Saying San Diego's "moderate and conservative voters will lose their representation in the mayor's office" if he is not a candidate, acting Mayor Ed Struiksma announced Thursday that he would enter the Feb. 25 special mayoral primary.
Struiksma's candidacy sets up the primary as a showdown for the leadership of the powerful conservative Republican bloc on the council with Councilman Bill Cleator, Struiksma's longtime political ally, who also is a candidate. Struiksma's announcement angered his council colleagues, who said they agreed to support Struiksma for deputy mayor three days before the resignation of former Mayor Roger Hedgecock because Struiksma had convinced them he would not enter the mayor's race.
Struiksma, who was elected to his second council term last year, said, "I have thought long and hard about entering a campaign against my council colleague, Bill Cleator. Only after I became convinced that Councilman Cleator could not (defeat former Councilwoman Maureen O'Connor) did I give serious thought to keeping and seeking the office of mayor at this time."
He dismissed the statements by council members Gloria McColl, Judy McCarty, Mike Gotch and Cleator that he should step down as acting mayor for the duration of the race. And he said his candidacy and pointed political attack against Cleator would not divide the Republican Party in the primary campaign.
Struiksma said he "absolutely made no promise" to his colleagues regarding the mayoral campaign, but he "could understand how they could have thought that, (because) running for office was not at the forefront of my agenda."
But McColl reiterated Thursday that Struiksma had left a clear impression among his colleagues that he was agreeing not to enter the primary in return for their support for deputy mayor. "The whole idea was that we did not want the acting mayor, whoever it was, to be involved in this kind of politics," McColl said.
"I would not have voted for Ed had I believed he would be a candidate. We talked about it numerous times, and personally I'm very disappointed when someone leads me to believe something and then turns around and does something else."
O'Connor, a liberal Democrat who narrowly lost to Hedgecock in the 1983 mayoral runoff, is expected to announce her candidacy this morning, making her the most prominent Democrat in the primary.
Struiksma acknowledged that O'Connor is the front-runner. Cleator, who as acting mayor was eliminated in the 1983 mayoral primary, and Struiksma are poised to battle for the city's conservative vote. If no candidate in the primary receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will meet in a June 3 runoff.
Struiksma said his conclusion that Cleator could not defeat O'Connor was based on his own poll of 400 voters, conducted Dec. 17-20. In a three-way race, Struiksma said, O'Connor was favored by 40% of those polled, while he was second with 24% and Cleator was third with 11%; 25% were undecided.
The same poll, Struiksma said, showed Cleator trailing O'Connor in a two-candidate race by 53%-21%, while Struiksma trailed O'Connor 44%-35% matched alone against her.
"Certainly I'd like to be standing here today with a poll that shows me in first place," Struiksma said. "But I can wait, and in the interim I'll take my case to the voters of San Diego, both as the acting mayor and as we debate the issues.
"As I look at my two major opponents, I see myself as the man in the middle--a conservative who can balance the needs for environmental protection with the equally urgent need to maintain a strong and vibrant economy."
Struiksma acknowledged that Cleator's longtime ties to the conservative, pro-development political forces in the city might hamper his own fund-raising efforts. "I expect both of my opponents to raise more money than I do, probably substantially more," Struiksma said. "Money certainly is important, but as Miss O'Connor well knows, money alone doesn't win elections."
Struiksma said, however, that he had spoken recently with prominent Republican fund-raiser and Cleator ally Gordon Luce, and that Luce told him he had not agreed to support Cleator in the race.
Donald Harrison, a spokesman for Cleator, said, "We still count (Luce) as a supporter." Luce could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Harrison said Cleator was "disappointed Mr. Struiksma would not give the mayor's office his full attention." He said Cleator's polls "show we can raise more money and more votes than Ed Struiksma."
Although he is a former city police officer, Struiksma became the first candidate to come out against a Police Officers Assn.-sponsored initiative on the June ballot asking voters to approve a mandatory police pay raise. "To me, it's not fair that officers who have been on the force for five years want to be paid the same as those with 25 to 30 years in the department," Struiksma said.
"We have to give the officers something to strive for. There are better ways to address this concern than the way they are going about it."
The POA initiative calls for salaries to be increased next year by about 17% so San Diego officers' salaries equal the average pay scales of the four largest police departments in the state and the California Highway Patrol. The cost to the city is estimated to be as much as $10 million. The police officers union has said it would not support any mayoral candidate who opposed the initiative.
Struiksma also tempered his opposition to the aims of Proposition A, the slow-growth initiative approved by the city's voters in the November election. Struiksma opposed the initiative, but pledged "implementation of the people's wishes . . . for well-managed and properly planned growth . . . (because) there is no way you could not get that very loud message."
Cleator, who also opposed Proposition A, took a similar stance in opening his campaign.
Struiksma said, "The voting patterns in the near future will further the distinction between the candidates."
Struiksma said his occupation of the mayor's post, if only temporary, was the "fulfillment of a dream . . . I am running for mayor because I sincerely want to be your mayor. I can think of no higher honor for a native San Diegan than the chance to help guide this ever-changing, ever-vital city that we call San Diego."