With the City Council seats of the recently convicted Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza now officially up for grabs, community leaders in Districts 2 and 8 are buzzing about who might run to replace them in the Nov. 8 special election. Although no one will know for sure who is in or out until after the Aug. 12 filing deadline, with so many names floating around, the question has become not who's running but who isn't.
Many believe Republican Kevin Faulconer-who says he's definitely running-started campaigning and amassing a war chest for his next attempt at public office shortly after losing the runoff to Zucchet in 2002. But if Faulconer is the frontrunner in District 2, then Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who previously worked for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and boasts impressive environmental credentials, isn't yielding any ground. Gonzalez started knocking on doors around the district last weekend and has formed a "kitchen cabinet" that includes San Diego Baykeeper executive director Bruce Reznik and Marco Gonzalez, Lorena's brother and the local Surfrider chapter's legal advisor, who represented Donna Frye in last year's legal battles over unfilled ballot bubbles.
Carrying impressive environmental cred of her own, Planning Commissioner Carolyn Chase, a self-described "moderate," said she plans to throw her straw hat into the ring and see what happens.
Those still making up their minds include Zucchet's former chief of policy and campaign manager, Don Mullen, who said he has his eye on the field and may jump into the race depending on the quality of the other candidates. Otto Emme, currently a county grand juror and self-described "coastal Republican" is waiting to find out if he can get out of jury duty to run. Rich Grosch, a San Diego Community College District trustee and former staffer to City Councilmember Mike Gotch who ran unsuccessfully against Ron Roberts for the District 2 seat in 1991, will soon make a decision, as will litigious former City Councilmember Bruce Henderson, who's already alleging that San Diego sports moguls John Moores and Alex Spanos are aligning against him.
Other outspoken critics of the status quo are also planning to use the race to make their often-ignored voices a little louder. City Hall watchdog Ian Trowbridge has said he wants in and Coastal Alliance co-founder Kathleen Blavatt and City Council gadfly Richard Agee also intend to file candidate papers. Peninsula Community Planning Board chairperson Cynthia Conger is still making up her mind. Retired attorney and Ocean Beach activist David Diehl, who ran for the seat in 1998 against Byron Wear, said he plans to run on a clean-election and campaign-finance-reform platform.
Despite getting plenty of unsolicited calls of support, Ocean Beach's perennial mayoral contender Jim Bell and former City Council candidate Wayne Raffesberger both said they are leaning toward not running and Curt Lutz, the director of the Ocean Beach Development Council said he took a week to consider the demands of the job before deciding City Council life and all of its drama weren't for him.
Despite just getting the job as president of the San Diego City Schools' Board of Education a few months ago, Luis Acle plans to run for the District 8 seat, although he'll have to give up his current seat if he wins. His decision to run reportedly came at the urging of Ron Nehring, chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party.
Fellow Republican Richard Babcock, president of Datamar Inc., a local polling firm whose numbers were widely reported in the recent mayoral primary, said he is giving serious consideration to a second go for City Council. Babcock ran in 2001, placing a very distant second to Inzunza.
Another familiar name from 2001, Christian Ramirez, the local director of the activist American Friends Service Committee, said he's interested in the District 8 seat, but he'll need considerably more support than the 3 percent of votes he captured last time to make it happen.
Just 27 years old, Moisés Aguirre may be the youngest of the contenders, but he's already got an impressive political résumé, not to mention name recognition (he could run as M. Aguirre) any candidate would envy. But, no, he bears to relationship to City Attorney Mike Aguirre. At age 24, Moisés was appointed by then-Gov. Gray Davis as deputy director of the Commission of the Californias, a state body established to develop favorable economic, educational and cultural relations with Mexico. Most recently he landed a job with UCSD, where he handles government and community relations. He said he is "seriously considering" candidacy.
No stranger to the District 8 community, Margaret Castro has spent the last 19 years serving her parishioners at St. Rita's, where the Catholic nun oversees religious education, youth ministry and outreach. If she decides to run, it won't be the first time Sister Castro has considered serving on the City Council. She was nominated for appointment to the District 8 seat in 1975 after Jim Bates left office.
Those rumored to be considering candidacy include Ana Molina Rodriguez, Inzunza's chief of staff, and Ben Hueso, an Inzunza family associate who unsuccessfully ran against Acle for a seat on the school board in 2004. Neither Molina Rodriguez nor Hueso responded to messages from CityBeat. Dan and Pepper Coffey were also unresponsive. The husband and the wife team are both said to have an interest in Inzunza's former office. Dan, an environmental attorney who spends a lot of time hanging out at City Hall, recently resigned from the city's Park and Recreation board, leaving some insiders to speculate that he now has even more free time to run for office. Pepper was most recently seen in action on former Mayor Dick Murphy's Task Force on Chargers Issues.
Finally, Raoul Lowery Contreras, a syndicated columnist and tour-bus operator, told CityBeat that although both Babcock and Acle promised to back him if he ran, and he's confident he would crush any challengers if he did, he won't be running. Contreras, who lives in Del Mar Heights-worlds away from District 8-said he missed the deadline to register to vote in the district, thereby disqualifying him from becoming a candidate. Contreras ran for the District 8 seat in 1971, placing a distant sixth out of eight behind Jim Bates.