Equal opportunity reporting

— A bit of California history is being made in this year's Solana Beach city-council elections. It involves the status of Dave Roberts, 43, a former congressional staffer who is one of four residents running for three open city-council seats in the well-heeled bluff-top town just north of Del Mar. A consultant at La Jolla's Science Application International Corp., the big defense contractor, Roberts is backed by the so-called Beach and Bluff Conservancy, a group seeking to build a giant sea wall intended to halt the erosion of the town's beach bluffs, atop which sit multimillion-dollar oceanview houses. The group, advised by Jennifer Tierney of the Gemini Group, the high-powered political consultant to San Diego mayor Dick Murphy, has helped pay for mailers backing Roberts and two other council candidates. Some environmentalists, on the other hand, are against such intervention and would be content to watch the bluffs take a more natural course, regardless of how that might affect beachfront property values. The Union-Tribune weighed in last week with an endorsement of Roberts and an attack against the anti-sea wall groups: "CalBeach and Surfrider have been and will continue to use the courts with an unrelenting gale of lawsuits -- to a ludicrous and counterproductive point." But the history-making being done by Roberts, whose campaign website features a smiling photo of him with his two sons, 8 and 3, has nothing to do with the bluffs. Last April, after he filed to run for the council, Roberts, an Eagle Scout, wrote to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, requesting the commission to determine whether his domestic partner, a man, would be considered a "spouse" under California conflict-of-interest reporting requirements. Two weeks ago the FPPC handed down its decision: yes, Roberts would have to disclose his partner's income and assets, according to the required reporting schedule of Solana Beach's conflict-of-interest code. The ruling was based on the commission's reading of Assembly Bill 205, the domestic partner law, which says that registered gay domestic partners "shall have the same rights, protections and benefits...as granted to spouses." In reaching its conclusion, the commission noted that Roberts and "his registered domestic partner own a home in Solana Beach and are jointly responsible for each other's basic living expenses. Mr. Roberts' partner is a part-time salaried property manager for an oceanfront condominium complex in Solana Beach. In December 2003, Mr. Roberts and his partner sold an individual condominium unit where his domestic partner is currently employed as the property manager. He has no other interest in this oceanfront condominium complex." In a letter to the commission, Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe, a member of the gay caucus, wrote, "Candidates for political office who have a domestic partner should be subjected to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties as spouses under the Political Reform Act."

Hot buttons Last-minute contributions are pouring into local campaign coffers from national political action committees. For instance, $1000 went to GOP assembly candidate Tricia Hunter, running against Democrat Lori Saldaña, from Wish List, the liberal Republican pro-choice political action committee and Saldaña got $1500 from Emily's List, the Democratic equivalent. Hunter also benefited from a $5250 independent expenditure on "consulting" made by the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, funded by various real estate agencies ... The campaign on the so-called strong mayor charter amendment in San Diego has hired Mark Mitrovich, son of George Mitrovich, who is on the measure's steering committee. Mark and his dad also worked for L.A.'s Metropolitan Water District before it was revealed they were paid a total of $145,000 in an attempt to derail San Diego's plan to grab water from the Imperial Valley. On the other side of the issue, retired accountant and civic watchdog Mel Shapiro has put more than $22,000 of his own money into radio spots to be run against the strong-mayor measure, which is favored by incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy and his friend, downtown real estate mogul Malin Burnham. Other pro-strong mayor donations include $10,000 from beer vendor Mesa Distributing, run by Ron Fowler, who wants a new Chargers stadium ... Local car dealers have been giving heavily to Prop 64, the measure that would slap tough restrictions on lawsuits against them by irate customers. The New Car Dealers Association gave $250,000; $50,000 each came from Cush Automotive, Bob Baker Enterprises, and Mossy Corporation. Mercedes-Benz of San Diego gave $24,900; Toyota Carlsbad chipped in $23,900; and Hoehn Motors gave $21,000.

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