Thursday, August 21, 2008

Concord council race will be quiet this time around

Walk into Concord City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman's office these days and you might hear silence. She's busy with her regular job, but the craziness that usually marks the pre-election months is absent this time around.

There is only one challenger in this year's City Council race in Concord — Contra Costa's largest city, and a city known for producing candidates in the double digits or close, along with piles of glossy, expensive election fliers.

But only La Shawn Wells, CEO of Western Career College, will be challenging incumbents Bill Shinn and Mark Peterson in November. The filing deadline was Friday.

Lehman, who prefers the excitement of elections, said that at least there's one challenger. In Pittsburg, there are none.

"I should call (Pittsburg City Clerk) Alice (Evenson) and give her raspberries over the phone," Lehman said, laughing.

Wells said he was surprised at the lack of interest in the local election and wonders if it's the sluggish economy, and that people might have extra financial or other stresses they don't normally have.

"I figured there would be at least five or six of us," he said. "But it's not a process that's easy for people. It's a lot of work, a lot of money — you have to hire people and consultants."

Lehman said many people popped in her office during the candidate filing period to ask if both Shinn and Peterson were running.

"Maybe because the incumbents are both running, Advertisementpeople are less inclined to try to run themselves," she said. "When there's an open seat, you have a lot more interest. Maybe that's all this is. And I'd like to think that people think we're doing a good job with the city."

Major issues are likely to be traffic, jobs, the economy, the housing crisis and the shuttered Concord Naval Weapons Station. Over the next few months, the council will choose, with the help of the public, a preferred ratio of open space, office parks and housing for the base's 5,028 inland acres.

Chuck Carpenter, who has run for council several times, said he is not running this year because he just took a new job and is too busy. He won't say whether he'll run in 2010, when there will be three seats available.

"But my (election) committee is still alive, let's put it that way," he said.

Harmesh Kumar, an area doctor who ran in 2006, said he decided not to run this time because he has faith in Shinn and Peterson. "They are doing a good job," he said. "I haven't seen anything I need to be concerned about."

He says he will, however, run in 2010.

When Councilman Michael Chavez died unexpectedly last August, 18 people competed to be his replacement, including Carpenter. In 2006, there were eight candidates for three seats, with one incumbent not running.

"About the closest thing to what we're seeing now is 2004 when we had one incumbent and two challengers," Lehman said, noting that there were two seats up then, as there are now.

Clayton, however, is a different story. Though the races there usually draw a few candidates, there are eight this time around — almost one candidate for every 1,000 people living in the town. Two incumbents — Gregg Manning, who has been on the council since the 1980s, and Bill Walcutt, who has served since 2000 — are retiring. Councilwoman Julie Pierce is the only one running for re-election.

City Clerk Laci Jackson said she was surprised by the high number of candidates, but said it's likely because of the two incumbents not seeking re-election. The challengers are: Dan Richardson, Joe Medrano, Harun Simbirdi, Allen Lampo, Keith Haydon, Jim Diaz and Howard Geller.

  • &#39Imminent&#39 Recession May Cost NYC 59,400 Jobs
  • Walnut Creek’s Regalia to step down after 21 years
  • Walnut Creek City Council will gain at least one new member in November
  • November ballot offers mix of hot and cold