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Election: The San Diego City Council Races


Four of the eight San Diego City Council seats are on the June Primary ballot. As part of continuing election coverage on KPBS, we'll talk about the candidates and the issues with KPBS political correspondent Gloria Penner.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Our election coverage continues here on KPBS and the focus today is local. Half of the San Diego City Council seats are on the June primary ballot. Two incumbents are running for reelection but the other two seats are wide open. The districts involved are the even numbers: 2, 4, 6 and 8. Let’s start off with this feature report by KPBS Radio’s Katie Orr on the race in District 8.

KATIE ORR (Reporter, KPBS Radio): Attorney Felipe Hueso and his wife Teresina live in a restored craftsman home on Market Street in Sherman Heights. The couple moved into the house 20 years ago, and it was in bad shape. Hueso says the process of restoring his house could be a metaphor for parts of the district. What was once a mess is now a beautiful home thanks to hard work. Hueso sits in his open, airy kitchen and says a similar effort needs to be made in the 8th District.

FELIPE HUESO (Candidate, District 8, San Diego City Council): There are parts of the district where they have no sidewalks, they have no stop signs, so people don’t stop, accidents can take place at any time. So people are concerned about very basic services.

ORR: Hueso is the older brother of current District 8 councilman Ben Hueso. He says the name recognition helps but he says he believes he’s actually more qualified for the office than his brother and has more experience. He bristles at the notion of being classified as a typical politician.

HUESO: I could’ve been a cholo. I could’ve been in prison like my cousin Pepe and so many other countless people who have died or overdosed. I came up in a very bad part of town and, yeah, maybe you think all politicians are the same but you don’t know who I am, you don’t know what I’ve accomplished in my life.

ORR: Challenger David Alvarez says he’s had some major accomplishments, too. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. Now Alvarez works in the office of State Senator Denise Ducheny. Alvarez drinks coffee in a small café on 25th near Imperial Avenue. He grew up in Barrio Logan in the 1980s and says it wasn’t safe to come to this part of town then.

DAVID ALVAREZ (Candidate, 8th District, San Diego City Council): When I was growing up, I couldn’t come across Commercial or Imperial because of the other gangs. On this side, Sherman gangs and the Logan gangs, you know, weren’t friends.

ORR: But Alvarez says things are different now. He and his wife and their newborn baby often walk to the coffee shop and taco stands around the neighborhood without worrying about their safety. But, he says, his experiences growing up showed him that District 8 has to fight for services harder than other parts of the city.

ALVAREZ: In the southern part of San Diego, my district, people feel like police response is not adequate. There’s not enough presence in the community. Again, the street conditions are very, very poor. Streetlighting is always a concern for everybody.

ORR: Alvarez says the people he meets want to see improvements in the district. Candidate Nick Inzunza currently serves on the South Bay Union School Board. He says he sees the need for more recognition of the district.

NICK INZUNZA (Candidate, District 8, San Diego City Council): We do feel like the lost and forgotten stepchild of the City of San Diego. Yeah, it’s a big thing over here.

ORR: Inzunza is sitting inside the rec center at the sprawling green Montgomery Waller Community Park just north of San Ysidro in the southern part of the district. The park’s rolling hills provide a million dollar view of the ocean and nearby Mexico. Inzunza is the uncle of former District 8 councilman Ralph Inzunza. He says he’s proud of his family name and their hard work. But, Inzunza says, the district doesn’t get enough respect from the city.

INZUNZA: Infrastructure is a big thing over in the South Bay. We’re very concerned with the streets and we’re very concerned with what we feel is the dumping of things into South Bay.

ORR: Inzunza says more than 75% of the District 8 population lives in the southern section, 14 miles from city hall. He says the community there wants to feel more connected to San Diego and he’s the guy to make it happen. It’s an argument each candidate will continue making as they head toward the June 8th primary. Katie Orr, KPBS News.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh here with KPBS political correspondent Gloria Penner. Good morning, Gloria.

GLORIA PENNER (KPBS Political Correspondent): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And start us off by telling us about the other candidates that round out the ballot for the District 8 seat.

PENNER: Sure. Well, there’s B.D. Howard, he’s an independent marketing consultant. He graduated from Berkeley, took a law degree from San Diego Law. He has roots in the San Diego political community, became involved in the campaign to elect George Stevens to city council. He interned under former Congress member Jim Bates. And he has served as Ben Hueso’s campaign manager when Ben Hueso won several years ago, his first time in office. So he’s got connections there. Then there’s Lincoln Pickard. He’s a community volunteer and he is more politically the other way. He says that if we Christian conservatives can put together enough votes to defeat the Democratic leadership in District 8, we would be telling Pelosi, Reid and Obama that we’ve had enough of their Christian-bashing Tea Party deriding and socialist agenda. Like the other candidates, he believes in improving the infrastructure. By the way, he’s opposed to building a new city hall without taxpayer approval. And then there’s Adrian Vasquez. He’s an insurance licensing contracting manager. And this came from the Republican Voter Guide, the Republicans are supporting Adrian Vasquez. He knows that San Diego finances have been horribly mismanaged. He wants to focus on neighborhood services such as roads, public safety. And finally we have James Wright, educator, Veterans Post chaplain, and his website says that he’s a retired Iraqi war veteran, a charter member of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Eastlake. And how is he going to get his money for his campaign? He’s asking people to collect aluminum soda cans and plastic bottles to donate to his campaign. But beyond that, any way that you can donate would be to help him reach his weight loss by pledging to donate $50.00 for every pound that he sheds between now and June 8th. Those are the other candidates.

CAVANAUGH: That wraps up District 8. Let’s move on to District 2, Gloria. Tell us where in San Diego it’s located and who’s running.

PENNER: Okay, that’s downtown San Diego, big district, Mission Beach, Old Town and Ocean Beach. Running is Kevin Faulconer, the incumbent. He’s endorsed by the Republican Party, San Diego Firefighters, San Diego Police Officers Association. He’s the incumbent that’s powerful. But Patrick Finucane, he’s an engineer, and he’s endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, San Diego Uptown Democrats, San Diego County Young Democrats, San Diego County Stonewall Young Democrats, and Congressional candidate Francine Busby. All right, you know that the Democrats are, yeah, behind him. And then we have James Morrison. He’s a property manager. He’s a member of the Pacific Beach Town Council and the Pacific Beach Community Planning Committee. And he’s very involved, as you can tell, in Pacific Beach, and so he’s really sort of a down home guy who’s interested in the community.

CAVANAUGH: What are the issues in District 2?

PENNER: Well, Faulconer’s a team player. He’s gotten along really well with the mayor and his main focus has been bringing financial stability and accountability back to city hall, that’s what he says. He also says it’s important to protect our quality of life, the beaches and the bays, and he has been paying attention to that. Finucane goes with the same basic issues. He adds that downtown politicians have been guilty of making decisions that endanger the city. He adds that he wants safe streets, and he does have concern about the smaller police department since they’ve laid off some police officers. Morrison also focuses on city finances. He says he’s going to review all pension fund payout and medical insurance liabilities and review all city government positions and pay scales and make the appropriate cuts. So they’re both into fiscal responsibility.

CAVANAUGH: As I said, these were the even number city council districts.


CAVANAUGH: So we’re going to District 4. Another incumbent is running for reelection. Tell us where District 4 is located and who’s in this race.

PENNER: Sure. That’s the city’s southeastern neighborhoods, including Chollas View and Valencia Park. The incumbent is Tony Young. He’s been in office since 2004. Then, he ran for a partial term in a special election when Charles Lewis died. And so he has actually served six years but he’s running for a second term. That would give him ten years in the city council if he does – if he is successful. He likes to talk about working with law enforcement, reducing crime and also getting the city’s resources, a fair share of it for the neighborhood. Then there’s Barry Pollard. He’s president of the Valencia Park Town Council. And he says that he’s going to listen to residents who tell him what needs to be done. In other words, he’s going to be an ear to the community. Both gentlemen are Morse High alumni, which, I think, is interesting. And Pollard is a human resources professional. He runs an employment recruiting firm in the electronics industry. I looked for his endorsements. There are about 25 private citizens that endorse him. The only connection I could find politically was that he was appointed by former Mayor Maureen O’Connor to the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Committee.

CAVANAUGH: Now, like District 8, District 6 is wide open since Councilwoman Donna Frye has been termed out of her seat. Tell us where District 6 is and, as I understand it, there are a number of candidates, so we might have to just sort of walk through them pretty quickly.

PENNER: I’ll do what I can. It’s Clairemont Mesa – rather, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista, Mission Valley and Serra Mesa. And the candidates, since there’s no incumbent—Donna Frye is termed out—Steve Hadley, that’s her chief of staff, salesman Ryan Huckabone, Kim Tran, who is a businesswoman and paralegal. Then there’s Howard Wayne, former state Assemblyman and longtime California Deputy Attorney General, and businesswoman Lorie Zapf. I guess I really need to mention that Steve Hadley is a former pastor with a law degree. And it’s going to be interesting to see, since he’s been glowingly endorsed by Donna Frye, whether that endorsement’s going to mean anything. As far as Howard Wayne, he seems to have gathered the most money in the race, although there’s not a great deal being spent by anyone, and he has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party. And Lori Zapf has gotten into, you know, some kind of controversy having to do with gay rights. But at this point, she is endorsed by the local Republican Party and she is also co-chair of San Diegans for City Hall Reform Citizens Steering Committee. Kim Tran has deep ties with the local Vietnamese community. And Ryan Huckabone said that the budget deficit is the most pressing issue.

CAVANAUGH: Now these city council races are officially nonpartisan but that doesn’t mean, as you’ve already indicated, that the political parties are not getting involved. What are some of the, I guess, most interesting political endorsements in this race?

PENNER: Well, in – Let’s talk about the Democrats. In District 2, of course, Faulconer is a Republican, well known, and so the Democrats have gone ahead and endorsed his opposition, Patrick Finucane. In District 4, that’s a no-brainer with the Democrats, Tony Young, the incumbent. Howard Wayne gets it in District 6, and David Alvarez in District 8, not Hueso’s brother, not Inzunza’s uncle, but David Alvarez. And the Republicans, they’ve gone ahead, the local Republican Party, and they have endorsed Kevin Faulconer, of course, Lori Zapf in District 6, and in District 8, Adrian Vasquez. I think there are one or two Republicans running in that district. So there we are. Labor is avoiding District 2 and District 8. There are three Democrats running strongly there, so they’re not endorsing until after the primary. They do endorse Tony Young and Howard Wayne. And Tony Young is playing both sides because the Lincoln Club, which are business Republicans, are also endorsing Tony Young.

CAVANAUGH: Now there’s people who get a Republican ballot in June are also going to get a special little present in this. Tell us about that.

PENNER: They are. The Republicans are very creative. There’s an old law on the books that says a political party can put an insert into the ballot for the party, that – the party ballot that comes to your home if you’re a Republican. Republicans have taken advantage of that. They’re putting a fundraising insert inside the ballot, a color insert. They pay for it but it’s sewed in by the Registrar of Voters herself, I guess. The Democrats have not taken advantage of that but I’ll bet you anything, Maureen, that’s going to happen next time around.

CAVANAUGH: And in closing, Gloria, there’s also a change coming in the amount of political party funding that city council candidates can get. Tell us about that.

PENNER: Yeah, it was a Republican lawsuit that was decided in federal court, that political parties can, indeed, contribute to local races. And so the Republican Party wanted to start contributing right away and the city council said, well, we’re going to cap this at $1,000. Well, $1,000 isn’t very much, as the Democrats note, but it won’t go into effect until after the primary. So the reaction that I’ve gotten from the Democratic Party is no big deal, it’s twice the amount an individual can give. And the Republicans are saying, you know, we don’t believe there should be any cap.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Thank you so much. All those candidates, all those issues, thank you, Gloria.

PENNER: You’re welcome, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Gloria Penner is KPBS political correspondent and host of Editors Roundtable and San Diego Week. You can learn more about the candidates and the issues on the June primary ballot online at Coming up, San Diego observes National Foster Care Month, that’s ahead as These Days continues here on KPBS.

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