By CHRIS LAVIN
LA MESA – The candidates for City Council and Mayor appeared together in the first major community forum of the election year and the only real heat of this La Mesa Chamber of Commerce candidate’s night was exchanged between Mayor Art Madrid and his opponent Laura Lothian.
Madrid, a 20-year veteran of the mayor’s office, explained he was angered by Lothian’s campaign calls to “clean house,’’ which he said implied the city is dirty or corrupt, so he attacked Lothian from start to finish on this candidate night. “She has said she needs $50,000 to win this race,’’ Madrid mocked. “I suggest she hire Molly Maids and she can get her house cleaned two people for $45 per hour."
Madrid criticized Lothian’s voting record, saying she’s voted only six times in the last 17 voting opportunities, and accused Lothian of using the candidacy to promote her real estate business. “If you are going to be a candidate, you should act like a candidate,’’ Madrid said.
For the most part, Lothian did not attack back, though she scoffed at Madrid’s questioning of her motives in running.
“I would never get into a campaign like this to raise my business profile,’’ she said.
Lothian repeated several times throughout the evening that her concerns for the city were spurred by seeing signs of lethargy, graffiti lingering on buildings, trash collecting along highways.
At one point Madrid displayed a photo of a trash-filled highway interchange he said Lothian’s campaign has been circulating.
“You’d think a candidate would know the city limits,’’ Madrid charged. “This photo is in Lemon Grove.’’
Apart from the icy and hot exchanges between the two mayoral candidates, the rest of the evening was a series of heart-felt and cordial answers to questions posed to council candidates of clearly different experience levels.
At varying moments, all the newcomer challengers for the council seats – Ian Shiff, Kevin Rynearson, and Patrick Dean – made public acknowledgement of their lack of political experience. Shiff and Rynearson stumbled at times to give specific answers posed by a clearly well-informed audience. Dean, also a newcomer, held his own with incumbent’s Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis, whose long tenure and familiarity with issues clearly helped distinguish them from the newcomers.
The Chamber’s candidate’s night was particularly well moderated. The technique of filtering written questions from the audience kept the evening well above the sort of partisan exchanges and audience speech-making that are frequently part of candidate nights.
The candidates will gather again Oct. 1 for a Kiwanis sponsored event at the Couts Cottage next door to the La Mesa Community Center.