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Mayoral Race: A Look at the Spouses

Tuesday, July 05, 2005 | Several spouses of candidates in the mayoral election possess public and professional records, and are practically as distinguished as the candidates themselves.

Gayle Francis, wife of candidate Steve Francis, is the co-founder with her husband of AMN Healthcare Services Inc., today the nation’s largest provider of traveling nurses. Skip Frye, husband of candidate Donna Frye, has been famous for decades in San Diego in the sport – and business – of surfing. Rana Sampson, wife of candidate Jerry Sanders, is at least as well-known nationally in law enforcement as he is, and once was an NYPD undercover narc. Diann Shipione Shea, wife of candidate Pat Shea, could be credited with setting this entire summer election exercise under way, when she “blew the whistle” on city pension board maneuvering that created the key issue in this race.

Voice of San Diego‘s series of profiles of these spouses and their foreground and background roles as they accompany the candidates through the campaign continues today with Rana Sampson.

Rana Sampson was helping people, in her work as a mayor’s assistant for community development and housing issues, and she enjoyed it, but it was the bureaucratic, slow-boat-to-China route.

“I decided that I wanted to help people in times of crisis,” Sampson said. “If I wanted to do that, I should become a firefighter or a cop.”

So she became a cop. That’s how she met Jerry Sanders.

Not right away. She got plenty of people-in-crisis experiences on the streets of her native New York City as a narc and as a police sergeant. But her life horizon included a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a law degree from Harvard, and the street eventually tied her down. She moved into police research, training and analysis of problems both common (panhandling) and new (identity theft) to police work, all with the object of improving “policing” in a community. She was both a White House Fellow and National Institute of Justice Fellow, and senior researcher and trainer at the Police Executive Research Forum. She became a consultant and speaker at national and international policing conferences.

Also attending one of these conferences, in 1991, was Jerry Sanders.

“We were simpatico about the way we thought about policing and how important we thought policing was in a democratic society,” Sampson said. “Very romantic, don’t you think?

“Over the next year, we did some joint presentations in different cities,” she said. “There was a group of us who all saw eye-to-eye on policing issues and crime reduction.”

Pretty soon, Rana and Jerry started seeing eye-to-eye about each other.

“Jerry is not the kind of person who grows on you. Jerry is the type of person you like from the very start,” she said. “What I love about him most, he’s the funniest person I know. In the morning, before breakfast he always has me laughing about something. The best way to start the day.”

Her belief in his professional skills also starts at home, she said.

“He believes that things can be improved,” she said, “whether it’s the lawn, the house, the neighborhood, the parks, the city, and he has a way of getting everyone to participate in their improvement. I’ve seen him do it at the police department, at United Way and at Red Cross. People know he cares, so they want to work with him. He has a way of bringing everyone on board. He does that in our house as well.”

When they married, Sanders had two daughters, Lisa, now 22, and Jamie, 19.

“I’m their stepmom,” Sampson said, “and I love them very, very much. Lisa just graduated from college with a math degree, and Jamie just finished her first year of college.”

The girls are very interested in their father’s campaign for mayor, she said, and are always asking to attend events for him. Sampson is an evening and weekend campaigner.

“I hold down my job during the day,” she said, “and attend events, including fundraisers, with Jerry in the evenings.”

Her day job involves consulting with cities around the county on reducing crime and developing policing strategies, in addition to her conference participation.

“I also write guidebooks for the policing profession on specific crime or safety problems,” she said. Some of her guidebook titles include “Drug Dealing in Privately Owned Apartment Complexes,” “Bullying in Schools,” and “Acquaintance Rape of College Students.”

Currently at the online library of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, a national nonprofit organization of policing practitioners (including Sampson) and academics, Sampson offers an analysis of “The Problem of Misuse and Abuse of 911.”

On weekends, she is a Jerry Sanders for Mayor campaigner.

“I hand out information about Jerry at supermarkets in different parts of the city, and attend various community events across San Diego with him,” she said.

That, she said, is the extent of her role in the campaign. “Jerry is the one running,” she said. “I do not consult with his campaign manager. What I would say to people if I spoke up, would be, ‘Tell your friends about Jerry.’ I know this sounds silly, but I really think that he is the person San Diego needs now to turn this terrible situation around. People always underestimate Jerry because he is soft-spoken and accessible, and that is very true, but he is also the most capable person I have ever met.

“Lots of my friends and (Kensington) neighbors are campaigning for Jerry, including all the women in a book group I’m in,” she said. “In fact, it’s the first time all the women in our book group agree on the same candidate.”

Her husband, she said, is “an avid reader” of historical non-fiction, particularly U.S. history and related biographies (John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, etc.). “He also has a taste for Tom Clancy and Dale Brown,” she said. “His all-time favorite author, though, is Steinbeck.”

There are six women in her book group, and recent titles include “Kite Runner,” “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” “Empire Falls,” “The Good Earth,” “Plainsong,” “A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” “Middlesex,” “Year of Wonders,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Islands in the Stream.”

“Generally we like fiction,” she said. “I’d say we probably were most moved by ‘Kite Runner.’ It’s an incredible novel.”

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at

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