Isn't it nice and refreshing those rare times when politicians tell you honestly and frankly what they're thinking about political futures? It doesn't happen very often. Usually, when an elected official is asked about his plans, he gives some boilerplate answer about being working too hard for his present constituents to be concerned about what lies ahead. Even if it's true, it's meaningless because everyone just assumes it's bull.
Ever since CityBeat broke the news last week that San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso is planning a run for state Assembly in 2010, Hueso has had no idea what to say to the press and the public about his future—thanks to his filing with the state, the boilerplate-answer option has been eliminated. Now, he's refusing to answer questions, presumably because he doesn't know how to spin it.
Though we had serious doubts, after Hueso was elected president of the council we vowed to give him a chance to prove that he wasn't just another cookie-cutter politician interested more in the trajectory of his career than the needs of the city and its people. We watched his run for City Council's District 8 seat, which followed an unsuccessful stab at school board, and found his demeanor generally distasteful—he had an air of entitlement and arrogance about him that turned us off. When he was suddenly and inexplicably anointed the frontrunner for the president's chair, we argued that he hadn't earned it and that there were at least two more deserving candidates: Donna Frye and Tony Young.
The revelation about Hueso's future plans fuels our critique of the man. He should have made his Assembly aspirations known before the City Council selected its leader for 2009. Running for state office takes considerable time and energy; the public and his colleagues deserved to have that as a factor when it came time to make a decision. It's possible that he decided to run after he was selected president, but it's not likely. As CityBeat's Eric Wolff so deftly explained in a March 3 blog post on Lastblogonearth.com, termed-out state Sen. Denise Ducheny has endorsed Assemblymember Mary Salas for her Senate seat, and Salas has agreed to endorse Hueso for her Assembly seat. That kind of domino setup doesn't happen overnight. We're betting Hueso has long had a plan, and it probably goes something like this: City Council, Assembly, state Senate, Congress. Hell, it probably ends in the U.S. presidency.There's nothing wrong with any of that; Hueso has a right to climb the ladder. But given the condition in which the city finds itself and considering the high degree of difficulty of the task at hand, Hueso also had an obligation to come clean about the City Council being a short stop on his journey.
When it comes to communication, there are two types of politician: those who are willing to engage in genuine conversations with reporters and those who are not. Former Council President Scott Peters was in the former category, as are Frye and Young. The evidence continues to mount that Hueso is in the latter category, and that's a poor quality for a legislative leader. CityBeat regularly has trouble pinning Hueso down, and Union-Tribune reporter Matt Hall wrote an amusing blog post the other day about his unsuccessful bid to get Hueso to answer questions about his Assembly run. Hueso said it's not appropriate to answer those questions in the city media-briefing room, but then he dodged an offer for the questions to be posed outside City Hall; a week has passed, and he hasn't responded to CityBeat's request for comment.
What's he afraid of? That he won't be able to answer questions about his capacity to juggle a major campaign and the council presidency? That he won't be able to answer questions about why it took a reporter to uncover his plan? Or is it that he doesn't know how to articulate why he wants to move to the state level so soon?
In any case, Hueso continues to solidify the perception that he's one of those politicians—you know, the kind whose primary focus you just assume is his own career and who'll avoid, at all costs, any genuine communication with the public. What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org