Is a Union-Tribune editorial endorsement now equivalent to a political kiss of death? That's what some local insiders say, judging from the results of last week's voting. The biggest blowout came in the races for San Diego's board of education, where the U-T wound up one for three. It endorsed Miyo Reff and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, each the favorite of embattled district superintendent Alan Bersin. Both were the intended beneficiaries of last-minute hit pieces paid for by Eli Broad, the wealthy L.A. developer, and his sidekick, ex-L.A. mayor Richard Riordan, now GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's secretary of education. Wrote the U-T, long-time cheerleader for Bersin, "Mitz Lee has made no secret of her desire to buy out Bersin's contract and raze many of the reforms. Lee's opponent is Miyo Reff, who wants to improve the blueprint rather than scuttle it." Voters didn't buy it, and Lee and Shelia Jackson won their respective contests with comfortable margins. The U-T salvaged a bit of dignity by recommending Luis Acle against Ben Hueso, crony of indicted city councilman Ralph Inzunza. Hueso, a Democrat who along with Republican Reff was backed by big cash expenditures by the AFL-CIO's San Diego labor council, went down in flames. The paper's other endorsement victories were not as convincing. The fate of the paper's choice for mayor, incumbent Dick Murphy, was hanging in the balance as of press time, as was that of Michael Aguirre, the U-T's surprise pick for city attorney, though Democratic city councilman Scott Peters and Republican assemblywoman Shirley Horton, both U-T favorites, held on to their seats. The paper racked up another loss with its pick of Republican Tricia Hunter over Democrat Lori Saldaña in the 76th Assembly District, and it failed to convince voters to reject Prop F, the "strong mayor" charter change ... The U-T could find no consolation for its electoral defeats in the latest readership numbers released this month by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Daily circulation fell 3.7 percent to 339,032. Sunday was down 2.9 percent to 433,973. That inspired a gloating story in the North County Times, which reported that its own circulation "leapt" 2.5 percent on Sundays and .9 percent daily. Referring to the U-T, the Times added that "representatives for the San Diego newspaper did not return calls for comment."

Webified Local Internet entrepreneur Mark Burgess, CEO of SanDiego.com, has released the final results of his first-ever "San Diego Election Web Sites Ranking." He notes that the county's politicos aren't the most technically sophisticated bunch: "We were appalled by the number of candidates for public office who did not have a website we could find. Of the 549 people running for office with direct representation for some part or all of San Diego County, only 186 had web sites. Further, of the 186, about half hadn't bothered to create their own site but relied on the one-pager at SmartVoter.org." That said, Burgess awarded first place to the website of Democrat Mike Byron, running against incumbent GOP congressman Darrell Issa. Second went to school-board loser Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, and third to Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray. Mitz Lee, a school-board victor, placed fourth, and San Diego city attorney candidate Leslie Devaney, locked in a tight battle with Michael Aguirre, came in 5th (Aguirre's site was 18th). Others who made the cut were winning school-board candidate Shelia Jackson (7th); GOP congressman Duncan Hunter (10th); losing GOP assembly aspirant Tricia Hunter (12th); successful judicial candidate Joe Brannigan (13th); and assembly winner Lori Saldaña (17th). There was even a booby prize: "Kika Estrada, running for the Otay Water District, gives you two choices when you reach her site: you can read her apology for a petty theft conviction last year or...you can give your name and email address at which point she will allow you into her real home page. I guess in that last part, at least, she's in famous company. John Kerry's site does the same thing (sans the petty-theft story, of course)." Estrada lost by a landslide.

My big Greek's ballot Election results were mixed for Alex Spanos, the billionaire Republican from Stockton, who is lobbying hard for a new taxpayer-funded stadium to house his Chargers football team. It wasn't good news that his longtime nemesis, Michael Aguirre, was ahead by a hair in the San Diego city attorney race. On the other hand, Spanos had to be pleased that the $5 million he pumped into Progress for America, the so-called 527 committee that ran TV spots questioning John Kerry's ability to stand up to terrorists, paid off in a win for George W. Bush. In his back yard, Spanos was dealt a blow when Stockton voters narrowly approved Measure Q, a growth-limiting initiative that Spanos had spent $45,000 to oppose. But opponents aren't dead yet. Prop S, a measure that its proponents, including Spanos, contend nullifies Prop Q, passed by a bigger margin, which means a judge will ultimately decide who wins.

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