The arrest last week of Esteban Núñez, the 19-year-old son of ex–Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, in connection with a murder during a late-night rumble near San Diego State, has brought new focus on the former speaker’s ties to San Diego. A year ago, when he was still in office, Núñez appointed San Diego city councilman Ben Hueso to the California Coastal Commission, ignoring the protests of the Sierra Club and others who said Hueso lacked environmental credentials and was in the pocket of developers. Both Hueso and Núñez, 1 of 12 children of Mexican immigrants, grew up in Barrio Logan and are longtime political allies. Núñez also is closely tied to Hueso mentor Juan Vargas, the ex–San Diego city councilman and former Democratic assemblyman who was soundly defeated by incumbent Bob Filner in their 2006 congressional primary race.
When Núñez stepped down as speaker in May, the San Diego High School graduate briefly toyed with the idea of returning to his hometown to run for mayor. But, like Vargas — who became a lobbyist — Núñez joined the insurance industry, this month becoming a boardmember of Zenith Insurance, a major beneficiary of his legislative wheeling and dealing.