With less than a month left for candidates to preen before voters, political season is in full swing. Signs are popping up on lawns, fences and just about any nook or cranny available-in some places, particularly around Balboa Park, they're being ripped down as fast as they go up. Propaganda pieces are dropping into voter mailboxes, promising the moon or, if aimed at opponents, warning of doom and disaster.
Ah, it's scrappin' time.
After dodging his umpteenth invitation to do battle with his formidable challengers, Mayor "Duck & Cover" Murphy finally is planning to come out of his City Hall shell in coming weeks to debate his opponents. His minions continue to blame his busy schedule for declining offers from numerous communities to defend his first term-most recently the Murphy camp used that excuse for a forum planned in wildfire-ravaged Scripps Ranch.
Apparently, too much heat to take-even for a yellow-jacketed mayor-over a legacy of public-safety neglect.
But Spin Cycle digresses. It's much more fun to comment on real political slap-fests, like in the 76th District state Assembly race, where three Democrats are duking it out to face Tricia Hunter, a former Republican Assemblywoman and nurse by trade. Scrambling to face Hunter in November: former Gray Davis aide Vince Hall, who picked up his family and moved them a few blocks to enter this race after losing in the 78th District in 2002; political pollster Heidi von Szeliski, who has the endorsement of just about every politico, many of them former clients, and the California Teachers Association; and environmental activist Lori Saldaña.
Right here, Spin Cycle will acknowledge its bias in favor of Saldaña, who is running a low-budget, precinct-walking campaign against most political odds. Saldaña defies traditional political strategy, which fits nicely with Spin Cycle's increasingly passionate disdain for political insiders. Take a read from a recent e-mail sent by the underdog candidate, a teacher by trade:
"I'm a local girl-grew up in Clairemont, graduated from Madison, played sports (basketball, field hockey) at Mesa then transferred and graduated (BA/MA) from SDSU. In between, I did construction work (carpentry) when there were no teaching jobs, lived on my sailboat, got married and lived for a while in Mexico.
"After contracting hepatitis A during a long summer spent mostly in the ocean, I became a water quality activist for the Sierra Club and other groups. I enjoyed doing volunteer work for the community, and went on to chair the Sierra Club and become the first chair of the city's Wetlands Advisory Board (1992), and helped create the first EarthFair in Balboa Park (1990). I was also a plaintiff in the 1994 lawsuit against the federal government, for building the sewage plant at the border that is now polluting the ocean a few miles offshore....
"In 1999 I was appointed to the Border Environment Cooperation Commission by Bill Clinton and helped bring in millions for water and sewage treatment projects in San Diego/Tijuana and Tecate. (Bush cut our positions this year, citing "funding cutbacks.')
"Professionally, I teach at the Educational Cultural Complex in Mountain View, for the San Diego community colleges. I teach business communication and information technology. My students are mostly Latinos, African-Americans and immigrants studying English as a second language and trying to get off welfare, support their families, get decent jobs-basically, be part of the American Dream.
"The state budget cuts have hammered us. I tell people I'm running because I can't do my job (teaching) until things improve with the budget process in Sacramento-so I'm willing to take a shot at this campaign if it will mean I can help my students get new textbooks, working computers, and the basic things they need to get a fair shot at life in the Golden State.
"I'm not a career politician. I think that's a plus in this race. I'm the only candidate who accepted campaign finance limits, and will be allowed to have a statement in the ballot in February....
"The powers in Sacramento want Heidi to win, and have tried several tactics to force locals to support her-so far unsuccessfully. They've turned their back on Vince (he's considered a loser after the 78th race in 2002), and I'm considered too liberal-a nice lady with good community support who can't raise enough money to register on their radar screens.
"I've helped on campaigns as a volunteer since I was 20, and thought I knew how they worked, but being a candidate has opened my eyes to the reality of the political process-and it ain't pretty!"
Refreshing, eh? No posturing, no feigning ignorance of past allegiances (Saldaña continually hammers von Szeliski for her past pollster work for Wal-Mart and on SeaWorld's narrowly successful effort in 1998 to pass Prop. D, which exempted the theme park from city's 30-foot coastal height limit).
God and primaries
Meanwhile, snide mailers are already hitting the streets in San Diego's most vitriolic race-the battle to replace termed-out Casey Gwinn as city attorney.
Public-advocate attorney Mike Aguirre, who has given the city's legal minds migraines over San Diego's timid approach in dealing with the Chargers and the troubled pension fund, is currently the target of a hit piece from Gwinn's personal choice in the race, Leslie Devaney.
The mailer includes a photo of Aguirre with the word "WARNING" stamped in bold letters above. Alluding to Aguirre's pit-bull tactics, which have bent many a city official's nose in the past, Devaney vows in the mailer that she "will not use the city attorney's office as a platform for a political agenda."
But just what agenda is Devaney pushing? For an upcoming luncheon before the Professional Women' Fellowship, Devaney is scheduled to give a talk entitled, "You want me to do what, Lord?"
For $25 a head, "Leslie will be sharing how the Lord brought her to this place at this time in her life and how, looking back, she can see how He has used many different methods to move her to where He wants her to be."
Warning: Don't trample each other reserving tickets.
What say you: spincycle@SDcitybeat.com.