Friday, March 5, 2010
Reaction to San Diego Councilwoman Donna Frye’s decision not to challenge long-time San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts in the June primary election and to the new candidate challenging incumbent Dan McAllister for Treasurer-Tax Collector.
GLORIA PENNER (Host): June 8th is the primary election. The filing deadline for candidates is next Friday. Two supervisors, the district attorney, the sheriff, and the treasurer-tax collector are all up for re-election. And, yes, the sheriff's office has several candidates, and one possible candidate has surfaced for the treasurer-tax collector. Supervisor Bill Horn appears to have five challengers. But no one has yet come forth to oppose the district attorney, and as of right now, Supervisor Ron Roberts could win the primary by default. Not one challenger in sight. David, how could this be?
DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, San Diego CityBeat): Well, this is – excuse me. This is a testament to the power of incumbency, especially when you’re talking about the district attorney who has, unbelievably, has no – you know, there should always be a challenge to the district attorney. You know, that’s one way of just sort of keeping them at least on their toes. You know, we do have a sheriff’s race because it’s – because the incumbent is not running and…
PENNER: Oh, wait, wait, he is the...
BARBARA BRY (Associate Publisher/Opinion Editor SDNN.com): Well, Bill Gore is but Gore…
ROLLAND: Right, I’m sorry, I meant – I was – Yeah, I guess…
BRY: …Gore is sort of.
ROLLAND: I was – I was sort of talking about Kolender because…
ROLLAND: …Bill Gore hasn’t been the incumbent for very long. You know, and with the supervisors, they have – Horn and Roberts both have, you know, campaign war chests of more than $100,000. It’s difficult for challengers to raise money with campaign contributions. And Donna Frye was really seen by many people as somebody who could transcend that reality because there’s sort of a kind of a cult of personality around her where she can really ignite people to get involved and folks on the left side of the spectrum were very, very disappointed with her decision not to run.
PENNER: Well, you encouraged, CityBeat encouraged Donna Frye to run. So what’s the real reason that she isn’t?
ROLLAND: Well, I don’t – I only know what she told me and – You know, before she made her announcement the other day, she and I talked. And she said – Basically, she told me in so many words what she said in her statement, which was she simply wants to focus on the business of the City of San Diego right now. I mean, that sounds like…
PENNER: Very stateswoman like.
ROLLAND: Exactly. You know, and I said, Donna, there must be other things going on. What’s up? And she said, well, there are lots – You know, she said there are probably a hundred other factors involved. And I said, well, why don’t you give me the highlights? And she said – she said, no, she was going to decline to elaborate further on that.
PENNER: Well, for our listeners, since we can’t tell them exactly why Donna Frye isn’t running, we can hear from them how they feel about the fact that Supervisor Ron Roberts, who represents basically the city of San Diego, does not have an opponent and the filing deadline is next Friday, one week from today. I’d like to get your reaction to that and to the fact that Donna Frye has opted out. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. Barbara, the last time she ran in a high profile race it was for mayor and she responded to a groundswell of support by putting in her name as a write in at the last minute. Now, could that happen again?
PENNER: I mean, could we see this tsunami of disappointment washing over her and washing her to the shore of the write-in vote?
BRY: No, this time I think Donna has really thought it out and she’s not going to run for the Ron Roberts seat. However, she could be running for mayor in 2012 and may want the time after her city council term ends to lay the groundwork for that. In a way I’m not – I mean, given that Donna’s not running, I’m not surprised that Ron doesn’t have significant competition. He has really moved more to the middle, more than many of the other supervisors. He has a lot of support from, I’d say, moderate to conservative Democrats in San Diego, some of whom are a little bit afraid of a Donna Frye, see her as a little bit too liberal. So I think, you know, Ron has – you know, because he’s moved to the center more is why Democrats had a hard time raising money.
PENNER: So, Kent, I mean, now we’re talking about a political stand. These are nonpartisan races. Nobody runs as a Republican or as a Democrat but we’re already hearing that the Democrats are kind of upset that they don’t have a candidate in the race. There were two Democrats in the race beyond Donna Frye. There were Lori Saldana, who is a Democratic Assemblywoman, and Shelia Jackson, the head of the city school board. Both of those have pulled out now. The Democratic Party is saying, you know, they’re going to find somebody before the end of next week. What do you think the possibilities are?
KENT DAVY (Editor, North County Times): Well, that they may find somebody but I think that – my general sense, I think it’s getting a little late in the game to mount an effective challenge on a supes race. You take Bill Horn’s race. You’ve got a number of candidates in that race but with the exception of Gronke, Steve Gronke, who has been out trying to work the streets, it’s – there is so little activity going on and Gronke is limited in the amount of money he’s got behind him. I just find it really hard to believe that it is going to be possible without somebody coming in with a huge publicity campaign to be able to tip one of these seats over.
PENNER: Is it – is…
DAVY: The same true of Bonnie Dumanis. If somebody were to hold up a hand and say I’m going to take on Bonnie. Now, Gore, I think has a different – is in a different position.
PENNER: The sheriff.
DAVY: Because I – the sheriff, because I think he just won his election this week.
PENNER: Because of the Chelsea King…
DAVY: The way he – the way his department handled the Chelsea King case, its solution and charges filed so quickly.
PENNER: Didn’t we have something similar back about eight years ago with the Van Dam case when…
PENNER: Westerfield case, right.
PENNER: When Paul Pfingst and Bill Kolender were in the DA and sheriff’s office and that kind of put the stamp of approval on the way they handled the cases as well. All right, so here we are. We have five supervisors who have stayed where they are for at least 15 years. I’m going to ask our listeners and I’ll ask my panel this question: What accounts for the voters’ apparent pleasure in this board? What about you, listeners? Are you so pleased with your board of supervisors that you wouldn’t even think about voting for somebody else? Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. What accounts for this, Barbara?
BRY: I think it’s just a lack of better alternatives and sort of an apathy in terms of what does the board of supervisors really do that impacts me. And I think that’s why the incumbents have been able to stay in office, and once they’re in office it’s very easy for them to raise money and then that becomes a major obstacle to a challenger, being able to raise the money.
DAVY: The – One of the problems with the supervisors is that the thing that they do that most affects the most people affects a class of people that don’t generally get out and vote. It’s provision of social services, medical care for the poor, food stamps, all of those things which San Diego has something of a less than stellar record in terms of provision of services, or they take care of back country issues. If you go out to the back country issues, you’ve got Bill Horn who has built a solid political base for himself and it’s difficult to challenge.
PENNER: Okay, well, we have some people calling in now but we must go to a break so we are going to take those phone calls when we return from the break, and the question is why are there no competitive challengers to the board of supervisors. Our number, again, 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. I’m Gloria Penner.
PENNER: I’m Gloria Penner and this is the Editors Roundtable. And we’re talking about why nobody is running against Ron Roberts in the District – in the supervisorial race that’s coming up in June. We did have the possibility of Donna Frye. She’s pulled out. I mean, she said, no, she’s not going to run. Lori Saldana pulled out. Shelia Jackson pulled out, and now we actually have Lori Saldana on the line. Maybe she’s going to tell us why she pulled out and whether she might get back into the race. We’re all listening, Lori, but I want to tell you who’s at the table and who you’re talking to. You’re talking to Barbara Bry from SDNN.com and David Rolland from San Diego CityBeat, and Kent Davy from the North County Times. So thanks for calling in, Lori.
LORI SALDANA (Assemblywoman, State of California): Thank you. Good morning, Gloria…
PENNER: Good morning.
SALDANA: …and Barbara and Dave. And I think most of you are aware that – my personal reason for dropping out really hasn’t – it doesn’t have anything to do with the challenge, it had to do with the death of my mother in December and something that was very sudden and that I’m still dealing with. Actually…
PENNER: I understand that. My mother passed on about a year ago and it took me a while so I understand that. Go ahead.
SALDANA: But I think it’s important, Donna and I are friends, we’ve been friends for coming up on 20 years and we both very much want a change in the policy of the supervisors and we know that we can do that regardless of our status as candidates or as elected officials or activists. And we’re seeing changes already, the scrutiny on food stamps, the scrutiny on their slush funds, the scrutiny on many other of their policies that have been unexamined for decades in this community. And because of our work, not necessarily as candidates but working with other community organizations, those policies are now under scrutiny that has never occurred before, so I would really count that as a win. Regardless of the leadership that remains in place, they’re being looked at very differently now.
PENNER: Okay, let me get some comments from our editors on what Lori had to say. Can she be just as effective as a private citizen working with community groups as she could’ve been as a candidate. Kent, what do you feel?
DAVY: Sure. Citizens always affect policy in incremental ways. But in terms of actually leading a government and having broad influence, actually making a difference in terms of legislation, you gotta get in the – you gotta get in the pool to swim.
PENNER: Umm-hmm. David.
ROLLAND: I was basically going to say the same thing although I wasn’t going to use that metaphor. You know, as much as I feel for Lori and the loss of her mom, I mean, I lost my dad a couple of years ago, I know how that is. But, no, you can’t have the same effect from the outside as you can from the inside. Now this – it’s – what underscores the ideological situation with District 4 and the County Board of Supervisors is that in District 4 there are 125,000 Democrats, there are about 60,000 Republicans and another 60,000 people who decline to state. That is an overwhelming Democratic majority in this district, and to have a Republican incumbent just sort of waltz through another reelection is fascinating to me. So, you know, now that Donna has pulled out, I am – I’m terribly disappointed just for the sake of democracy that Lori is not running.
PENNER: Okay, and you, Barbara?
BRY: Barbara – Well, Gloria, I’m sad that Lori’s not running because I think it’s always good to give voters a choice. However, I think Ron is probably the most moderate, and maybe Pam Slater-Price, who has other issues right now, of the supervisors. So if we’re talking about, you know, the citizens of San Diego County wanting a more progressive, moderate board of supervisors, you would want to start with the other seats also, not just District 4.
ROLLAND: Well, those other seats are – their constituent base, their electorate, is far more conservative. So, you know, the progressives are going to focus – well, they’re not going to focus on District 4 for the next four years but they will certainly be focusing on Greg Cox’s seat. Yes, they – those two Republicans have to be a little – slightly more moderate in order, you know, to not alienate a lot of their constituents but…
ROLLAND: …they are Republicans and Republicans tend not to focus too much attention on helping poor people.
PENNER: Let me go back to Lori for a second. Is there any Democrat or any candidate you could support who might oppose Ron Roberts? Do you have anyone in mind?
SALDANA: Well, I understand this is a political roundtable but…
PENNER: It is.
SALDANA: …this is my first elected office. People have the power to make changes and if this panel only focuses on the politics, they will overlook – This is not a partisan race, David, so people are not thinking Republicans/Democrats in the County Supervisor race. And if we overlook the ability of community and activists and people to get together and change policy by going to the supervisors with or without a title attached to their name, then we are underestimating these people and underestimating democracy. And I’ll leave it at that.
PENNER: Okay, so is there anybody that you could support as a candidate for…
SALDANA: At this point, a week before the filing deadline, I don’t see anyone coming in and being credible and having the resources and having the organization. But people surprise me all the time…
SALDANA: …and I would love to be surprised in this case.
PENNER: Okay, Lori, well, thank you very much for calling in. We appreciate it. And this was raised during our discussion – David, you wanted to say something.
ROLLAND: Well, I just wanted to respond to Lori. I mean, if she wants to replace Democrat and Republican with Liberal and Conservative, I’m happy to do that. But the parties do get involved in these elections.
PENNER: Sure, yes
ROLLAND: So, you know, I just – that’s – it’s a little pie in the sky to say that they’re truly nonpartisan races.
PENNER: Yeah, well, I think that everybody knows that the parties are involved and what I’m surprised at is that labor isn’t coming up and fielding a candidate because labor doesn’t have a voice on the board of supervisors. Where is labor?
ROLLAND: Well, they’re trying to enact term limits this year, that’s where they’re putting their focus.
PENNER: Okay. All right. Very good.