Ex-mayor-cum-radio-shock-jock Roger Hedgecock once said this about serving with Dick Murphy on the San Diego City Council during the '80s: "Dick is [a] particularly valuable person because of his ability to look at detail. And to really ask the right questions, and to demand the right answers. And to be sure of himself on the facts before he moves forward. Sometimes he wants to be more sure than the rest of us. We were ready to move forward, Dick was still asking questions, and we would go on and on."
Ahhh, the simplicity of the "Me" Decade. Instead, this city finds itself stuck in some sort of weird Groundhog Day moment where now-Mayor 10Goals Murphy plays the perpetual rodent popping in and out of his burrow to stare at his shadow, only to remain confused about whether it's the winter or spring of his political discontent.
Knowing that there's no fool like an April fool, the monthly community paper University Heights News reports this month with tongue firmly planted in cheek that the city has decided to sell its naming rights to a popular watering-hole franchise known more for its curves than the drinks it serves. Come Jan. 1, the News notes, San Diego will officially become Hootersville.
A more appropriate moniker these days might be Rumorville, based on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that are occurring since Mayor 10Goals announced last Friday that he was officially retracting his decision to run for re-election next year-two weeks to the day that he said just the opposite.
There is now scuttlebutt that the mayor might change his mind again, a suggestion roundly rejected by his (ex?) campaign consultant, Jennifer Tierney, after she conferred with Murphy's current chief of staff and ex-campaign consultant John Kern.
Asked if the rumor had feet, Tierney e-mailed back late Monday night, saying, "No, says the woman who is still up at midnight on the east coast, listening to the pitter patter of those feet! I just spoke with John Kern, who just spoke with Murphy. He's out."
So why the din of continued indecision? While the media were busy picking through the fallout from Murphy's re-election retraction, some folks close to 10Goals were busy spinning in the opposite direction. Councilmember Toni Atkins appeared on TV this weekend saying an outpouring of mayoral support had her wondering if the mayor's Friday pullout would be the last word on the subject. "He's heard from a lot of people who want him to stay," she said.
Either we're in the midst of the longest-winded April Fools Day joke on local record, or we are looking at a mayor who is facing the biggest professional dilemma of his life. Several knowledgeable political landscapists say the waffling is an indication that Mayor 10Goals and Kern are on a divorce track. Even one former mayor is said to have heard that rumor. Some folks, including those in local labor circles, are said to be trying to talk Murphy out of re-entering the race, which by now has shifted from a downhill sprint into an uphill marathon for the wiggly incumbent uncertain about his own future desires.
One Murphy backer said the mayor needed a week to think through his options, although a week is plenty of time to lose any traction he might have had in championing his 10-goal agenda.
In the meantime, the feeding frenzy has begun over who will run to replace Murphy, should he stick to his last public pronouncement. Political groups are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of influencing that choice.
Scott Barnett, head of the arch-conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego County, fired off an e-mail minutes after Murphy told reporters he wanted to be a full-time mayor for 20 months rather than put on the campaign hat for one more minute.
Titled "SHOCK & AWE in San Diego Politics," the missive called Murphy's decision "stunning" in that he had "NO opposition, and was likely to win a re-election landslide...." It then goes on to discuss the "mad scramble" that will ensue to replace 10Goals and those who might take up that challenge, from perennial mayoral candidate Ron Roberts, termed-out state Sen. Dede Alpert, former councilman and liberal Congressman Bob Filner, port commissioners Steve "The Ego Has Landed" Cushman and retired banker Peter Q. Davis, and state Assemblyman Juan Vargas.
Barnett also mentions other councilmembers who might be testing the political waters, like Donna Frye, Brian Maienschein, Deputy Mayor Ralphie Inzunza and Scott "Seals Bite" Peters. For folks like Peters and Maienschein, however, the gamble would be greater because they would have to give up running for their current council seats. Filner and Vargas face the same dilemma.
Inzunza has been telling people that no one has ever jumped from the council directly to the mayor's seat and may choose instead to run against South Bay county Supervisor Greg Cox, whose term expires in early 2005. Other names bandied about include former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, now chief of staff for Gov. Gray Davis, and longtime downtown bon vivant and ballpark booster George Mitrovich.
Until this group whittles itself down, the mayor's political goals will be front-page fodder. Word has it that Councilman Jim Madaffer, a frequent Murphy cheerleader, is working behind the scenes with local business leaders in an attempt to get 10Goals back in the race.
Groundhog Day, indeed.