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At Last! An Exciting Race for County Supervisor

Do you recognize these names: John McDonald and Paul Eckert? I’ll provide a hint. The year was 1986. McDonald was an Oceanside City Councilmember and Eckert was a San Diego County Supervisor. Next question: Why should they be memorable? Answer: McDonald defeated Eckert in the Supervisor’s reelection bid. And, as far as I know, that’s the last time one of our county supervisors lost his or her seat. A scandal involving prostitutes compounded Eckert’s political problems with his constituents.

Here’s another name for you: Leon Williams. Williams was the only African-American ever elected to the Board of Supervisors and the last Democrat to serve on the board. He retired in January 1995. Since that time, the board has consisted of five Republicans, all white and none of them has served fewer than 14 years.

It is almost impossible to defeat an incumbent, long-serving supervisor. They have the power of the purse, the ability to raise large sums of money as sitting elected officials and that priceless commodity called name recognition. Additionally, the current crop of supervisors tends to its business quietly and thus rarely raises a critical mass of public concern about the work done or not done. So there hasn’t been a big push to replace any of them, especially since each has generously distributed more than $2 million a year to favorite projects from tree lighting ceremonies to arts and cultural events to trade organizations. With that generosity comes political clout. Thus since the mid-1990s, the races for supervisor have been sleepy, uninteresting non-contests.

Next year might be different. Supervisor Ron Roberts’ 4th District seat is up for election in 2010 as is the 1st District post held by Bill Horn. Early on, rumors circulated that Roberts wasn’t interested in running and the buzz began about successors. He has since signaled that he might indeed seek reelection. But activity has already begun. At this point, San Diego Unified School Board Chair Shelia Jackson has filed her candidate intention statement with the Registrar of Voters. San Diego Assemblymember Lori Saldaña has moved into the 4th District and has said she will run. San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye is expected to decide by the end of August. All are Democrats. All are in elected positions. All three have name recognition to a greater or lesser extent. And at least two have significant amounts of campaign funds.


Gloria Penner's Interview with Calif. Assemblymember Lori Saldaña

I’ve begun my coverage of the 4th District race with a phone conversation with Saldaña.

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