March 20 2013 09:24 AM

Dwayne Crenshaw? Barry Pollard? Myrtle Cole? Or someone else?

Blanca Lopez Brown
Photo by David Rolland

San Diego's District 4 has been without representation on the City Council since December, when Tony Young resigned to take the top job at the local Red Cross. Nine candidates want his old seat; a special primary election will be held next Tuesday, March 26, with a runoff between the top two vote getters likely to be held in May.

Currently, there are four Republicans and four Democrats on the council, and because the district leans heavily Democratic, the election will surely swing the balance of power to the Dems. However, council votes rarely fall along purely partisan lines. The questions will be whether district voters bolster the liberals on the council or the centrists, whether organized labor can get its candidate elected and whether a gay African-American can win.

Of the nine candidates, we like four—Blanca Lopez Brown, Dwayne Crenshaw, Monica Montgomery and Barry Pollard. Brown and Montgomery are new names in San Diego's political arena while Crenshaw and Pollard are familiar faces, having run for this seat five times between them: Crenshaw in 2002, '04 and '13, Pollard in 2010 and '13.

Montgomery is an attorney who specializes in helping families fight foreclosure. She's not our first choice in this race, but we like her spirit and we see potential. A rival candidate told us last week that folks shouldn't be surprised if Montgomery were to end up getting hired by the eventual winner. We certainly hope we haven't seen the last of her.

Brown, in particular, has really impressed us. She's a preschool teacher, a member of the Lemon Grove School District's Governing Board and a former small-business owner. Listen to her for five minutes and it's clear she has more than surface-level knowledge about public-sector governance; her grasp of complex issues is obvious. 

We endorsed Crenshaw in November 2002 when he ran against, and lost to, Charles Lewis for the District 4 seat. He desperately wants to serve the public, having worked for elected officials at the city, county and state levels and having run for state Assembly and the community-college board, in addition to the City Council. He's also worked for three nonprofit organizations and is currently on leave from heading up San Diego Pride. Crenshaw's our kind of pro-social-justice candidate, and we love his enthusiasm and his policy specifics.

But we like Pollard, too. A human-resources executive by trade, Pollard started on his political path by organizing a neighborhood watch and by trying unsuccessfully to start a community garden. After losing to Young in 2010, Pollard could have retreated, but he dove into public service, joining numerous community groups and playing a key role in the arduous redistricting process. He'd be an independent, critical thinker as an elected official, and we're confident that he'd come up with interesting ideas, like the one he's currently pursuing: to create a solar-energy field on vacant property near Chollas Lake.

So, what to do? 

Brown doesn't have much of a chance against candidates like Crenshaw, Pollard, Myrtle Cole and Bruce Williams, who have higher name recognition, more money to spend and/or—the case of Cole, who has the people-power of labor behind her—ground forces. Do we dismiss her in favor of a higher-profile candidate?

We're not completely sold on Pollard. As a sort of indicator question, we asked him and Crenshaw if they'd vote to increase the so-called "linkage fee" that developers pay to fund affordable housing. Under city law, the fee should be raised. Crenshaw would raise it; Pollard equivocated, which was disappointing. Yet, we want a longer look at Crenshaw; he stands an excellent chance of reaching the runoff election in May, so we're confident that we'll get it.

There are several good candidates in this race, which bodes well for District 4. Votes for Crenshaw, Pollard and Cole are certainly justifiable—Cole hasn't impressed us to merit endorsement consideration, but she'd be a solid progressive vote on the City Council nonetheless. 

But, in the primary election, we're endorsing Brown. While she likely won't win, we can't say enough about how intrigued we are with her, and we want to encourage her to build a support system in preparation for her next run for office and work on injecting some energy into her in-person presentation. We urge District 4 voters to select Blanca Lopez Brown on March 26.

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