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Liberal Democrat Frontrunners Vie for District 3 Seat

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Aired 4/19/09

Four-out-of-eight San Diego City Council district seats are up for re-election this year. In District Three, Toni Atkins is stepping down due to term limits. Two liberal democrats are the front runners in the race to represent some of San Diego's oldest neighborhoods. KPBS reporter Nicole Lozare has more.

District 3 includes Hillcrest, North Park and Kensington.

Todd Gloria is a native San Diegan whose family has lived for generations in the neighborhoods that he wants to serve.

And Stephen Whitburn came to San Diego eight years ago from Wisconsin. He believes his exposure to other city governments will be an invaluable contribution to the City Council.

Policy-wise, Gloria and Whitburn aren't that far apart. Both are gay liberal democrats running in a progressive district.

Todd Gloria, the lifelong San Diegan, is the district director for Representative Susan Davis. Gloria also served as a San Diego housing commissioner.

Gloria: I've spent over 15 years in public service. I've worked on affordable housing issues. I've worked in every neighborhood in the district. I think I've demonstrated that I know how to get things done.

Gloria's endorsements include the city's police and fire unions.

Stephen Whitburn is a former radio news reporter who has covered city government in Albany, New York and Madison, Wisconsin. He is pushing for more open government.

Whitburn: I 've seen government work well and I've seen government work not so well. And I know we can have good government here and that's why I'm running for City Council.

Whitburn carries endorsements from the local Sierra Club and City Councilwoman Donna Frye.

District 3 is mostly urban and is economically and ethnically very diverse. It prides itself on being progressive. The district's last two city council representatives -- Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins -- are both gay.

I spoke with some of the district's residents. Their concerns ranged from crime to parking and infrastructure and development.

Chris Robinson: I've seen drug deals in progress. I've seen people get beaten. I'd even like to see the presence of cop cars going by.

Annie Miller: I definitely would love to see the roads improve. The roads are definitely rough around our neighborhood.

Bernie Horan: A lot of people here worry about keeping neighborhoods as they are rather than have them overrun with apartment buildings, which in a way, ours have been already.

And the race may come down to the issue of development.

Todd Gloria, the native San Diegan, has received more financial backing from developers. Critics say that if Gloria is elected, developers will have a councilman in their pockets.

Gloria: I think that's silly. With my experience in the community people know that my priority, that my interest, is serving our neighborhoods and the people who live in them. If you look at my service on the housing commission, I have a record of holding developers accountable when they do bad things.

Stephen Whitburn says he received very little money from developers.

Whitburn: I think for too long we've seen development in San Diego at the expense of our neighborhoods instead of the blessing of our neighborhoods. I think we need to bring more of a neighborhood focus on our city and on our City Council.

District 3 has four other candidates: Paul Broadway, John Hartley, James Hartline and Robert E. Lee.

Gloria and Whitburn are likely to be the top two vote-getters who enter a runoff election in November.

Nicole Lozare, KPBS News.

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