Campo, Gronke break into the lead

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The San Diego Union-Tribune

VISTA — Lawyer Paul Campo and teacher Steve Gronke took early leads last night in the race for two City Council seats.

And two campaign-finance reform measures appeared headed toward approval, with Proposition V — a council-authored measure — slightly ahead of Proposition W. The proposition with the most votes takes precedence.

Debate during the campaign was intense on the competing measures. The Oaks Project initiative, known as Proposition W, is a grass-roots measure sponsored by a Santa Monica nonprofit group.

Proposition V was created when the City Council voiced concerns that the Oaks Project initiative was unconstitutional because it would limit free speech.

In the council race, 13 candidates ran for two seats left open with the retirements of Councilmen Dick Cooke and Ted Cole.

The race had no burning issues. Most candidates supported the city’s $98 million downtown redevelopment project and said they were concerned about traffic congestion.

Several candidates argued that City Hall is not friendly to business, including Patrick Flynn, a tow company owner, and Salvatore “Samy” Colucci, a retired developer.

Mayor Gloria McClellan countered that Vista has been enforcing tougher planning standards to create a better-looking city.

McClellan endorsed both Campo and Gene Ford, a retired trust company CEO, who came under fire for accepting campaign contributions from firms doing business with his homeowners association where he is a board member.

Ford defended the donations, saying that “no amount of money” would affect his ability to make fair decisions.

Campo was seen as a front-runner because he remained politically active even after he made an unsuccessful run for council four years ago. He has served on many city commissions and civic organization boards.

Gronke touted his experience on the city’s crime commission and said his campaign centered on door-to-door efforts to reach voters.

Also running were: Sally Craven, a newspaper publisher; John Healy, a sales manager; Chuck Gizoni, a real estate salesman; Frank Lopez, a restaurateur; Alan Shada, a former executive; Joseph Vargas, a contractor; Craig Heiller, a contractor; and Edwin Lounibos, a factory worker.

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