Friday, April 11, 2008 | From the outset, the District 3 City Council race had the makings of good political theater with two young up-and-comers going up against one of the city’s legendary precinct walkers. In recent weeks, however, it’s felt like an episode of “COPS.”
Going into the last week of March, Democrats Todd Gloria, Stephen Whitburn and John Hartley all had reasonable expectations for a strong showing in the June 3 primary for the seat being vacated by a termed-out Toni Atkins.
Then, on March 27, the race changed drastically. Hartley, sitting in his truck parked on Vista Street in Kensington, was allegedly spotted masturbating by two women. Hartley was subsequently arrested, and last week pleaded no contest to committing a lewd act in public.
The incident and the resulting media coverage effectively doomed Hartley’s chances; even he admits it would take a “miracle” for him to win. But the 65-year-old, known as an indefatigable canvasser of neighborhoods, has pledged to stay in the race, saying, “I need to give the voters a chance to speak out.”
Even with one of the frontrunner’s chances imperiled, the race is promising to be a hotly contested one in an urban district where infrastructure and development stand as key issues. And the divide, or in some cases lack of decision altogether, among the area’s entrenched, political groups underscores the struggle the candidates have faced to put together a united coalition.
Stretching through the heart of the city, including the neighborhoods of Golden Hill, City Heights, Normal Heights and Hillcrest, District 3 has elected only Democrats since the advent of district-only elections in 1988. Its voters generally require candidates to be worker-friendly, skeptical of developers, environmentally conscious and palatable to the gay and lesbian community.