Robert Rogers SB Sun Staff Writer
SAN BERNARDINO - Just more than two months before Election Day, the three candidates vying to represent the city's 3rd Ward still move cautiously.
All three avoid hard disputes, crafting positions that are tough on crime and soft on everything else.
But the political storm is already brewing in City Hall, as Gwen Terry, Tobin Brinker and Randy Lally jockey for position in the race to replace Gordon McGinnis, who resigned from the council because he was moving to another city.
"There is clearly a conservative and more liberal bloc on the council, so the next council member is going to be very interesting to see,'' said City Attorney James F. Penman. "I think the real smart candidate is going to look to establish himself as a swing vote.''
At this early juncture - the election is slated for Nov. 7 - they appear eager to do just that, as Terry and Brinker portray themselves as flexible pragmatists who support Mayor Pat Morris' anti-crime platform and will keep their allegiance solely to their constituents.
A third candidate, Randy Lally, could not be reached for comment.
Both Terry and Brinker said they support the mayor's ballot proposal to increase the sales tax to fund public safety, although Brinker ventured to suggest that he would have preferred the tax to have been a special tax, meaning that it would be legally limited to public safety expenditures.
Terry, a 48-year-old mother of three who has served on the city's telecommunications and police commissions and has the endorsement of McGinnis and 6th Ward Councilman Rikke Van Johnson, said Monday crime is the city's number one issue and that she hopes voters pass the sales-tax measure to fund the Police Department's beat plan.
"Crime is the issue right now for everyone,'' Terry said. "Ultimately I will govern as a proponent of the people, so what the people tell me they want is what I'm going to focus on.''
Brinker recently added police and fire union endorsements to a list that includes Councilmen Neil Derry and Chas A. Kelley. The 38-year-old Rialto schoolteacher and former Colton School board member has a penchant for writing lofty op-ed pieces for regional newspapers.
In a letter he wrote to The Sun in May, Brinker began by quoting the Declaration of Independence and compared students to American patriots of the Revolution and the Civil Rights movement.
Brinker also supports stronger laws on law enforcement and truancy to drive down dropout rates.
Terry's supporters tout her long roots in the neighborhood and resume of civic duty. In addition to her volunteer work on the commissions, Terry has served as a neighborhood-watch group leader. She said her three focuses will be crime, jobs and youth recreation programs.
"It's really early to speculate, but I think Gwen is clearly the front-runner,'' McGinnis said. "The other two are basically unknown, and her experience and leadership in working with problems in her community put her ahead of the curve.''
But police and fire unions' endorsements could loom large in an election that has sometimes been decided by fewer than 1,000 votes.
After interviewing all the candidates earlier this month, the police and fire unions - which usually proffer joint support - settled on Brinker as their candidate, said Firefighters Union Vice President Jim McMullen.
"(Brinker) has all his ducks in a row,'' McMullen said. "We're sure he's willing to give us the political backing we need to provide effective and efficient delivery of public safety services.''
McMullen said the 150-person firefighters union was ready to join their police counterparts in going door-to-door, distributing literature and providing other forms of support in favor of Brinker.
Terry said she was undeterred by failing to get the unions' endorsement.
"I'm not disappointed,'' Terry said. "I have worked very closely with the Police Department, and I have a good relationship with the Fire Department, I can work effectively with both.''
Regardless of who wins the race, immediate shocks at City Hall are unlikely. Mayor Morris has met with all the candidates and has opted not to endorse anyone. He said he looks forward to working with whoever wins, according to Jim Morris, the mayor's chief of staff.
Penman, who lost a hotly contested mayoral race to Morris, concurred that whoever wins is likely to fold in easily with the council.
"The council and the rest of us are pretty strongly behind the mayor,'' Penman said. "I don't see a lot of bitter battles developing.''
Looks like everyone is together on what the City needs. There are only Small Differances to allow the Voter to decide who they are to vote on in this District of the city. Well, actually this is a great thing no arguments and the city is on the fast track to a good finanacial gain under Morris as Mayor.