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Chris J. Cate, interim president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association - the lobbying organization that has been a key player in the effort to force Democratic Mayor Bob Filner to sign a funding contract negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Jerry Sanders - is planning to run for the sixth district city council seat now held by fellow Republican Lorie Zapf.

As a result of last year's redistricting, Zapf's Bay Ho residence is now in the second district, and she reportedly does not intend to move. That leaves her with the option of running for re-election in the new second district, where current GOP incumbent, Kevin Faulconer, is termed out. The shift has triggered a wave of interest in the sixth district seat.

Besides Cate, at least two other prospective candidates, according to filings recently posted online by the San Diego city clerk's office, have also filed statements of intention to run in next year's race. They are former San Diego Unified School Board member Mitz Lee and veterans advocate Don Azul.

As previously reported, the taxpayers association has long been closely tied to Atlas Hotels, Inc., run by C. Terry Brown, one of three old school San Diego hotel moguls spearheading a legal attack to force Filner to sign off on the Sanders deal.

On the executive committee of the lobbying association's board has been Mike McDowell, Vice President Corporate Affairs at Atlas. McDowell was the group's chairman of the board in 2009, 2010, and 2011, according to the association’s website.

One of the lobbyists' most prominent city hall backers is GOP city attorney Jan Goldsmith, who has attempted to undermine Filner's position. Goldsmith recently dressed as a chorus boy to perform a video song and dance promoting ticket sales to the association's annual banquet next month.

The association also gained recent notice when Lani Lutar, its then-president and CEO, tweeted her objections to comments made by Filner at a February 6 banquet held by another registered lobbying association, the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

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Later that month it was announced Lutar was leaving the association, with Cate taking over on an interim basis.

According to a dispatch appearing in the Carlsbad Patch, Cate, then a resident of Carlsbad, was promoted to vice president of the association by Lutar in March 2011.

From April 2009 to February 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile, Cate was audit committee consultant and policy advisor to councilman Faulconer. He was also regional political director for former Santee mayor and GOP insurance man Jack Dale's Assembly campaign in 2006, and a public policy analyst the same year for Jefferson Government Relations, a Washington, D.C. PR and lobbying firm, according to SourceWatch.Org

A resume on file with the city shows that Cate was policy director of the taxpayers association from July 2006 to April 2009, when he took his job with Faulconer, leaving city hall to go back to the association as vice president in February 2010.

Cate did not immediately return a phone call left at his office this morning seeking comment.

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