about how last night’s results affected any potential bid for a council presidency, Gloria issued a statement through his spokeswoman.
“City council members will have the opportunity to elect our next president in December,” Gloria said. “That person can provide the tone, pace and leadership to move our city through the challenges ahead. Should my colleagues want me to serve in that role, I would be honored to do so.”