Publishing has not been David’s only interest. A 1991 Reader article said that David “liked good liquor, fast cars, designer clothes, ostentatious houses, electronic gadgets, gourmet food, fine art, and the international social circuit. But David could also be a source of embarrassment to the conservative Republican executives who actually ran the newspapers in their president’s stead. On one occasion, they killed a proposed Union story about a noted San Diego transvestite and political activist after the subject of the story threatened to write about David in a gay newspaper.”
So far, as of the deadline for this article, David has been arrested three times for drunk driving, most recently in the fall of 2002.
Jim Copley had two adopted sons. Today, David’s name is at the top of the masthead of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Michael probably couldn’t get hired to deliver that newspaper in an undesirable neighborhood. Having the right mother makes all the difference. Helen Copley handed her son an opportunity on a golden platter. What he does with it remains to be seen.
Maureen and Mavourneen O’Connor
Jerome O’Connor once said, “Man was born to reproduce, to keep the life cycle going. The married man who can do the job and doesn’t is generally selfish or a coward or both.” Jerome was apparently neither, for he fathered 13 children, 2 of whom were twins, Maureen and Mavourneen (pronounced Mah-VORE-neen). When the girls were nine years old, their mother, Frances, was named Mother of the Year, and the entire clan was spread across the cover of Parade magazine.
This would not be the last publicity for the family. In 1971 Maureen, a 25-year-old physical education teacher at Rosary High, became the “Cinderella candidate” of the San Diego City Council race. She had been angered by the inaccessibility of city government when she tried to aid a troupe of performing Aztec Indians, and when she heard Sam Loftin announce he wouldn’t seek reelection for the Second District, she had an idea. In a 1979 interview, she said, “I thought, ‘This would be a very constructive thing to do, to campaign and get my [school] kids involved in it, and my family and friends, and see if we could have an impact on this community.’ ”
Mavourneen was dubious. She told her sister, “We don’t know anything about government.” But Mavourneen went to the library, checked out three books on how to win an election, read them all, and announced, “Okay, I’ll be your manager.” The so-called Kiddie Campaign was under way.
Maureen discovered she hated fund-raising and perhaps for this reason collected only $2000. But Mavourneen came up with an effective strategy: Maureen’s youthful following — the “Maureen Corps” — would visit every home in the district three separate times. So her teenaged supporters canvassed Loma Portal, Ocean Beach, Mission Hills, and Hillcrest, and by the night of the primary they knew they actually had a chance. No one else thought so. Newsmen Harold Keen and Fred Lewis wished her better luck next time, before the results had even been posted. Steven Cushman, one of her opponents, had gone to L.A. that day to film his television ads for the general election. But they would never be shown. Maureen beat Cushman by a couple of percentage points, and she trailed her other opponent, Lou Ridgeway, by only 126 votes.
The media started paying attention. She promised to work to limit growth, to make a more responsive council, to rebuild trust in city government. These promises struck a responsive chord in the electorate, and in November she beat Ridgeway by 8546 votes. The city seemed ready for new, youthful energy. Thirty-year-old Jim Bates won a seat on the council that night, as did 38-year-old Pete Wilson. But at 25, Maureen made history, being the youngest person ever elected to help govern San Diego.
She was “scared to death,” but she dove headfirst into her new position and soon became skilled at behind-the-scenes political maneuvering, aided in no small measure by her close alliance with Pete Wilson. Her approach was pragmatic. One writer said, “She entered politics unshaped by any ideology other than faith in her own sincerity.” She would study problems and make decisions based on what made the most sense. This worked well enough for her to win reelection four years later. During her two terms on the council, she supported a growth-management plan, campaign reform, housing for seniors, and perhaps her greatest achievement, the San Diego Trolley.
Maureen’s critics said she grew inaccessible, aloof, even arrogant. Her supporters said she was shy and withdrawn. The media spotlight seemed to weary her, and she became ever more protective of her privacy. News of her marriage in 1977 to Robert Peterson, the divorced, 61-year-old founder of the Jack in the Box and Oscar’s food chains, didn’t leak out until a few days before the ceremony, which was held on the French Riviera. “If you think I’m private,” she said, “then you should meet my husband.”
She decided not to seek reelection in 1979. Some said it was because of her marriage; some said she wanted to relax and help Peterson spend his fortune; some said the council had become too conservative. Maureen herself said it was because she was committed to a two-term limit.
But she was not finished with San Diego politics. In 1983 she ran for mayor, beating Roger Hedgecock, Bill Cleator, and Bill Mitchell in the primary but losing to Hedgecock in the runoff. Much of the money she spent on the campaign — $566,000 — was her own, something Hedgecock heavily criticized, and her support in the less-affluent neighborhoods south of Interstate 8 couldn’t match his support in the more-affluent neighborhoods of the north.
She was seldom heard from in the next 2H years, but when Hedgecock was forced to resign following his conviction (later overturned) of conspiracy and perjury, she ran once again. This time she won. At 39 she became the first woman elected mayor in San Diego — a position she held from 1986 to 1992.