Praising San Diego City Council candidate Ron Roberts as "someone who knows how to say 'no' to developers," Mayor Maureen O'Connor on Monday endorsed Roberts in his 2nd District race. But she stayed neutral in the three other council contests on next Tuesday's ballot.
O'Connor's sole endorsement Monday provided a rather anti-climactic ending to nearly a month of waiting by the eight council candidates who had gone calling on her at City Hall shortly after the Sept. 15 primary, seeking a mayoral nod of approval.
The candidates realized that, at best, half of them would be disappointed. But the mayor's scaled-down decision left even more room for commiseration.
"I'm a type of person that really doesn't believe in endorsing in all races," O'Connor said, adding that she believes that she "can basically work with all" eight candidates. But Roberts' land-use expertise, gained through his career as an architect and his 5 1/2 years of service on the city Planning Commission, offered her the only clear-cut choice in any of the council races, O'Connor said.
"There's no comparison between the other candidates and Ron Roberts . . . in land-use and environmental issues," O'Connor said. "We could hit the ground running." In a radio commercial taped Monday, O'Connor expanded on that theme, saying that Roberts' vote is needed on the council "to continue the fight to preserve open space and limit growth."
O'Connor's endorsement of Roberts came as no major surprise, because the mayor had encouraged him last spring to seek the seat being vacated by retiring Councilman Bill Cleator. Moreover, Roberts chaired O'Connor's growth-management task force and helped author the Interim Development Ordinance approved by the council last summer that established tough temporary limits on residential development throughout the city.
Saying that O'Connor's endorsement started off the final week of his campaign "with a real bang," Roberts predicted that the mayor's support would help him deflect the attempts of his opponent, public relations consultant Byron Wear, to characterize Roberts as "a tool of the development industry."
"To have the mayor endorse me, and to be the only one she did endorse, I think sends out a very strong message that my growth record is based on what's best for San Diego and that I don't reflect any particular interest," Roberts said. "I think it's going to be very helpful."
But Wear downplayed the significance of O'Connor's endorsement of Roberts, predicting that it would have "no impact at all" on the outcome.
"Bill Cleator endorsed my opponent in the primary, but that didn't make a difference because I finished first," Wear said. "And Mayor O'Connor's endorsement isn't going to make any difference in the general election."
O'Connor explained her refusal to make endorsements in the other three races by saying that she found "no clear preference" for either candidate in each of those contests, though she did single out the Rev. George Stevens for praise for running a positive, issue-oriented campaign in the 4th District.
All four candidates in the 4th and 8th districts--Stevens and Wes Pratt in the 4th, and Bob Filner and Michael Aguirre in the 8th--"basically share my political philosophy, so that would reflect positively on whomever the electorate sends" to City Hall, O'Connor said. In addition, all four, like O'Connor, are Democrats.
In the 6th District, O'Connor admitted that she has key policy differences with Republicans Bruce Henderson and Bob Ottilie--the former for opposing the IDO, the latter for opposing a ballot measure to ease spending restrictions facing the city by temporarily lifting the so-called Gann limit.