Local problems such as crime and illegal immigration are being discussed in the Dana Point City Council race. But the issue that's far and away dominating the campaign is an old controversy--the development of the Headlands.
While the 12 council candidates for three seats were launching their campaigns in May, the 3-year-old question of how to develop the landmark 121-acre Headlands peninsula continued to swirl throughout the city.
On Tuesday, the council--confronted by community opposition--agreed to make an approved plan for a 400-room hotel and 370 homes on the Headlands the subject of a citywide referendum in November. Development supporters say the project will generate badly needed revenue for the city; foes say the project is too massive and will rob the city of limited coastal open space.
This council election in June, focusing on the Headlands issue, could foreshadow how the vote will go in November.
"I think (the council race) will be an indicator," said Bill Walter, a local real estate agent and staunch opponent of the Headlands development.
The Headlands issue has also put Dana Point's two powerful political-action groups face-to-face on opposing sides. The two groups are backing six candidates, giving key support that probably makes them the front runners.
But with two six-year incumbents sitting out of the race and a field of 12 candidates on the ballot--the largest group since the city's first council race drew 26 names in 1988--anything can happen, most observers agree.
"It's going to be wild," said Councilman Mike Eggers who, along with Councilwoman Eileen Krause, has chosen not to run for reelection. "I think a candidate can get elected with only 3,500 votes this time. I see it being extremely close." There are about 19,000 registered voters in the community of 34,000 people.
The two influential PACS are Dana Point United, a group that supports the Headlands plan, against Hometown Dana Point, a recent addition to the city's politics that has backed opponents of the plan.
Harold Kaufman, Bill Shepherd and incumbent Councilwoman Karen Lloreda are Dana Point United's picks, while Hometown Dana Point is backing Ernie Nelson, Toni Gallagher and Robert Wilberg, a former park district director and a dogged campaigner.
Two other candidates who could make strong showings, although they're not backed by either political group, are Addison H. DeBoi, a Capistrano Beach resident who was the leading vote-getter in the last water board race, and Witold Muller, who has name recognition because of his commercial real estate business.
Considered the dark horses are Ron C. Hascall, David Pytleski and Bob Moore, a former candidate in 1988 who could win considerable backing as the only candidate from the posh Monarch Beach area of the city.