From left: Stephen Whitburn and David Alvarez (photos by David Rolland)
Back in 2005 and 2006, it seemed like there was an election in San Diego every two or three months, what with all the special elections and such. By now, though, you can't use election fatigue as an excuse not to vote, and with our handy endorsements, you don't even have to know what you're doing. Just vote exactly how we tell you to, and everything will be OK.
Actually, we are leaving some contests to you. With a few exceptions, we're not going to bother making endorsements in statewide and congressional partisan primaries. Here are the exceptions: Tom Campbell over Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore for U.S. Senate, Mary Salas over insurance-industry lapdog Juan Vargas in the 40th state Senate District and anyone but Joel Anderson in the 36th state Senate District (he needs to be told that laundering campaign money is not OK). For the rest of those races, we'll see you in November.
There are also some local races in which we're simply not confident enough to make endorsements—which should make you feel better about blindly following our lead where we are endorsing. An example of that is in education. For instance, we need more time to assess the battle between John de Beck and Scott Barnett in District B and between Katherine Nakamura and Kevin Beiser in District C of the San Diego Unified school board. We'll also leave the Central Committee elections to the party activists. Without further ado:
San Diego City Council District 6
CityBeat has uncovered bits and pieces of unfortunate revelations about Lorie Zapf, the local Republican establishment's choice in this race—not the least of which was Zapf's e-mailed comments to anti-gay zealot James Hartline a few years back, saying she believes gay people are unfit for public office. The San Diego Union-Tribune has forgiven her for her statements, but we won't. Zapf would be a disgrace as a successor to Donna Frye, an all-star public servant, and a huge leap backward for a city that has hoisted an impressive number of gay men and women into prominent political positions. (Though, we must admit, it would be kinda fun to publicly harangue Zapf for the next four years.
No, the two choices here are former Assemblymember Howard Wayne and Frye's chief of staff, Steve Hadley. And, really, you can't go wrong by voting for either man. Each has the issues the city faces in a death grip. We believe each would be a steadfast guardian of the city's general fund—particularly Hadley, who'd largely be following in Frye's footsteps. For his part, Wayne isn't impressed, from a finance perspective, with plans to expand the convention center (he believes there's too much focus in San Diego on tourism as an economic engine) and build a football stadium and a new main library Downtown.
Though we'd be perfectly happy if Wayne were to win the seat in November, we're going to endorse Hadley in the primary election—if for no other reason than we'd like to have a few more months to see him and Wayne, the Democratic establishment's choice and the likely top vote getter, differentiate themselves. With a hat tip to Wayne, we say vote for Steve Hadley in District 6.
San Diego City Council District 8
The way we see it, there are four candidates with a chance to make the general-election runoff: Nick Inzunza, Felipe Hueso, B.D. Howard and David Alvarez.
Inzunza is the uncle of former District 8 Councilmember Ralph Inzunza and his brother Nick, the former mayor of National City. He seems like a really nice man who would probably be a hoot to hang out with and knock back some coldies. However—and we say this in the most polite way possible—he has no business on the City Council. Inzunza talks only in sweeping generalities and seems to be interested only in issues facing the South Bay. Asked if he supports large projects such as a new City Hall and main library, a Downtown football stadium and an expanded convention center, he says he's in favor of all of them and says the city will find the money to pay for them somewhere. Pressed for specifics about anything, Inzunza can't deliver.
Hueso, the brother of current District 8 Councilmember Ben Hueso, is not quite as unfocused as Inzunza but is also not nearly as coherent as one would hope.
A quick glance at B.D. Howard's website raises more concerns than we have space here to cite—he promises to deliver a number of things that would be far beyond his power as a City Council member. Eliminate property taxes? Remove sex offenders? Seriously? Also, Howard's rudeness in responding to a request for him to attend a joint ACLU / CityBeat forum on civil liberties was a harbinger of unacceptable things to come.
That leaves David Alvarez, the 29-year-old aide to state Sen. Denise Ducheny. We were kinda disgusted with a mailer he sent out this week attacking Hueso and Inzunza, and we hope that was just a really bad decision he made and he won't continue to pull that kind of crap, but, all things considered, he's easily the best choice in this race.
Alvarez has by far the strongest command of the issues of any candidate in the race, and we think his back-story—boy from low-income barrio family gets involved in neighborhood activism and goes on to a career in politics—will serve him well. After 17 years of the Vargas-Inzunza-Hueso dynasty, it's time for a new direction. Vote for David Alvarez in District 8.
San Diego City Council Districts 2 and 4
Not much point in talking at any length here, because incumbents Kevin Faulconer (District 2) and Tony Young (District 4) are sure to sail easily to outright victory. However, loyal CityBeat readers know how we feel about Faulconer's zealous crusade to punish homeless people for being homeless. We want to feel good about Young because he's generally a swell guy, and we like his emphasis on small-business revitalization in his downtrodden district, but his conservatism on social issues (stance against resolutions supporting gay marriage, misguided support of motel vouchers as a solution to homelessness and a desire to regulate medical-marijuana collectives to an unreasonable degree) really bug us. We liked it when he used to get all up in the mayor's grill, but we haven't seen that kind of spirit in awhile, and he's been too hesitant as the chair of the council's Budget Committee to get behind increases to trash and stormwater fees, which would go a long way toward fixing the city's chronic budget deficit. We're endorsing Patrick Finucane in District 2 and offer no endorsement in District 4.
Board of Supervisors Districts 4 and 5
There just may be some detailed information about District 5 incumbent Bill Horn in an upcoming issue of CityBeat. For now, we'll say simply that he is the worst elected official San Diego County as seen at least in the last decade but probably far longer. Though we're alarmed by his support for the Arizona immigration law, we're endorsing Vista City Councilmember Steve Gronke as Horn's long-overdue replacement.
We're far more enthusiastic about the candidacy of Stephen Whitburn, one of the challengers to District 4 incumbent Ron Roberts. Whitburn came close to getting our endorsement in the 2008 San Diego City Council District 3 election before we opted for Todd Gloria. Now, he's campaigning as sort of a proxy for Donna Frye, the San Diego City Council member who declined to run against Roberts after Whitburn launched a campaign to convince her to do so.
While not as objectionable as Horn—but who is?—Roberts is, by all accounts, a mean sonofabitch and a pain in the ass to work with. Word is, he personifies the arrogance that has come to define the current Board of Supervisors, a group of Republicans that has been together since the mid-1990s. It's high time for a more progressive leader to represent District 4, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one.
Break up the cabal with a couple of Steves—vote for Stephen Whitburn and Steve Gronke for Board of Supervisors.
Former Assemblymember Jay La Suer wants to be just like Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who gets his jollies by making inmates wear pink underwear—and wants California to mimic Arizona's new anti-immigration law, which we believe opens the floodgates to harassment of Latinos, legal or otherwise. We wouldn't be surprised if La Suer were to hold a press conference tomorrow urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution, ridding it of due-process rights. If La Suer loves Arizona so much, he should move there as soon as possible and spare us his particular brand of crazy.
La Suer actually stands a decent chance of moving on to a runoff election in November—that is, if the other two candidates, Jim Duffy and Bill Gore, split the sanity vote. Duffy, who was a lieutenant in the Sheriff's Department before becoming county Supervisor Ron Roberts' chief of staff, is an interesting candidate, having collected endorsements across the political spectrum from the reddest right-wingers to the bluest liberals. Incumbent Sheriff Gore can be considered the establishment's candidate, with such backers as former Sheriff Bill Kolender, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Because we're not huge fans of Dumanis and Kolender, we flirted with Duffy, but we were swayed recently by Gore's levelheaded opposition to Arizona-style immigration enforcement and his brainy support for inmate rehabilitation as a way of reducing recidivism. We were dismayed to learn that Duffy pooh-poohs rehab. We urge you to vote for Bill Gore.
Superior Court judges
This election cycle, an organization called Better Courts Now recruited four local lawyers to challenge four sitting judges. The group's founder, a local pastor, died shortly after starting the group, and as a result, the campaign has not been forthcoming with details about where it's getting its money. In the meantime, the candidates have been making the rounds of the conservative talk shows and Tea Party rallies, which, to be frank, scares the bejeezus out of us. Meanwhile, the four spooked judges have begun fundraising and collecting endorsements, a move that further shakes our faith in an impartial judiciary.
Ultimately we'd like to see California debate public campaign financing in judicial races or even consider eliminating judicial elections period. In the meantime, these races require some difficult decisions.
Of the BCN candidates, there are two we want nowhere near the bench. Larry Kincaid can't even spell “candidate” correctly on his website. Bill Trask works for a mortgage firm whose principals were busted in Washington state for violating lending laws. Even more alarming is that, according to Oklahoma Wesleyan University, where Trask is a fellow, he believes Christianity is “the only worldview that possesses rational consistency,” and he has put his role in the “culture crisis” above his legal practice.
In contrast, we found Craig Candelore—another BCN candidate—to be thoughtful, competent and non-ideological but feel he performs a better service to the community at the Men's Legal Center, the family-law group he founded. We do, however, support Harold Coleman, the BCN candidate challenging sitting Judge Deann Salcido. While Coleman's experience in alternative dispute resolution and arbitration (essentially acting as a private judge) is attractive, we are more put off by Salcido's baggage. A lawsuit alleging fraud was filed against her in 2007, and her recent lawsuit against her fellow judges just seemed loony. She was the only sitting judge that the San Diego County Bar Association's Judicial Evaluation Committee rated “lacking qualifications.”
In the lone open seat, Stephen Clark seems best suited as an impartial judge: The Vietnam vet's most recent gig was a watchdog on the San Diego County Grand Jury. Before that, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney for more than 20 years (a job that included prosecuting corrupt judges). His only serious challenger, Richard Monroy, has the overwhelming endorsement of law enforcement and victims' advocates, which makes us question his impartiality.
We endorse three incumbents: Judges Lantz Lewis, Robert Longstreth and Joel Wohlfeil. We also endorse newcomers Harold Coleman and Stephen Clark.