In San Diego’s City Council District 4 race, it’s deja vu all over again.
I went digging through ye olde SD Free Press archives and found articles I’d written about a special election held in 2013. You’d be surprised how little has changed.
The current drama traces its roots back to when rising political star Tony Young (2005-2013) resigned from the D4 Council position (he was also council president at the time) to become CEO of the San Diego-Imperial Counties chapter of the American Red Cross. His tenure lasted 14 months, and the reasons for his departure remain murky.
The race to replace Young attracted nine candidates.
Monica L. Montgomery, who this time around is the highest profile candidate challenging D4 incumbent Myrtle Cole, was among them. She came in dead last in the March 26, 2013 primary.
Cole’s opponent in May 2013 runoff was Wayne Crenshaw. I called the contest a “smear-o-rama.”
Two Democrats are slinging mud. It’s ugly. So ugly I’d decided to back off covering the contest a while ago. I can’t even hold my nose and get near this sh*t.
The Central Labor Council (supporting Cole) and the Lincoln Club (supporting Crenshaw) were the ones doing the smearing.
Whoever won the District 4 seat in 2013 would be the deciding vote on a council evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. And you’ve gotta remember, grabby-grabby Bob Filner was Mayor back then.
Cole won that contest and won again in 2014 against three of the original nine opponents from the 2013 primary. She is the first black woman to serve on the San Diego City Council.
Over the past fifty years, Black churches have been the root of political power in District 4. It was the power of ministers standing behind Leon Williams who got him appointed and then elected in 1969 as the first Black member of the San Diego City Council.
Since then, District 4 has been the ‘Black’ seat on the City Council. Charles Lewis and then Tony Young have continued that tradition, with each successful candidate having served on his predecessor’s staff at one time or another. African-Americans have held on to power in the district even as their numbers have declined to minority status for the simple reason of the alliances and coalitions built by pastors in the community.
Incumbent Councilwoman Cole sees her self as part of that tradition, as this 2013 article from Voice of San Diego observed:
Myrtle Cole, who’s running for San Diego’s District 4 council seat, sees herself as an heir to former Councilmen Charles Lewis and George Stevens.
From Lewis, who was elected in 2002 and died two years later, Cole took his vision of building a “Gaslamp East,” a mixed-used corridor of shops, housing and restaurants in the city’s southeastern neighborhoods reminiscent of downtown’s successful Gaslamp District. It’s her development plan.
From Stevens, Lewis’ predecessor who held the seat for more than a decade and died in 2006, Cole has updated his idea for fighting negative perceptions about the district. Stevens famously held a mock funeral to rid the name “Southeast” from the city’s lexicon because he believed it evoked drugs and violence. Cole wants to bury the newer shorthand “Southeastern” for the same reasons. She would like the public to identify the district’s communities by their names — Encanto, Valencia Park, Paradise Hills and 14 others.
These days Hispanics (41.5%) and Asians (23.9%) outnumber African Americans (19.8%). The legacies of racism and restrictive real estate covenants have stunted economic development throughout the district.
District 4 encompasses the Southeastern part of San Diego, including the neighborhoods of Alta Vista, Broadway Heights, Chollas View, Emerald Hills, Encanto, Greater Skyline Hills, Jamacha, Lincoln Park, Lomita Village, North Bay Terrace, Oak Park, O’Farrell, Paradise Hills, Redwood Village, Rolando Park, South Bay Terrace, Valencia Park, and Webster.
The prime issue at the heart of this year’s campaign centers around how well incumbent Myrtle Cole has represented the residents of District 4.
She’s certainly a force to be reckoned with in City-wide politics. As president of the council, she wields a great deal of power over what gets done at City Hall.
Critics point out that Cole, unlike some of her colleagues on the council, doesn’t do a “state of the district” event, where she speaks directly to her constituents. While other candidates are campaigning door-to-door, the incumbent hasn’t staged a fundraiser in her own district.
In the wake a 2016 controversy caused by remarks Cole made seemingly justifying racial profiling by police because of black on black crime, Rev. Shane Harris summed up community frustration with Cole in a Union-Tribune op-ed:
It’s time to have a council member downtown who will represent her constituents and not downtown interests. For the past two decades, since George Stevens, we have seen “sellouts” and a lack of leadership. It’s time to set the record straight or history will count us not present.
Cole apologized for the comments shortly afterward.
Monica Montgomery, who is now opposing Cole, quit as an advisor to the councilwoman over the remark.
As an incumbent seeking re-election, Myrtle Cole was endorsed by the local Democratic Party in March.
The party on Tuesday night chose not to make endorsements in three other council races being contested in the June 5 primary, choosing instead to rate three Democrats in each of those races as “qualified.”
Local party leaders chose to endorse Cole over fellow Democrats Monica Montgomery and Neal Arthur in the race for District 4, which covers much of southeastern San Diego. A fourth candidate, Tony Villafranca, has also qualified for the ballot.
Following are profiles of the major candidates for District 4 City Council in the June 5 primary. The top two vote-getters will go on to face each other in November.
- Democrat, Real estate developer, former chair San Diego Housing Commission
- SD Monitor News biographical article. Money quote:
Downtown doesn’t respect us. These things haven’t changed in so many years. All we have been given is empty political promises. We have lost our confidence. So let’s change the gatekeeper. Somebody has to stand up to downtown. Give me a chance. I am a businessman; I can’t deal in empty promises. I have got to produce. You should be able to see my results or I will not ask for a second term. As a real estate developer I have helped develop the planned community of Rancho Bernardo. I have over thirty five years of experience changing communities. I can make the necessary changes to Southeastern San Diego.
- My comment: An economic development-focused candidate. Will not make it past the primary.
- 2017 Fundraising: $5,550
- Incumbent, Democrat, first African American woman elected to the San Diego City Council, first African American woman to serve as Council President.
- Ballotpedia history
- Early ‘friendly endorsement’ by the Labor Council, also from Building & Trades Construction Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Unite Here. Endorsed by the local Democratic Party
- Also endorsed by Working Families Council. Told Voice of San Diego she was unaware of accusations made against Micky Kasparian, leader of the group when she met with him back in October. You’d have to be living under a rock over the past year to be unaware of the controversy. Or she was lying. Take your pick.
- Union-Tribune article on Cole’s re-election as Council President has noteworthy details. Money quote:
Cole, who took office in a special election in 2013 and was re-elected in 2014, said she has a long list of accomplishments in her focus areas of economic development, infrastructure and affordable housing.
They include adding sidewalks in many areas that lacked them, such as Market Street near Malcolm X Library, and bringing the district its first large drug store, first full-service restaurant and multiple affordable housing projects.
“My record speaks for itself,” she said last week.
- My comment: A shoo-in for winning the primary; will also appear on November ballot.
- 2017 Fundraising: $84,104
- Democrat, lawyer, Criminal Justice Advocate for ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Senior Policy Advisor for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, and Councilmember Myrtle Cole.
- Endorsed by Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club, SEIU Local 221, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, San Diego Progressive Alliance, San Diego County Women’s Democratic Club, South Bay Democratic Club, San Diego Democrats for Equality
- Voice & Viewpoint biographical article. Money quote:
When asked why she is running, Monica said, “I’m running because the residents of district four need a voice at city hall. We need a representative who will put community first, without the influence of special interests. I will bring a fresh and informed perspective to city hall that will benefit our neighborhoods. I’m ready to continue my life long work of making the government work for the people.”
- Issues Page
- My comment: More progressive politically than Myrtle Cole. Has a genuine grassroots movement built up around her candidacy. She’ll make it past the primary.
- 2017 Fundraising: $20,665
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