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Charges Fly in 6th District City Council Race

September 29, 1987|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

Calling San Diego City Council candidate Bruce Henderson "the Joe Biden of San Diego politics," Bob Ottilie, Henderson's 6th District opponent, on Monday accused Henderson of misrepresenting his occupation and primary victory in his sample ballot statement for the November general election.

In asking city officials to alter Henderson's ballot statement to eliminate "any effort to mislead voters," Ottilie, speaking at a press conference outside City Hall, described the disputed ballot information as the latest in a series of "misrepresentations, mischaracterizations and half-truths" that Henderson has made in his campaign for the seat being vacated by Councilman Mike Gotch.

Henderson's campaign consultant, Hannah Edelstein, dismissed Ottilie's charges as "ridiculous, silly and inaccurate." At the news conference, Ottilie released copies of a letter that he delivered to City Clerk Charles Abdelnour Monday afternoon in which he challenged Henderson's description of his 4.7-percentage-point victory in the Sept. 15 primary as a "landslide" in his ballot statement for the Nov. 3 citywide runoff. Henderson and Ottilie finished first and second in the five-candidate district primary with 29.4% and 24.7% of the vote, respectively.

Letter to City Attorney

Last week, Ottilie sent a letter to the city attorney's office objecting to Henderson's description of himself in the sample ballot statement--which will be mailed to all registered voters--as a "community leader."

Noting that city laws provide that candidates' ballot designation should refer to their "principal profession, vocation or occupation," Ottilie argued that it would be more accurate for Henderson to be listed as a "land-use attorney."

In response, consultant Edelstein argued that "the facts certainly support calling the primary a 'landslide,' " pointing out that Henderson received more votes than any of the 26 other candidates on the ballot in the four council district primaries.

Henderson's description of himself as a "community leader" also is appropriate, Edelstein said, in light of his service on a wide range of community organizations. She added that Henderson's law practice, which he gave up last spring to concentrate on his campaign, was not limited to land-use cases, but also included estate planning, civil litigation and business law.

(Henderson did not return The Times' telephone calls, but Edelstein said that Henderson directed her to speak for him "because he's not going to waste his time on this.")

'Pattern of Untruths'

Ottilie, meanwhile, said that Monday's news conference stemmed from his frustration over what he characterized as a "pattern of untruths and misrepresentations" in Henderson's post-primary campaign.

Among other things, Ottilie charged that, over the last two weeks, Henderson has:

- Distorted his (Ottilie's) record on women's issues, including abortion and day-care centers, when speaking to women's political groups. Edelstein, however, said that Henderson's comments on that and other issues "are unquestionably accurate."

- Inaccurately claimed that Ottilie heavily outspent him in the primary, when in fact both candidates spent about $80,000. Based on the campaign-finance numbers that Henderson has quoted publicly, Ottilie said, Henderson may have even been the biggest spender in the race by a slight margin--a claim that Edelstein disputed.

- Made "statements that are flatly untrue" suggesting that Ottilie has been sharply critical of San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender. While he has been critical of some Police Department practices, Ottilie explained, he has "never once said anything negative" about Kolender himself.

- Sent misleading letters to financial supporters of third-place 6th District primary finisher Bob Glaser, a leading environmental activist, seeking their support now that Glaser has been eliminated from the race. Denouncing Henderson's attempt to position himself as the natural heir of Glaser's support, Glaser himself caustically described Henderson as "the worst thing to happen to the environment in 20 years," Ottilie noted.

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