While the races to fill seats in San Diego’s 6th and 8th City Council districts likely won’t match the drama of last November’s elections, they nonetheless will complete the roster of this fledgling group.
It is only two seats out of nine, and they aren’t full four-year terms. But it’s crucial to the city’s future for several reasons. Five of the nine members , including Mayor Dick Murphy , were sworn into office just last December. The current council is still very much in its infancy and has yet to take shape or establish its character.
While the representatives from the 6th and 8th districts will only fill out the terms of former council members Juan Vargas and Valerie Stallings, these two will wear the invaluable tag of “incumbent” when elections for the four-year term rolls around in 2003. And even then, current incumbent George Stevens will vacate his 4th District seat because of term limits, leaving Byron Wear as the lone holdover from the era of Susan Golding.
While the race in the 8th District, which takes place Feb. 27, has a field of 12 candidates, only a handful have a viable chance of winning. It’s entirely possible the 8th District race could be decided that night with one candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the votes, rather than extending to a runoff in April between the top two vote-getters.
The 6th District race, which is scheduled for April 17, became a lot more interesting when former mayoral and council candidate Peter Navarro filed the necessary paperwork to run for Stallings’ old seat.
Navarro, an economics professor at UC Irvine, lost two bitterly contested elections , one in 1992 with Susan Golding, then in the 1993 1st District race against Harry Mathis.
Already Navarro has made his position known on the ballpark issue , one that does not sit favorably with the business community. He warns the ballpark project could gut city coffers, negating the ability to put that money toward fixing the sewers and expanding the library system.
It brings to mind one of the alarms Navarro set off in late 1992 while he headed his slow-growth group PLAN!, or Prevent Los Angelization Now! Navarro’s PLAN! Police Initiative sought to tack fees onto new residential and commercial development in order to put more cops on the street.
Understandably, the business community was horrified by the plan, which many contended would ruin San Diego’s economy and stunt any new growth.
Fortunately, there are a number of viable options to Navarro in the 6th District. Of the 14 candidates in the April primary, several of them offer solid qualifications. Expect this race to extend to a runoff in early June.
Such special elections usually are met with a notoriously low voter turnout. With a council still trying to find its legs, these two elections will play a big role in San Diego’s future.