Sat, Nov 10 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampité-montecalvo
Tuesday’s election included several important races among candidates running in local city councils and school boards.
In the city of Chula Vista, council incumbent Pamela Bensoussan defeated opponent Larry Breitfelder for seat 3 with nearly 60 percent, or 9,000 votes, as of Thursday.
“I’m pleased to have had the support of a broad coalition of Chula Vista voters and stakeholders in spite of difficult and at times impolite campaigning against me,” Bensoussan said. “I prevailed and look forward to serving all Chula Vista residents for the next four years.”
Bensoussan said she was confident she’d win because of her support.
“One of the best things about an election is in the end the voters have the last word and that’s what I was counting on,” Bensoussan said.
Bensoussan said she would focus on future important projects in the city.
“The next big iconic project will be the Millennia,” she said. “In terms of big visionary projects … we got the bayfront on track and the power plant down so now we have to focus on making a lot of progress on the university.”
Bensoussan said she stayed up late celebrating in Chula Vista at Mangia Italiano as well as downtown.
“I’m looking forward to working with Mary Salas,” she said. “I’m really pleased that she’s back on the council.”
For the Chula Vista Taxpayers’ Association president, the results were a huge disappointment.
“I’m keeping things in perspective and moving forward with what we need to do to make district elections work right for Chula Vista,” Breitfelder said. “District elections is something that’s far more important than any one city council race. This is something that has the potential to make Chula Vista a better place a hundred years from now if it’s done right.”
Democrat Mary Salas also took a decent lead over City Council aide Linda Wagner for seat 4, collecting more than 57 percent of the votes.
“I’m happy to get back to the council and I just hope that I can be part of the council that moves the city of Chula Vista forward and that we get a lot of work done,” Salas said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. Chula Vista has so much going for it and I think we can really do a lot to bring the city back to where it belongs.”
Salas was elected to the City Council in 1996 and reelected in 2000. She is also a former Assembly member.
“I’m happy to get back,” she said. “I think we’re going to be working very well as a city council ... and we can end this negativity that’s prevailed for so long on the City Council.”
Wagner, who beat out two opponents in June to run against Salas, lost by approximately 7,000 votes.
“I certainly would not be one to thwart the will of the people,” Wagner said. “I still hope I get the opportunity to serve in some capacity. I’m looking forward to whatever opportunity God provides to me.”
Wagner said that despite the results, the election wasn’t a total loss.
“It was a wonderful adventure for me and a wonderful opportunity for me to learn so much and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next,” she said.
In addition to council races, one controversial measure for the city was Proposition B, which gave Chula Vista residents the choice to change from electing council members from at-large elections to districts. The measure passed with more than 62 percent.
Chula Vista Mayor Cox adamantly opposed the proposition, saying it’s costly, would cause division in the city and limits voters’ power.
As an example Cox provided in a letter, she states that the city of San Diego held 45 redistricting commission meetings in 10 months, spending $500,000 to redraw its council districts.
“It’s another level of expense because you have to spend whatever energies are necessary to draw district boundaries that address not only population and ethnic and economic diversity it’s a complicated thing, it’s not a mater of drawing an ‘x’ and saying this is where people go,” Cox said.
Cox says the city, made up of almost 250,000 residents, is a community in which its representatives should represent the entire city, not geographic areas.
“My preference would have been as I’ve stated before is that residents be permitted to vote for all four councils of their vote, but the people said they wanted district elections and we’ll begin that process after the new year,” she said.
Recommendations for drawing districts were given to council by the city’s Charter Review Commission, tasked with working out the details for the potential implementation of district.
Included was their proposal to create a commission of up to 10 people that would establish district boundaries. Those individuals would in turn choose the remainder of the group.
Considerations included council member eligibility requirements and a mandatory run-off election between two top vote getters in a June election.
In addition, the council voted that a mandatory run-off would affect the mayor and city attorney, beginning in 2014, and that a person who wins with 50 percent or more of votes in June is required to do a run-off in November.
Rudy Ramirez, however, was in favor of Prop. B and says it brings fair representation and accountability for the community’s neighborhoods and the assurance that leaders will be chosen in elections with the greatest number of voters.
“I’m very pleased and I’m very happy that the voters of Chula Vista were able to see through some of the scare tactics and all these claims like large costs,” Ramirez said. “I think it has over time the potential of affecting the political culture that’s developed in Chula Vista. I believe we’re more likely to get the kind of people running for public office whose focus will be the needs of the community and so I’m optimistic for the political future of Chula Vista.”
Meanwhile in National City, one incumbent kept her seat on the council while another lost it to a newcomer.
Alejandra Sotelo-Solis received the most votes of three candidates.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve my community and proud to know that I was the highest voter getter with over 40 percent of the electorate voting me in,” Sotelo-Solis said. “It shows that as a policy maker and a leader in the community I am making positive change in National City.
Sotelo-Solis said she feels her experience and high visibility contributed to her re-election.
“Having served for the last four years, having had high visibility, also having challenged the mayor ... gave me the opportunity to speak to more voters and with this election … I got a positive reception from the community,” she said.
“I’ll be looking at balancing our budget, making sure we have the services necessary to have a functioning community and making sure our community is safe and we have pride in our city. I hope to work with Jerry on progressing our city forward.”
Council member Rosalie Zarate lost by a small margin, to environmental protection specialist, Jerry Cano.
“I’m fine with it because … I did want to retire … I think it’s time for somebody else to take the reigns,” Zarate said.
Zarate said the loss is a blessing in disguise because although she’ll miss serving the residents of National City in a council member capacity, it gives her more time at home and with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“I’m so blessed with everything I’ve accomplished with the other council members since 1990,” she said. “I retired twice and got appointed twice so I guess I was doing something right.”
“I really love my city so if anybody wants to call me I’ll be available,” Zarate said. “Even when I retired before people called me always and I helped take care of some of the problems. I’m going to miss some of those things.”
Cano did not return calls for comment.
In another race for two board members for the Sweetwater Union High School District, both incumbents were reelected.
Board president Pearl Quinones received just over 35 percent of the votes, securing Seat 2. She did not return calls for comment. Bertha Lopez secured Seat 4 with a margin of 10 percent.
Retired teacher Fran Brinkman said while she’s happy that Lopez was re-elected, she was disappointed in the response for Quinones.
“I wish someone would have beaten Pearl … now we’ll wait and see if the DA will take care of this for the district,” Brinkman said.
Last December Quinones became one of two current and two former board members, whose homes were raided by the DA’s office and were indicted on felony charges for pay-to-play.
Brinkman said Quinones came out ahead because of the number of candidates who ran, making the decision a split vote. Many critics of Quinones were rooting for George Cameron or Jessica Saenz-Gonzalez.
“I think the majority of the people have spoken,” Brinkman said. “She only got 35 percent. Bertha prevailed. I’m terribly happy about that … people that knew her know better and she’s there.”
Lopez received nearly 55 percent support over her opponent Burt Grossman.
“I want to thank all the voters in believing in me and re-electing me for the next four years,” Lopez said. “Knowing that my one and foremost priority is academic excellence, we need to make sure we provide all the students with all the support that they need and the other thing is fiscal responsibility and getting an audit for Prop. O funds and that we make sure we stop wasting money on other initiatives and of course transparency with the community.”
“We need to establish trust with the teachers, district, staff, parents, students and the community as a whole,” Lopez said. “I do want to continue to ask all the questions and examine programs and that we provide the best schools that we have in every neighborhood whether it’s the west or east side.”
“I knew that the community was going to go out there and vote for me Nov. 6,” Lopez said. “People knew what I stood for. That’s why I knew the community was going to back me up … It was a democratic process and the voters have spoken.”
For Southwestern College, Humberto Peraza received the most votes with nearly 57 percent for Seat 3 on the governing board.
“It was a good victory,” Peraza said. “I’m really happy with the results. We worked really hard and had a lot of support. Now we get to get to the part of the real work of cleaning up the college and providing a good education to students and doing a lot of things to move this college in the right direction.”
Although Peraza’s opponent, Bud McLeroy fell short, Peraza said he is looking forward to sitting down with him.
“Bud ran honorable race,” he said. I plan to talk to him to talk about the college and listen to some of his ideas.”
William Stewart won Seat 1 on the governing board with more than 60 percent.
© 2009 The Star-News