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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Council Races Likely to Start Heating Up

The entry of local attorney Carlos Negrete into the November City Council race could raise the campaign intensity level, as 10 candidates vie for three open seats and a chance to make policy.

Negrete, 37, and a group of other residents sued the city in 1991, alleging misuse of public funds in connection with then-City Manager Stephen B. Julian’s contract.

A bitter nearly three-year series of suits was settled earlier this year, with each side agreeing to dismiss all pending litigation and pay their own attorney fees.

“We’ve basically had this city run in the past few years by the good old boys,” said Negrete, who was the last candidate to enter the race before the filing deadline. “I’m running because I think a change is in order.”

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With longtime Councilman Gary L. Hausdorfer and first-term Councilman Jeff Vasquez deciding not to run again, the election will give voters a choice between relative newcomers and established political veterans from the Planning Commission and downtown business district.

Gil Jones, 62, is the lone incumbent running for reelection.

Planning commissioners John Greiner, 56, and Wyatt Hart, 58, and Thomas Holsten, 57, who is a partner in a downtown business, have filed nomination papers.

Others candidates are: Serge Kohan, 45, an import/export entrepreneur; Mario Pina, 39, a letter carrier; Philipe Delgado Jr., 43, a businessman in Orange; David Swerdlin, 51, a photographer, and Steven Dallas, 43, a radiation therapist.

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Negrete said he entered the race because the field contains candidates like past powerful council members who shared a narrow agenda favoring development.

Aside from Hart and Jones, Negrete did not identify any other candidates by name. Hausdorfer is considered to be the last of the city’s “old-guard” council members, who included former mayor Ken Friess.

Some of the more established candidates don’t believe they didn’t fit the description of political insider.

“An insider?” Greiner said. “Definitely not.”

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Greiner, who has been on the Planning Commission more than three years, said he had barely spoken with former or current council members.

Holsten, a partner in the downtown store Vacquero West Mercantile, said he knows past council members but is not part of any “old boy network.”

“I think he’s trying to push for an issue that isn’t there,” Holsten said of Negrete.

Hart also rejected the charge.

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“I represent all of the citizens of San Juan Capistrano, and I offer my name for their selection,” he said.


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