Is it just us, or did the primary mayoral election that just passed seem a little like amateur hour? No offense intended toward Richard Rider, Myke Shelby and Pat Shea, but those guys-the type who'd normally be ignored completely in a big-city race for mayor-got tons of press because the media has to pay attention to someone, right? Rider is a smart, decent guy, but it's just too hard to take Libertarians seriously. Shelby was considered a second-tier candidate because we knew his face from those proud-to-be-an-American Harley commercials. Shea was permanently stuck on his bankruptcy-is-the-Promised-Land loop-but we sure will miss the words "orderly process."
These guys were necessary because, other than Donna Frye, the top tier included the likes of Jerry Sanders and Steve Francis. Quick, what does Sanders stand for? Any ideas? Right, we're not sure, either. He spent the tail end of his campaign fouling off softballs tossed at him by Francis. "He'll raise your taxes," Francis would say. And Sanders would respond, "Uh... no I won't... wait, will I? Hmmm... I'm not too sure about that. Hold on a minute... oh, right... no, I won't... I think."
At least we're sure he's human.
We're not so sure about Francis, who spent upwards of $2 million buying name recognition and a seat at the big kids' table with Frye and Sanders. This guy was boilerplate, cookie-cutter Republican from central casting all the way. Be honest, you kind of wanted to poke him to see if he was flesh or plastic, right? And the rhetoric: "I promise not to raise your taxes, and I'll run this city like a business. Oh, and I'll take a few thousand dollars away from the City Council's office budgets-that'll fix things right up." Absolutely precious.
The hilarious thing is Francis is exactly who the city's Republican establishment thinks would make a dandy mayor. The scary thing is he almost came in second place.
In one last intelligence-insulting move, the day after failing to make the runoff, Francis endorsed Sanders, who just hours earlier was unfit for office because he couldn't decide whether or not he was going to tax us down to our last nickel. Well, they do make a cute couple.
Of course, Sanders probably wanted to tell Francis where to stick his endorsement, but, alas, Francis' primary voters are Sanders' meal ticket now. In fact, Francis' voters, who'd sooner jam ice picks up their noses than vote for Frye, are surer locks to fill in Sanders' bubble than Sanders' own voters. We have a feeling there are some moderate voters who picked Sanders out of extreme distaste for Francis and are not yet convinced that Frye's mayor material.
The numbers from last week's election tell us Frye needs either to seal the deal with about 10,000 Sanders moderates or find a way to get some of the sluggards who didn't vote to drag themselves to the polls and vote for her. Her better bet would be to steal middle-of-the-road voters by continuing to hit the honesty note, convincing more people that she'll be careful with their money and having a plan for deflecting attacks should Sanders go negative. Against Frye, going negative would be a real gamble for Sanders. If he hits her with something hard, it had better knock her down; otherwise, Sanders is toast.
In the meantime, we have Toni Atkins and her backup singers, Scott Peters and Jim Madaffer. This is judgment time for Atkins, who needs to show us what she's made of before she makes a decision about running for Ron Roberts' county supervisor seat. Is the independent streak we think she has inside of her strong enough to withstand the mighty force of politics-as-usual?
Atkins struck the right chord with "Sideshow Mike" Aguirre, essentially urging the City Council to actually listen to his proposals while at the same time encouraging Aguirre to provide "wise" counsel. Dick Murphy took on Aguirre and lost. Looks like Atkins understands that the public seems to enjoy Aguirre's act; she would do well to play nice with him.
Atkins, Peters, Madaffer and Brian Maienschein, have big, heavy, noisy political albatrosses hanging 'round their necks, what with having San Diego become a coast-to-coast laughingstock on their watch-doesn't look good on the résumé. But Atkins is the one among them who can do something about that. We hope the usual suspects she chose for her "transition team" don't show her the way to the dark side. Her first big test will be her picks to replace four departed members of the all-important city pension board.
Yes, the next three months is make-it-or-break-it time for a few political careers-not to mention the future of San Diego.