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O’Connor’s the Choice

Political life in the City of San Diego has been anything but dull in recent years. It’s seen one mayor sent to the U.S. Senate and another possibly to jail. One city councilman has been indicted on charges of misusing public funds, while another was cleared of similar accusations.

Now, after the scandals and mini-scandals and the vital but tumultuous administration of Roger Hedgecock--and after half a year without a real political leader--San Diegans again are about to elect a mayor. At this stage, the city clearly needs a mayor who can bring stability to City Hall and provide forward-thinking leadership.

Maureen O’Connor is the candidate best-suited to do that.

The race between O’Connor and City Councilman Bill Cleator since the Feb. 25 primary has not been noted for riveting debate over contrasting visions of San Diego’s future. But as we pointed out before the primary, O’Connor’s record of accomplishment makes her the candidate who seems more capable of leading the city in the coming years.

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The most important issue in San Diego is likely to remain how best to cope with growth, and on that issue O’Connor inspires much more confidence than does Cleator. She was part of the City Council that fashioned the city’s modern-day Growth Management Plan, and she opposed development of North City West. A cornerstone of her campaign, albeit a carefully calculated one, has been refusal to accept contributions from developers.

Although environmentalists generally prefer O’Connor to Cleator, some, citing her silence on last year’s Proposition A, are nonetheless skeptical of her slow-growth credentials and will be keeping close tabs on her actions if she becomes mayor. To keep that element of her support, O’Connor will have to live up to her pledge to take a conservative stance when it comes to amending the individual community plans at the request of developers.

O’Connor’s record of leadership during her two terms on the City Council and her tenure on the Port Commission is attested to by the success of the San Diego Trolley and the existence of low-cost housing for senior citizens. That she has the support of a broad range of people is apparent from the primary election vote, in which she led Cleator, 46% to 30%, and carried seven of eight councilmanic districts.

A run-off election campaign that lasts 14 weeks asks a lot of two candidates. No issue could be said to have really dominated this campaign, though the two candidates spent a lot of time in pointless bickering about personal and campaign financial disclosure statements. Starting the general election campaign as he did with a 16% deficit from the primary, Cleator did his best to maintain enthusiasm in the face of odds most political activists called insurmountable. For the most part, Cleator continued to talk about his record as a businessman and city councilman, and--with the exception of a weak attempt to inject California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird into the campaign--his criticisms of O’Connor have stayed pretty close to relevant issues.

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For her part, O’Connor has seen no need to take any adventurous positions since the primary, although late in the campaign she did issue some silly “rules” aimed at limiting her responses to charges from the Cleator campaign and questions from reporters. That didn’t amount to much in practice.

Most voters will probably view Tuesday’s election as the welcome end to a process that began in December when Roger Hedgecock resigned the mayor’s office. All indications are that Maureen O’Connor will prevail and become the next mayor. We think she’s a good choice.


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