San Diego school board member Mitz Lee, who in June filed papers declaring her intent to run next year for the District 5 city council seat being vacated by termed-out Brian Maienschein, has dropped out of that race, saying that an impeding school district budget crunch and the arrival of a new superintendent require her continued presence on the board of education. Lee's departure from the council battle in favor of a board reelection bid appears to be another big break for Fifth District contender and fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, the self-styled good-government maven who has been racking up big money and endorsements, including that of the county's Republican Central Committee. The committee's endorsement will allow members of the local GOP to funnel all the funds they can raise into an independent campaign on behalf of DeMaio, using the state's so-called member communications exemption from the city's $270-a-person lid on individual contributions to council candidates. ... Some familiar names from San Diego campaigns past are making appearances in the GOP's presidential derby. They include pollster Dick Dresner, a onetime Roger Hedgecock stalwart currently working for Mike Huckabee, and Ken Rietz, who is advising Fred Thompson. Rietz ran the ill-fated mayoral campaign of Dick Carlson against Hedgecock.

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