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Political Fix by Gloria Penner

Don't Forget Your Hometown Elections

While San Diego City voters are twittering about the tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination which may not be settled until the last week of August at the party’s national convention, they may be ignoring six very important races close to home.  This would be a shame since many citizens believe that their city mayor has more influence over the quality of their lives than does the president of the United States.  And their district’s councilmember comes close.  Those six races will determine not only the mayor of San Diego, but the city attorney and four of the eight members of the City Council.

The positioning for those contests has already begun with the primary election scheduled for June 3.  Here’s the interesting part.  If any candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote during that election, it’s all over.  There’s no need to run again in November.  So what does that tell you?  If you stay home that day or go to work or school or the market without stopping by the polls, you will have missed out on helping to decide the winners.

And much is at stake in San Diego.  There are just a few problems that need fixing including the city’s financial mess, the deepening potholes, bursting water pipes, understaffed police and fire departments, who are the power brokers and lots of concern about how City Hall is being managed.  Interestingly, there’s a healthy number of citizens willing to take on these headaches, including three, possibly four, who are currently serving.


Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Attorney Michael Aguirre want to stay in office for another four years.  5th District Councilman Brian Maienschein is termed out and wants to hang around City Hall at the city attorney’s desk.   And his colleague, Council President Scott Peters , also forced out of office because of term limits, is having second thoughts about leaving city government and is also considering a run for the city attorney’s job.  Council meetings must have a certain undercurrent of competitiveness these days unrelated to the issues being discussed.

As of this moment, 32 people have pulled nomination papers at the city clerk’s office.  If they are serious about running, they have until March 6 to file their completed papers and petitions.  The candidates running for citywide office (mayor and city attorney) must pay $500 to the city clerk and submit 200 validated signatures from registered city voters who have been registered for 30 days at the address they’ve given.  This doesn’t seem like a tough assignment or particularly expensive, especially if the potential candidates go out and get more signatures.  It seems that our municipal code 27.0221 values each additional signature at 25 cents.  So with 2000 validated extra signatures, the potential candidate gets the $500 back. City Council candidates follow those same rules, but only need 100 signatures from registered voters in their districts with a payment of $200.  You can figure out how many 25 cent signatures will get them a return on their money. 

But, of course, that’s only the beginning. Next comes the fund-raising with a limit of $270 per contributor for City Council and $320 for mayor or city attorney.  Although city-elected officials run as non-partisans, the political party endorsements are juicy plums since the local parties can raise unlimited funds to send out campaign mailers that are allowed under campaign laws as communications with party members.  So with those ground rules, and the players figuring out their developing campaigns, the race is on. And we’ll be watching closely, with an occasional peek at what’s happening with Clinton and Obama.