The Star-News - Oct. 4, 2002

A funny thing happened to Pfingst on the way to the forum


Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton and Vince Hall (candidates for the 78th State Assembly District) and Paul Pfingst and Bonnie Dumanis (who are running for San Diego District Attorney) were all slated to attend a public meeting of South Bay Forum at the Chula Vista Public Library Sept. 26.

For Horton and Hall alike, the single most important issue in Sacramento is the state budget. Horton, being a Republican with a background in accountancy, seeks to resolve it by cutting expenses. Hall, a Democrat, would raise taxes.

Horton made use of every opportunity to stress her strong ties to the district. She went to school there.

Hall, on the other hand, made a big deal out of his experience as a bureaucrat in the governor's office. To this he attributed his intimate working knowledge of how things are actually achieved in Sacramento. And of course, by implication, his opponent was called to mind when Hall expressed concern that assembly term limits make it difficult for somebody from city government to learn the ropes.

When Horton seemed tentative on issues such as the Racial Privacy Initiative and the (now vetoed) bill to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, Hall came across as an unabashed liberal.

Beyond opposing the RPI (it would remove the only means of measuring the extent of racism in our society), he went so far as to endorse affirmative action. As for the drivers license proposal, he supported it for the purpose of greater safety on the roads.

Although SBF had set up the Q&A format expressly to avoid a face-to-face slanging match, a debate almost ignited anyway. When a questioner from the audience asked whether Hall or Horton would endorse one of Chula Vista's mayoral candidates, Horton said both Padilla and Salas were equally capable. This surprised those who thought Horton had already endorsed Padilla.

Hall took this opportunity to say that Padilla and Salas had both endorsed him. That's as may be, but Horton retorted, "They were strong-armed! And one of them is working for me behind the scenes!"

There would have been a similar format to the second part of the program, were it not for DA Paul Pfingst simply failing to show. This left no alternative but for his opponent to go through the process as a solo act. Her credentials as a judge seemed impressive.

Her declared reason for taking leave of absence to run for the office was that she felt the incumbant had damaged the department and that she was the right person to restore it.

Only at the very end, when the last of the audience was leaving, did Pfingst appear. He said he'd thought the session was scheduled for 8 p.m.