By Angela Lau
SIGN ON SAN DIEGO
November 4, 2004
The pain from daggers drawn and harsh words uttered during the bitter 1st District City Council race may linger, but activists on both sides urged the community to heal.
Yesterday, as incumbent Scott Peters took a substantial lead over challenger Phil Thalheimer and headed toward a second term, Thalheimer supporters pledged their cooperation.
"We have to work together. There's no way around it," said Joanne Pearson, a La Jolla activist who opposed Peters. "That's the way elections are. We gave it our best shot, but we didn't pull it off.
"I look forward to working to ensure that the district is represented wholly – with all the people who opposed him as well as those who supported him," she said.
Yesterday, Peters, savoring a respite from months of fierce attacks, said he plans to be inclusive.
"I will continue to represent everyone," Peters said. "I have never been a vindictive person. I never take things personally. I will continue to keep working to do the best for the district.
"When you get 54 or 55 percent of the vote, it shows that most people are happy with the things I am doing," Peters said. "This election teaches people that you have to have more than a series of attacks to win. You have to have a record and a plan."
The race set a record as the most expensive City Council contest because Thalheimer poured more than $1 million of his money into it. The district encompasses Carmel Valley, Torrey Highlands, Del Mar Heights, Rancho Peñasquitos, University City and La Jolla.
"The campaign's over. He's won," Thalheimer, a Rancho Peñasquitos flight school owner, said. "I feel very proud of what we did. I will work with him if invited. I certainly will not leave the scene."
He said some opportunities have opened for him because of the race, but he declined to elaborate, saying it was premature to talk about them.
Election Night at Thalheimer's gathering spot on the 18th floor of the Westgate Hotel was one of little gaiety. Thalheimer trailed from the earliest returns.
In contrast, Peters' staff and supporters and his family gathered at Golden Hall to wave campaign signs wildly in front of TV cameras as Peters completed his interview circuit. They have said throughout the campaign they never doubted he would win.
Jack Griffiths, a Peters supporter and a member of the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council, said political divisions should not overshadow community welfare.
"We have very serious traffic problems, (thousands of acres) of canyons that pose serious fire abatement issues. We can't afford to be arguing with each other," he said.
Yesterday, Peters said he will help ensure the completion of an audit of the city's 2003 finances to restore San Diego's credit rating. He also said he would like to see labor negotiations begin to reduce pension benefits.
In his district, Peters said he wants to complete traffic-calming measures in Bird Rock, find ways to construct connectors linking State Route 56 with Interstates 5 and 15 and establish a network of bicycling and hiking trails.
He said the passage of the "strong mayor" initiative will make city government more responsive and accountable.
"By putting some of the administrative function directly under the mayor, it puts the mayor in a position to turn the boat more quickly," Peters said. "The problem with the existing system is that authority is so diffuse it's hard to know where to go to solve problems."