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Fumble Takes 7 Hopefuls Out of Race : Failure to Get 200 Valid Signatures Ends Their Tries for City Council

July 22, 1987|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

Stung by defeat months before they anticipated facing the voters, several of the seven San Diego City Council candidates who were disqualified from the September primary for failing to secure enough valid signatures on their nominating petitions indicated Tuesday that they intend to wage write-in candidacies.

But even as some of the would-be candidates struggled to salvage their campaigns through the admittedly long shot write-in option, others spent most of Tuesday adjusting to the harsh reality of suddenly finding themselves out of a race they never were officially in because of a relatively simple--though politically unforgivable--procedural gaffe.

"I'm pretty crushed and still in shock," 6th District contender Jesse Macias said Tuesday, echoing comments made by some of the other disqualified candidates. "I sure wasn't ready for the campaign to end this way. I'm in a bit of a daze."

Routine Task

The stunning development over the petition signatures--a normally routine, rather perfunctory task viewed by most candidates as more of a nuisance than a barrier--could produce dramatic changes in several council races in which major candidates have suddenly been eliminated. The disqualifications also reduced what would have been a record 33-candidate field in this fall's four council races by more than 20%.

The greatest impact may be evident in the 4th District, where front-runner Wes Pratt and two other well-known candidates fell short of the 200 signatures of registered voters needed to get their names on the Sept. 15 ballot. In addition to Pratt, now on leave from his position as administrative assistant to county Supervisor Leon Williams, popular 4th District businessman Richard (Tip) Calvin and Gloria Tyler-Mallery, a publicist and radio broadcaster, also failed to qualify for the ballot.

Macias' apparent departure from the 8th District race also substantially alters the complexion of that race, because his relatively high name-recognition--stemming from his former career as a television news reporter--made him a major figure in that contest.

Three other candidates were disqualified from the 6th District race--investment broker Keith Behner, consultant Robert McCullough and school teacher Mark Potocki.

As of late Tuesday, Tyler-Mallery and McCullough had already taken out write-in petitions from the city clerk's office, while Pratt, Calvin and several others were seriously weighing that option. Ironically, to qualify as write-in candidates, they must again circulate signature petitions by Sept. 1.

'Big Mountain'

"We've given ourselves a big mountain to climb, but the mood in the campaign is, 'Let's get on with it!' " said Reggie Boyd, Pratt's campaign manager. "Running and winning as a write-in is very tough, but it is possible."

Saying that "we've made this a lot harder than it had to be," Pratt--who had been endorsed by outgoing 4th District Councilman William Jones--said that he still had "some slim hope" that a detailed re-examination of the disqualified signatures on his petitions could result in enough of them being validated for him to qualify for the ballot. Some of Pratt's six glum colleagues initially shared the same hope Tuesday, but after reviewing their petitions, concluded that there was little chance of reversing the earlier disqualification decision.

The prime beneficiaries of the shake up in the 4th District race appear to be the Rev. George Stevens and Marla Marshall, who were instantly transformed from being simply two of a handful of strong contenders into the odds-on favorites to qualify for the citywide runoff. Both Stevens, a Democrat, and Marshall, a Republican, have financial backing and community support clearly superior to that of the three other candidates in the 4th District race--community activist De De McClure, postal worker Robert Maestas and Warren Nielsen, a property manager and frequent unsuccessful candidate.

In the 8th District, Macias' disqualification could benefit other Latino candidates in the race, including lawyer Michael Aguirre, one of the race's leading contenders, as well as businessmen Danny Martinez and Bob Castaneda. In Aguirre's own poll last month, Macias' popularity in the district's Latino and other minority communities gave him a higher support rating than any other candidate, Aguirre said.

"Macias really put a dent in my support, so with him out of it, it could have a dramatic effect," Aguirre said. "This really changes things around."

6th District

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