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North County Election Races

North County Election Races
Our North County pundits look at how the proposed Escondido Ballpark is changing the election dynamic there; who's in the running for mayor of Carlsbad; the continuing antics on the Vista City Council; and the lethargic race for the 50th Congressional District.

Sometimes local races are more fascinating and quirky than the statewide or national races. Our North County pundits look at how the proposed Escondido Ballpark is changing the election dynamic there; who's in the running for mayor of Carlsbad; the continuing antics on the Vista City Council; and the lethargic race for the 50th Congressional District.

GUESTS: Logan Jenkins, North County columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune

Kent Davy, editor, North County Times


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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: City races, mayoral candidates, and bigger issues are on North County ballots next month. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Coming up on These Days, our check on what's happening in northern San Diego County focuses on the midterm elections. Some long time politicians have decided to stay, some to go. We'll hear about a few of the most interesting races. Then we'll discuss the impact on the Latino community, a false allegations of rape in Encinitas. That's all ahead this hour on These Days. First the news.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. There are interesting political races all across San Diego County this election season. This morning we're focusing on the issues and candidates in the north county. We'll be discussing the stories behind the political headlines. Joining me to talk about the November ballot in North County are my guests, Logan Jenkins, North County columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune. And Logan, good morning.

LOGAN JENKINS: Hello, Maureen. Welcome back to North County.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Kent Davy is editor of the New York Times. Good morning, Kent.

KENT DAVY: Good morning to you.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm gonna start out with a topic that actually is not on the ballot. The Padres' Minor League Ballpark, the proposal for that from the City of Escondido. It's we're talking about it though because it's in the background because of the short deadlines to get it all done. Kent, I'm gonna start out with you, and tell us what's happening with that proposal for the new stadium and park. First of all, what has to be accomplished and when?

KENT DAVY: Well, probably the biggest thing that has to be done is the City is going to schedule to vote on the 13th of this month on a memorandum of understanding to try and move forward. At the same time, it is agreed to hire a set of consultants at a cost of about $375,000 to do traffic impact studies, the the financial and economic studies to see whether or not the notion that development around a baseball park will be sufficient to sustain the thing, because Escondido's redevelopment fund is basically called or tapped at least until it completely discharges the Arts Center and City Hall, and that really isn't for several more years.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, as I said, this proposal is moving pretty quickly in political in political years because of a deadline by the league; is that right?

KENT DAVY: Yeah. The problem that the that Jeff Moorad, the Padres owner, and the ownership group has is the they have to make a decision on whether to purchase to go ahead and purchase this team or not. It is the team that's currently in Portland, Oregon. There are some other bidders or people interested in buying it. The Pacific Coast League is as we understand, is interested in keeping the team on the West Coast and would like to have it here in California. But they don't have a lot of time to make all this happen.

El Paso, Texas, is sitting in with a desire to take the team and a ballpark already, so there are some people kind of lining up, if the Padres and the City of Escondido can't get this all put together.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Kent, it's my understanding that the City of Escondido has already sunk some money into the idea of making this a realty.

KENT DAVY: Well, yeah, although maybe not as much as you'd think. The City of Escondido went through a bunch of extensive planning for this general area of town when they were talking to the Chargers a while back. This property basically sits at the southeast intersection of 78 and I15. It is near a train the Springer State Transit Station, bus transit station, and fairly close to Downtown. So it makes a very attractive location for some sort of development, and particularly in the minds of the people promoting it. A ballpark makes lots of sense there from the City's point of view. It brings about a half a million people a year into the city towards downtown, presumably those people then turning around their dollars for a bunch of fuels, a bunch of redevelopment.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Logan Jenkins, what do you think? Is there going to be a Padres Minor League ballpark in Escondido?

LOGAN JENKINS: I think I think Kent would agree that the odds the odds favor it. You see a lot of momentum behind it. There it will become an issue in the mayoral race, however, and it'll be interesting in the race, and it'll be interesting to see if the same level of support exists on the after the election as currently exists.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, as you mention, the ballpark applicant is one of the reasons cited by Mayor Lori Pfeiler. She was gonna get out of politics and retire, but she is now running for a seat on the Escondido City . Are there any other reasons that she wants to stay in local politics?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, you know, that's kind of speculative. She says that she'd like to see these these, you know, issues of you know, the downtown hotel being another big project. She'd like to see it through. So that's that's that's a possibility. On the other hand, it may be that the private sector wasn't as welcoming as she may have thought two years ago when she surprised everybody by announcing she wouldn't run for mayor.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about Lori Pfeiler's tenure as mayor, and at least the reasons she says she didn't want to be mayor anymore.

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, I think she felt that she had done everything she could do. She announced, by the way, in January of 2009, and at that point, she endorsed Dick Daniels as her successor as City man. But I think that she felt that she wanted to go out and make more money, frankly. She wanted to be a mediator and was taking background work to get that done. And for whatever reason, she decided to get back as a counsel person, writing for the filing date.

In talking to her, it sounded to me like the that the prospect of several of these big projects had kind of excited her imagination. And so I think that there was a real emotional push to stay in it. However, having decided to drop out of the mayor's spot and endorse Dick Daniels, I think she was very, very reluctant to go back on that work, and this way she can still remain if she wins, still remain on the involved in the projects. And has said that she would still have some additional time for pursuing, you know, a job, other interests.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times, and Logan Jenkins, North County columnist for the San Diego Union tribune, and we're talking about North County politics, what's gonna be on the ballot in North County this November. So there are seven candidates, Kent, to fill two seats on the Escondido City . Is Lori Pfeiler likely to win?

KENT DAVY: If I had to goes, I would say Lori is the strongest of the candidates. Also on that ballot are Ed Gallo, who's a former member, Marie Waldron, who's an incumbent and also probably is a frontrunner, Jason Everett, who is a young kind of up and coming Democrat, Richard Barron, who has run before, Carmen Miranda who has been active in human rights issues here, and Jim Crone, a developer who has put together a lot of projects in the city. The others who are Jim Crone probably is the strongest of that set, I'd guess.

LOGAN JENKINS: Would you say he's sort of like Donald Trump running for the Normal city City ? His name is everywhere.

KENT DAVY: Yeah, it's more like Michael Bloomberg.



MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Logan, is any any likelihood that the winners of the races for City in Escondido are gonna shake things up there in any way or you made an allusion to that in one of the your previous answers.

LOGAN JENKINS: I think Jim Crone would be the person who would be most likely to change the chemistry of that . He was he opposed the Downtown hotel. He thought it was a bad deal for the City, that they gave way too much to get that hotel there right by the California Center for the Arts, and he's and he and Tom D'Agosta, who's a candidate for mayor, are both skeptical about the financial foundation of the deal. So Jim Crone would be my guess is the most sort of galvanizing force to change the chemistry.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, let's wrap up our discussion on Escondido or at least move it forward. About this in talking about the mayor's race, there are some interesting candidates, as we've kind of mentioned a little bit. So let's start with Sam Abed, who is running for mayor of Escondido. He became well known around the county for his stand against illegal immigrants. Logan, what are his chances?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, I think his chances are better now that Tom D'Agosta's in the race. There are three really credible candidates here. You've got Dick Daniels who you might refer to as kind of establishment candidate, very well known, very well liked in town. You know, kind of a moderate Republican. Sam Abed would probably be characterized as more conservative, more likely to raise the issue of illegal immigration and the effect that that has on the quality of life in Escondido. And then you have Tom D'Agosta who's a former man who has the support of environmentalists, mobile home residents, and some sort of good government activists in in Escondido. And while most people don't think D'Agosta has enough push to win, he could rob Daniels of votes. And if Abed wins, he should send the okay to Tom D'Agosta.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's your take on this, Kent?

KENT DAVY: Well, actually I think that Tom D'Agosta is in an interesting spot, because both Sam and Dick are relatively conservative. Sam went much more so than Dick Daniels. It is remotely conceivable to me that they could end up splitting vote and let their votes and let Tom squeak in by the nose by virtue of taking most of the more moderate and then democratic votes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Sam Abed is on the City right now.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So if he is elected, what happens to his seat?

KENT DAVY: It would become an open seat, which then the majority the would have to fill by by appointment for the remainder of his of his term, which is 2012, I believe.


KENT DAVY: If there was no agreement on a appointment, then it would go to special election.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I read an article saying that it may not go to special election simply because of the how much that kind of special election would cost.

LOGAN JENKINS: Sure. I think it costs around, what? $300,000? I forgot the exact figure, but it's enough to become an issue.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I want to ask you both this, as we leave Escondido, about the demographics, that is, changes. Are they demographics of Escondido changing enough to influence the outcome of this election?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, it's an interesting point. Escondido does not enjoy a high per capita, you know, income. And one of the one of the great things or interesting things about the 2008 race was that Olga Diaz, a Democrat who was reaching out to to less affluent neighborhoods in Escondido, won a seat. So it'll be interesting to see if something of that enthusiasm can be brought to the campaign of Tom D'Agosta, whom Olga Diaz strongly supports.


KENT DAVY: Oh, the the dem the big demographic change in Escondido has been the percentage increase of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity. That, however, has not heretofore translated into a huge political activism. The El Grupo Sin Nombre is active, but I don't think they are hugely influential yet. They Carmen Miranda has had a little bit of support, but I don't think she is likely to be a favored candidate. So this election cycle, I don't think much changes yet. Next election cycle things could get very different.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move to Vista. The most interesting politician, at least yes, I'd say interesting, is not on the ballot for City . That's Frank Lopez. And he has a lot of problems. Kent, remained mind us about his troubles.

KENT DAVY: Okay. Frank is a City man. His term goes till 2012, again. He has recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, failure to is pay workers' compensation premiums. That was as a result of about a year and a half of investigation by the DA's Office and Sheriff's Department over hundreds of bounced checks. The investigation as well as the news coverage kind of turned up this long history of hundreds of bounced checks, many to to workers of tax liens of various sorts of judgments in civil courts of various sorts, and just kind of a kind of sordid financial arrangements that they're dealing, I guess you'd say


KENT DAVY: shaky. It has resulted in all of his fellow members calling for him to resign. It has sparked a recall petition by Eugene Ford the that we'll have until, I think, mid January to collect enough signatures to force a recall election. It's it's caused quite a stir.

LOGAN JENKINS: Yeah. It's interesting to note that we have had we would have had three criminal campaigns in the what? Like, 18 months or so, with Betty Rexford.


LOGAN JENKINS: And Jerry Kern in Oceanside. So there's a kind of mania for recall these days.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So for the rest of the seats on the Vista City , eight candidates are running for two seats. Kent, let me start with you. What are the remaining issues? Who do you think is likely to remain standing after it's all over?

KENT DAVY: Well, I think the main issues are the City of Vista has two years no, excuse me, 2006, 4 years ago, a half cent sales tax that it's used to build a new civic center, to rebuild the Moonlight Amphitheater's facilities in Brengle Terrace Park. So I think there is still a residual issue about people unhappy about having a tax impose additional tax imposed on them. So there's that issue.

There's also the City of Vista has been very aggressive in its redevelopment district of buying up property. The they have that has resulted in a shopping area being installed, but there are other plans and still a lot of aggressive buying there, and there are people who question whether the wisdom of in tight budget times of doing that. And additionally just like all the municipalities around here, it faces some fairly significant budget headwind. Rita Geldert, the city manager there, had recently said that City members can expect to have to find another $5,000,000 to cut off of their budget by the time they get to the basically next budget year, the 2012 budget year.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan, we're seeing that all over, aren't we?

LOGAN JENKINS: We are. Budget, budget, budget.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Now, I want to move onto the long term mayor of Carlsbad, Claude "Bud" Lewis is retiring. Logan tell, us a little bit about him. How long has he been mayor, and what's his legacy?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, Buddy started serving on a City in 1970, if you'll recall.


LOGAN JENKINS: Frank Kern was the mayor of San Diego, and Pete Wilson was soon to be soon to be elected. So it's a long legacy. He was mayor, I believe, for 24 years of that 40 year service to the city. He's he's larger than life. I I think he probably would have been reelected if he'd chosen to run. But he's he's about 80 years old now, so he finally decided to pack it in. And he has a handpicked successor in Matt Hall, who's a longtime man and frontrunner in the mayoral race.

However, there is a strong challenger, Keith Blackburn, who's a he's been only two years on the . He's a retired police officer, his family has some money, and Blackburn is is a credible challenger to Hall.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Kent, what do you see as the differences between Blackburn and Hall?

KENT DAVY: Principally on public employee pensions, Blackburn has been when he was originally elected two years ago to the City , received tremendous support from the city's fire and police unions. He has taken a position against Prop G, which would is a Carlsbad proposition which would require any additional pension benefits owing to workers in that city to be approved at the ballot box by voters. He has said things like he doesn't think the city should be first in doing any kind of pension reform.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And so as Logan was saying, Matt Hall is sort of the designated replacement, successor. Do you think, Kent, that he is so favored to win that it's a shoe in?

KENT DAVY: No, I don't think it's a shoe in at all. I think that it will be a very interesting and probably fairly tough, close race.

LOGAN JENKINS: Yeah. I think it should be noted that Blackburn is an extremely attractive candidate, very well spoken, well liked, even by those who might disagree with him on the role of public safety associations in the city.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, is this a nonpartisan race?


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are both of these gentlemen though, I am going to assume, Republican? Is that wrong?

LOGAN JENKINS: It's North County.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right. So I wasn't I wasn't out on a ledge there. Let's move to the 50th Congressional Race. You know, every time someone pundits talk about this district, it always seems that well, you know, it may be up for grabs a little bit. They said that sometimes rarely about Duke Cunningham, but more currently about Brian Bilbray, and yet all the time the Republican wins handedly. I wonder if there's any reason to assume that things are different this year. Let me start with you, Kent.

KENT DAVY: No, I don't think so. Bilbray has twice as much maybe three times as much money as Francine Busby. The so that coupled with the voter registration, which is roughly Republicans have about 40,000 more registrations in the district than Democrats. So that and there's about 90,000 Independents. For Francine to win, she would have to basically do way more than half of those votes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan, why do you think there is this story line that accompanies the 50th all the time, that it may not be as solidly Republican as we think, and yet it always turns out to be that way? What do you think that there's any difference this year? Why do we hear that story line so often?

LOGAN JENKINS: Well, I mean, it's registration advantage. I mean, that's the story. They couldn't do it in two if the Democrats couldn't do it in 2008, you know, with the Obama wave, you know, that's nothing to suggest that it would be reversed this year. And believe me, if the poling suggested that Francine Busby had a chance, you know, the the money from Washington would be flowing into the district. But there's no evidence of that. So I think it's it's a win for Bilbray. Francine Busby was hoping that a scandal involving a cigar club in Washington would ignite some interest, but I just don't see the attraction.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Logan, how has Francine Busby been as a candidate this time around? She's, like, become a perennial candidate for the 50th Congressional District.

LOGAN JENKINS: Yeah. This is her fourth race. There was two in one year. She's she's very well liked. She's a very effective fund raiser for the Democratic Party, and she's well liked within the party. And I think there was a feeling, well, we like Francine, she may be kind of a sacrificial lamb, but we will support her.

KENT DAVY: I think that on on the stump that she has polished greatly, she has much I think much smoother when she speaks, much more relaxed. There is, I think, something to be gained from the experience of having done this a number of times. That said, I don't think she's got a chance of winning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just just because the demographics of the registration being so heavily in favor of the Republican?


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us today about the North County. Logan Jenkins, North County columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune, thank you so much.

LOGAN JENKINS: Thank you, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kent Davy is North County editor of the North County Times. Thank you, Kent.

KENT DAVY: Thanks. Have a great day.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks. You do the same. If you'd like to comment, you can do so online. Coming up a false rape allegation in Encintas leads to a search for Latino suspects we'll talk about that as These Days continues here on KPBS.