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By Buck Shott
August 5, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – As the political season kicks into gear, we’ve got the roundup of who’s running (so far) for East County’s three city councils.  We bring you the latest mud fests and hot gossip in San Diego’s mayoral race. Plus see who’s having a bad week on the presidential campaign trail – all in this week’s Political Wrangling. Yee-ha!

A new gig for Nathan Fletcher? Mayoral candidate Bob Filiner announced on a radio show that if elected, he aims to offer a job to his former opponent—Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. Fletcher, who lost his primary bid after leaving the GOP to become an Independent, would be Democrat Filner’s first pick to head up economic development projects such as convention center expansion and a new Chargers stadium. (Whether Fletcher would accept the offer remains to be seen.)
More reaching across the aisle:  Not to be outdone, Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio has announced that Art Castañares, a former Democratic Party chair locally, as his new campaign strategist.
That in turn prompted current Democratic Party chair Jess Durfee  to respond, “ I am surprised that Carl DeMaio is promoting his connection to a downtown lobbyist with an ethically dubious track record.” Among other dubious dealings, Castañares was fined twice by the San Diego Ethics Commission, including failing to file timely disclosures of his lobbying activities.
A tough week for DeMaio:  First, a blog post titled “Sex, lies and videotape” surfaced, accusing San Diego’s conservative mayoral candidate of being a tool of “billionaire puppeteers”  and exposing questionable issues involving  his live-in paramour, videographer/ditor of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. Being gay isn’t enough for DeMaio to court the gay vote, however; he drew boos in the Gay Rights Parade following a ‘Turn Your Back on DeMaio’ social networking campaign. 
…and a war of words batters Filner:  Voice of San Diego, meanwhile, issued a less-than-complimentary piece on Filner, stating, “He’s abrasive, aggressive, impolitic, caustic, truculent, brash” then went on to quote an even more uncomplimentary term. Filner sees himself as a fighter for the underdog, from the Civil Rights Movement to championing needs of military families as Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He’s engaged in bitter past campaigns against such combative opponents as Mike Aguirre and Juan Vargas. Vargas, however, issued a back-handed compliment after dissing DeMaio, stating, “Even Bob has never annoyed me that much.”
Musical Chairs in La Mesa:  Two seats are up in the La Mesa City Council race. Ruth Sterling has filed to run for reelection, but David Allan says he plans to step down. (Allan has changed his mind on political races before though, so stay tuned.) Business leader James Wieboldt, who said he was running before he said he wasn’t, filed a 501 statement but has not yet pulled nomination papers. Same with Patrick Dean, a local chef who ran in 2010 and says he aspires to try again. Two candidates who have filed officially are gallery owner Shannon O’Dunn and Kristine C. Alessio, an attorney who also heads up a Savannah cat rescue society. (Does this promise to be a catfight?)  Laura Lothian, a local realtor and past mayoral candidate, has expressed interest in running, but hasn’t filed. Deadline to file is August 10—though it extends to August 15 if incumbent Allan doesn’t file.
A herd seeks seats on El Cajon Council:   Thus far, eight candidates have pulled papers to run in a City rocked by controversies.  From high poverty to sweetheart development deals, from threats to shut down the theater to adoption of a controversial charter city plan, there’s plenty for contenders to take on. Two candidates have returned paperwork officially:  Ben Kalasho, a local businessman backed by the Chaldean community, and “Llily” Emily Schworm, a mother and teacher. Candidates who pulled papers but not yet turned in final documents are incumbent Councilman Bill Wells,  Tony Ambrose (appointed to fill out the seat vacated by Jillian Hanson-Cox amid an FBI probe),  Duane Swainston (a manufacturing supervisor who ran in 2010),  Johnny Minarick  (a handyman who  also ran before), and two new faces:  Humbert Cabrera and Kathy Spacone.  Councilman Bobl McClellan has not yet filed papers to seek reelection; deadline is August 10, extended to August 15 if any incumbents opt not to run.
Roundup the usual suspects in Santee:  Mayor Randy Voepel has filed for reelection. Educator/archaeologist Rudy Reyes, past candidate for Council and Supervisor, is trying his luck again. Maggie Acerra, an accountant,  has also pulled papers to run.
Romney’s road show hits some potholes:  Calling England “just a small island,” and criticizing the nation’s Olympics security  aren’t good ways to win friends overseas. Nor is violating security protocols by blurting out whereabouts of the chief of M16 or forgetting the name of Britain’s Labor Party Leader.  Small wonder, then, that the London Telegraph called Romney “utterly devoid of charm” while the Sun tabloid headline blared, “Mitt the Twit.”  He didn’t fare much better in Poland, where most of the crowd roared “Obama, Obama” except for a contingent carrying a Ron Paul banner.  Nor is he getting much respect from some media outlets back home; Newsweek’s cover sports Romney’s image headlined “The Wimp Factor” and suggests his insecurity could make him a “mouse in the White House.”
Wimp match?  This fall’s election isn’t shaping up to be a battle of the titans. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, recovering from a heart transplant, emerged from his secret undisclosed location long enough to criticize Barack Obama as the “weakest president ever.”  (Is that a step up or down from Cheney’s ex-boss, George W. Bush, dubbed the “worst president ever” by several noted historians?) On a positive note, critics who have sniped that Cheney had no heart are now definitively proven wrong. 
Calling in the big dog: Hoping to boost popularity for his economic policies, meanwhile, President Obama is calling in reinforcements—asking yet another ex-President, Bill Clinton, to hit the campaign trail.

Congressional inaction: Romney, Obama, and heck, even Clinton and Cheney’s images are looking downright strong compared to public perceptions of Congress. The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” lists 14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever, then lists items polled as more popular than Congress—including the IRS, Nixon during Watergate, and BP during the oil spill. 

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