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U.S. Rule Bars Hugo From Del Mar Reelection

Times Staff Writer

In a move that could affect the makeup of the Del Mar City Council, the Justice Department has issued a directive barring all federal prosecutors from running for elective office.

The order, distributed to all U.S. attorney’s offices nationwide, will force Gay Hugo, a member of the Del Mar council, to choose between a reelection bid when her term expires in 1992 and her job as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Hugo, who is serving her first term on the council, was elected last April after campaigning on a slow-growth platform in Del Mar’s nonpartisan ballotting. She said Tuesday that she does not intend to run for a second term, a decision she made long before the Justice Department order.

“It only applies if I choose to run again,” Hugo said. “I would have to have a real compelling reason to do this again.” However, she left open the possibility of leaving the U.S. attorney’s office before the next election.

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The federal Hatch Act has barred federal employees from involvement in campaigns for partisan office since it was enacted in 1939. However, the Justice Department had “no set policy” regarding nonpartisan campaigns, according to John Russell, a department spokesman in Washington.

The directive, issued in November, bars Justice Department employees from running for elected office “on an independent basis,” Russell said. He added that it is not retroactive.

Hugo is believed to be the only federal prosecutor in the country who holds an elective office, but her election did not prompt the new order, Russell said. Instead, it was prompted by the campaign of a federal prosecutor in another district who ran for an elected judgeship, Russell said.

Matter of Community Service

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Hugo said she decided to run for the council seat last year after she was approached by a group of people from Del Mar, some of whom are active in local politics. “Five people came to my house on bended knee and asked me to do it,” she said.

“Another reason I ran,” Hugo said, “was because I know that a lot of people in Del Mar who had full-time jobs felt it was too difficult to have full-time jobs and be on the City Council.”

She said she hopes to convince others that it is possible to do both. “I really look at this as my community service,” she said. “Somebody else should take a turn. There are other people in the community who are just as bright and as capable as I am and can do the job well.”

Hugo moved to Del Mar in 1984 from Chicago, where she was a prosecutor on the Organized Crime Strike Force. She now has chief responsibility for the prosecution of Nancy Hoover Hunter, the former mayor of Del Mar who has been charged in two sets of federal indictments stemming from the 1984 collapse of the scandal-plagued J. David & Co. investment firm.

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Hunter’s first trial is tentatively set to begin in early February.


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