David and Michael Copley were both adopted by the late Jim Copley, owner of Copley Press and publisher of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune. You probably know of David, now president of Copley Press, but it’s unlikely you have heard of Michael. Therein lies the story.
This story begins in 1951, with a brief liaison between Margaret Helen Kinney and John Hunt. She was a stenographer and he was a clerk at Borden dairy company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When they learned she had become pregnant, the couple married to give the baby a name. Twenty days later, in a neighboring county, they divorced. The dissolution document reads, “Margaret Hunt does hereby waive and release any interest that she might or could have in any portion of the estate of John Hunt…in return, John Hunt will pay the plaintiff, Margaret Hunt, $1000.”
Margaret Helen Hunt, who went by her middle name, soon moved to San Diego with her widowed mother. They bought a small house on 54th Street, near University Avenue, and on January 31, 1952, at University Hospital, Helen gave birth to David Hunt.
Helen went to work as a secretary for the Union-Tribune Publishing Company, a part of the Copley newspaper chain. Eventually she became the secretary for the owner, Jim Copley. The affair that ensued between them remained a closely held company secret until their marriage in 1965. The wedding took place in August, the same month Jim’s marriage to his first wife, Jean, was dissolved.
Helen and her 13-year-old son moved into Foxhill, Jim’s 12-acre La Jolla estate, and Jim soon adopted David as his own son.
This was not his first adoption. He and Jean, in the third year of their marriage (1949), had adopted two children, Michael and Janice, who were of identical age but not related to each other. Family life was what might be called friendly-formal, with their father offering little demonstrable affection and imposing plenty of routine and discipline. At the age of ten, Michael was sent to his first boarding school, in Prescott, Arizona. A year later he was sent home because of bad grades and because he had organized commando raids on the kitchen. His father was not amused. In a 1978 newspaper interview, Michael said, “After that, he didn’t hug me anymore.”
He was sent away again, this time to Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts. When he returned home for summer and Christmas holidays, he rode his go-cart named “Honey Bee,” took trips to Borrego, hunted ducks with his dad, and enjoyed the life of a child of affluence.
But this abruptly came to an end when he was 15. “I never heard my parents fight or even argue,” Michael said in the 1978 interview. “I thought they were formal with each other, and it was easier to get affection or support from my mother. But when I came home from school my sister Janice was very upset. She told me they were getting a divorce. I can’t remember anything my mother or father said about it. They gave me some general explanation.…
"My father then married Helen. She was his former secretary, and she had her own son, David. From , when he married Helen, until 1970, I hardly ever saw my father. Even when he came East on business, he wouldn’t call me at school because she wouldn’t like that. She had her own son, and my father adopted him about two months after the wedding.… My father stopped sending me big Christmas presents because Helen wouldn’t like that either.
“I saw him maybe three or four times in those years.”
So Jim’s first family was moved out of Foxhill, and the second was making itself at home. David, too, was sent away to boarding school, and Helen hit the La Jolla social circuit. She also took a growing interest in the company, learning about its business operations over evening cocktails. It was a timely tutorial. Helen and a few intimates knew that Jim was dying of cancer.
The parties at Foxhill continued, though, with hundreds of guests appearing for catered dinners. One of the most famous dinners was held in August 1968. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, after their nomination, flew to San Diego to be entertained by Jim and Helen. For years the Copley papers had supported the California Republican, and as a consequence, Jim Copley was now enjoying the pinnacle of his political power.
But all the money and power in the world could not keep him alive. He finally succumbed to brain and lung cancer in 1973 at the age of 57. To his widow, to whom he had been married for eight years, he left control of his publishing empire and the bulk of his fortune.
Apparently, that was not enough. In 1974, Helen was sued by Michael and Janice, who charged her with looting the trust fund set up for them by their father and fraudulently scheming to consolidate her grip on the Copley Press. Michael charged that Helen plotted to prevent him from seeing his father as he lay dying at Scripps Clinic. He alleged that from the beginning of her marriage, she had taken advantage of his father’s illness to cut him off from Michael and his sister.
Not surprisingly, when Michael graduated from Stanford in 1977 with a degree in journalism, he was not hired by the Union or Evening Tribune. He was not even allowed on the premises.
The legal battle finally reached a conclusion in 1982, with Michael and Janice settling for lifetime annual cash payments from their trust fund. They would never be poor, but neither would they or their progeny ever have influence or ownership in the Copley newspaper chain. Helen had prevailed.
And her son would be the beneficiary. Soon after David graduated from Menlo College in Atherton, he was employed by his mother’s company — a business said to be worth about $750 million. After a stint as publisher of the small biweekly Borrego Sun, David became vice president of the Copley Press, then president in 1988, and president and CEO in 1997. This rapid rise up the employment ladder was to prepare him to take over from his mother. When she retired in 2001, after nearly three decades as chairman of the Copley Press and publisher of the Union, Evening Tribune, and Union-Tribune, she named her son to succeed her.
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.
Constantly at Maureen’s side was her sidekick and confidante, her campaign manager and political advisor, her business partner and next-door neighbor — her twin sister, Mavourneen. Mavourneen is one inch taller, two minutes older, and according to Maureen, three times as shy as her twin. Maureen once described herself as a “very private person,” but Mavourneen as a “very, very, very private person.”
This privacy may account for the contradictory assessments of Mavourneen. She has been described as capable and compassionate toward the underprivileged; she has also been described as cold and calculating. She has been described as honest, someone you can trust; she has also been described as divisive, someone who bruises feelings. She has been described as immensely loyal; she has also been described as a person you don’t want to cross.
Deepening the mystery about her, no doubt, is the fact that she hasn’t given a personal interview to the press in many years. Also, when her sister was in power, Mavourneen served as a lightning rod, deflecting to herself much of the criticism, anger, and aggression. It was like Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Maureen once said, the latter taking the misplaced aggression that people wouldn’t feel free to direct to the former.
Robert Peterson once said of his sister-in-law, “You’ve got to remember that Mavourneen is a mirror twin of Maureen,” describing the type of twins whose common egg did not split until it began to develop right-sided and left-sided characteristics. “If I understand such things, Maureen is the right-handed one and Mavourneen is the left-handed one.”
Mavourneen has been involved in all of Maureen’s political races, but after losing the 1983 mayoral bid, she shifted from manager to chairwoman in the next two campaigns. She earned a great deal of respect as someone with political savvy who was not afraid to be the backbone in a tough decision, who could be the heavy when necessary. Her greatest strength, some said, was in her knowledge of public policy and its implications.
Maureen, when first elected mayor, wanted to appoint her twin as “diplomat without portfolio,” an unpaid position that would focus on protocol, research, and development. But that raised troublesome legal issues, which prevented Mavourneen from assuming this role.
She kept busy, however, devoting much of her attention to the concerns of seniors. As president of San Diego Kind Corp., a nonprofit organization formed in 1972, Mavourneen helped establish the Downtown Senior Center and, with a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, pushed through the building of San Diego Square, a $7.5 million residential high-rise for low-income seniors.
In addition, Mavourneen and her husband, Dr. Tom Kravis, whom she met at a City Club forum and wed in Dublin in 1978, have been involved in a number of business and real estate ventures, some in partnership with Maureen and Robert Peterson. Several of these have been in Sonoma County.
On the occasion of the twins’ 40th birthday, the Evening Tribune noted that they were joined by two other couples, their mother, Helen Copley, and David Copley. David said of Mavourneen, “I find her a lot of fun. I don’t want to say more fun than Maureen, but maybe a little more daring when she plays, a little looser, a little more at ease. Maybe it’s the fact that she drinks and Maureen doesn’t.”
The twins and their husbands socialized together in other ways too. But the foursome was broken in 1994 when Robert Peterson died of leukemia.
Neither Maureen nor Mavourneen has been in the public eye much in recent years. Occasionally Maureen surfaces to speak about an issue, but for the most part, they seem to have found the privacy they cherish. Whatever they’re doing these days, it’s safe to assume that in one way or another, they’re doing it together, supporting each other as always.
Duane and Theodore Roth
Duane and Theodore Roth run Alliance Pharmaceutical, a San Diego–based firm that specializes in developing scientific discoveries into medical products and licensing these to larger pharmaceutical companies. Its main products are Oxygent, a blood substitute for use during surgery, and Imagent, a diagnostic contrast agent for enhancement of ultrasound images. Duane is chairman and chief executive officer, and his one-year-younger brother, Theodore, is president and chief operating officer.
The brothers were raised on an Iowa farm by devout Mennonite parents, and both attended Iowa Wesleyan College. Duane spent ten years as product director at Johnson & Johnson and became CEO of Alliance in 1985; he was appointed chairman in 1989. One of his executive actions was hiring his brother as executive vice president and chief financial officer in 1987; Ted was promoted to president and chief operating officer in 1998.
In a 1996 interview with San Diego Metropolitan magazine, Duane spoke of the benefits of working with his sibling. “It’s easy to speak in shorthand, and we have complete trust in the other’s taking of responsibility.” He described his brother as “more analytical,” while portraying himself as “more emotional.”
“I can fire up the troops and he’ll make sure everything’s in place,” said Duane.
In addition to their business interests, the brothers also have shared an interest in volunteer work for the American Heart Association. They have been active as fund-raisers in the battle against cardiovascular disease.
But they do differ in one important respect: their politics. Duane is a Republican, and Ted is a Democrat. Ted, in fact, was chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council of California from 1996 to 2002. They describe themselves as moderates and say their political philosophies are quite close. Both are fiscally conservative, but Duane believes government should make fewer expenditures for social programs and Ted insists that it should play a role in reducing poverty and improving education.
Apart from politics, Duane and Ted share many values and priorities. In that 1996 interview Duane said that being raised on a farm taught them “a basic respect for individuals, regardless of their education or stature. And by stature I mean their financial assets.”
Their own financial successes have given them a certain “stature.” As of June 30, 2002, Duane’s salary was $491,000, and Ted’s was $358,250. These resources have enabled Duane to invest in his own company.
Which brings us to their recent problems.
Financial problems led Alliance Pharmaceutical into a controversial financing plan that sold 30 percent of the company for just $15 million. Not until after the deal was completed, in December 2001, did shareholders learn that the only investors in the private placement were insiders. The participants were Duane Roth, Stephen McGrath (an Alliance board member), and Roth Capital Partners.
Roth Capital Partners is a Newport Beach–based investment bank that specializes in raising money for small- and micro-cap companies. Alliance hired the investment bank to structure the financing deal. But this raised more than a few eyebrows, not to mention questions about family back-scratching.
It seems there were at least two more brothers on that Iowa farm — Byron Roth and Gordon Roth. The two now run Roth Capital Partners; Byron is ceo, and Gordon is coo and cfo. In the financing plan, Roth Capital Partners was the second-largest investor, purchasing 1.3 million shares of Alliance; in addition, Gordon Roth, by himself, purchased 20,000 shares.
Critics complained that this was hardly an “arm’s-length transaction.” Alliance seemed to be transferring a large part of its equity to new investors but decided to keep it in the family. Was this in the best interests of the shareholders or of the Roth family?
Alliance spokeswoman Gwen Rosenberg said that the choice of Roth Capital Partners benefited the company. The investment bank, she argued, was very knowledgeable about Alliance, and that made the deal go more smoothly than if they had brought in a different firm. Moreover, Duane Roth’s and Stephen McGrath’s participation as investors demonstrates their personal commitment to the business.
Whatever the future holds for Alliance Pharmaceutical, the Roth brothers will likely be watching each other’s back, if not scratching it. Who knows? In the end, it may indeed benefit shareholders. And it will most certainly make for more jovial family reunions.
Neal and Linden Blue
James Neal Blue and Linden Stanley Blue have much in common. Both graduated from Yale University, both were Air Force pilots, both went into business, both made a fortune, both live in La Jolla mansions, both bought General Atomics in August 1986, and both now run the company, Neal as chairman and Linden as vice chairman.
The Blue brothers derived their wealth from “gas utility companies in Ohio, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, oil and gas production in Canada, and real estate in Colorado,” according to a company news release.
The ability to make money was apparently inherited. Their mother, Virginia Neal Blue, was a woman of substantial accomplishments. A website featuring a “Colorado State Capitol Virtual Tour” reveals a stained-glass portrait of her and describes her as a Colorado native who “spent most of her life becoming an accomplished financier and realtor. In 1962, she was elected the first female Denver Realtor of the Year and soon she became the first female president of the University of Colorado Associated Alumni. In 1967 Blue was elected to the post of Colorado State Treasurer, the first woman to hold the position. In this official capacity Blue improved banking and investment practices in the state, and when she left three years later the state was left with an extra eight million dollars.”
Her sons bought General Atomics for $50 million from Chevron Oil, and they set out to enlarge its federal contracting business. To further this end, they became big contributors to both Republicans and Democrats, being especially generous with our local congressional delegation, which returned the favors by working hard to secure appropriations for research. The company diversified from its traditional base as a center for nuclear research and development, one of the most significant steps being the purchase of the rights to the Predator from the bankrupt Israeli national who invented the aircraft. The Predator is an unmanned aircraft that has played a significant role in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is used for gathering intelligence with television cameras and for delivering lethal firepower with Hellfire missiles.
Besides the Predator, General Atomics contracts with the Department of Defense to provide Navy power systems, guidance devices, and computer integration. It owns uranium mines in Australia, does research for the government’s nuclear fusion project, and is involved in top-secret projects with the Pentagon.
General Atomics has recently had another job: defending itself against charges of defrauding taxpayers of millions of dollars by rigging contracts, padding payroll costs, and presenting false claims for payment using a company owned by the sons of Neal Blue. Sam Kholi, a former employee of General Atomics, triggered a federal action using the False Claims Act, a Civil War–era statute that enables citizens to bring whistle-blower lawsuits on behalf of the United States against contractors alleged to have cheated the government. The whistle-blower can collect a bounty, up to 30 percent of the funds awarded as a result of the suit. The government can also choose to intervene in the suit, as it has done in this case.
“Although the General Atomics defendants have more than 1000 employees, they have the need for additional staffing from time to time to work on specific contracts,” says the Kholi complaint. “The vast majority of these additional staffing needs are for engineers and scientists who have worked on specific contracts for the General Atomics defendants in the past. Other staffing needs are more general and administrative in nature.
“Until 1992, the General Atomics defendants would obtain this additional staffing via competitive bidding from staffing agencies. At any given time, the General Atomics defendants would be receiving their additional staffing from 7 to 8 staffing vendors.”
But that was before the two sons of Neal Blue — Linden P. Blue and Neal Karsts Blue — set up Alliance Staffing Associates, Inc., a temporary-employment firm based in Mira Mesa, in 1992. Kholi alleges that after the creation of Alliance, “the staffing was provided at exorbitant rates far above competitive market rates. Rather than provide staffing at its cost plus the standard 20 percent mark up, Alliance Staffing Associates, Inc., had a conspiratorial incestuous agreement with General Atomics defendants to charge its cost plus an outrageous mark up of up to 30 percent.
“These above-market costs were then passed on through to the government by the General Atomics defendants in their government contracts, to the government’s damage. The government has been further damaged by this practice because the General Atomics defendants would then add their own profit percentage to these already inflated costs in their government contracts.
“These inflated costs were nothing more than a subterfuge to steal money from the United States and pass it on through to the sons of Neal Blue.”
General Atomics denied wrongdoing.
Last April the case went before the U.S. District Court, and on June 13 the court sided with General Atomics on all claims. The government’s motion to alter this judgment was denied on August 13.
Ralph and Nick Inzunza
Ralph and Nick Inzunza began their political careers early. In 1974, five-year-old Ralph knocked on doors asking San Ysidro residents to elect his parents to the school board. It’s unknown what four-year-old Nick was doing at the time, but he was probably at home sticking pins in neighborhood maps and addressing leaflets, possibly even telephoning donors to solicit contributions.
A few years later Nick managed Ralph’s successful campaign for president of the sixth grade, and if a San Diego journalist recently asked, in all seriousness, which one of them would be the first to run for governor, it was because other campaigns have been fought and won along the way. Their father, Ralph Sr., won a seat on the National City council, serving for 12 years and becoming what Assemblyman Juan Vargas calls “the godfather of Latino politics.” He had to have felt enormous pride when he administered the oath at Ralph Jr.’s swearing in as a city councilman of San Diego on March 5, 2001, and when he administered the oath in Nick’s swearing in as mayor of National City on December 5, 2002.
Ralph Jr. attended San Diego State University, earning a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in Latin American studies. He spent time in Washington, D.C., as a Lyndon B. Johnson Fellow and returned to San Diego to become chief of staff for city councilman Juan Vargas.
When Vargas resigned, after being elected to the state assembly, he left nearly two years on his unexpired term. Ralph ran for it in the special election held on February 27, 2001, defeating 12 other candidates by winning 62 percent of the vote. His family and political connections paid off: he raised ten times more money than the amount raised by any of his rivals. He was reelected in March 2002 for an additional four years on the council.
He wasted no time making his presence felt. In the fall of 2002 the Union-Tribune referred to him as “the maverick Eighth District Councilman,” indicating that some observers think he will attempt to accumulate power by assembling more five-vote majorities than the mayor. Of course, saying a politician will attempt to accumulate power is like saying a fish will attempt to live in water. Even so, Inzunza has apparently distinguished himself in this regard. But some wonder whether his brash style might ultimately thwart his ambition.
That ambition was evident when he asked Mayor Murphy to appoint him deputy mayor, a largely ceremonial position. The mayor obliged, and on December 3, 2002, Ralph Jr. was appointed to that position. The banner at the top of his website now reads, “Meet Your Deputy Mayor.” The website goes on to mention, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, his “dedication and effectiveness as a leader and public servant”; it enthuses that “in just a few months in office, he’s made tremendous accomplishments.” Inzunza takes credit for defeating the expansion of the cargo airport at Brown Field in Otay Mesa, securing funding for a new fire station in San Ysidro, building a new skateboard park, and expanding the Otay Mesa library. “If this isn’t enough, the historic Sherman Heights will enjoy 87 new, ornamental lights to beautify and brighten up its pedestrian-oriented streets.”
“Your Deputy Mayor” has recently received unwelcome publicity, if publicity can ever be unwelcome for a politician. On May 14, 2003, fbi agents and San Diego police detectives searched his City Hall office, along with the offices of Michael Zucchet and Charles Lewis, as part of an investigation into whether strip club owner Michael Galardi sought favorable treatment from councilmembers regarding restrictions on adult entertainment clubs. The three councilmembers were targeted because of conversations intercepted through surveillance, wiretaps, and other listening devices. Inzunza has denied wrongdoing. “I don’t know what this is about,” he said. “I’m confident I’ve done nothing wrong.”
A federal grand jury disagrees. On August 28, U.S. Attorney Carol Lam announced that Inzunza, Lewis, and Zucchet were being indicted on charges of scheming to repeal no-touch rules at strip clubs in exchange for money from Galardi and two of his employees. Inzunza was charged with extortion, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Meanwhile, brother Nick has also been busy. He bought his first piece of property nine years ago at the age of 23. “Most folks were putting their money into ipos,” he recently told San Diego Metropolitan, “but I put my money where my mouth was and invested it back in my community. Through a seven-year period of acquiring property, I was able to make acquisitions totaling $3.2 million. I have since been able to reinvest my cash in these properties to rehabilitate them and create affordable housing in the inner city, keeping in mind when I bought these properties, most were abandoned or vacant housing structures. Today, these properties are valued at $9.4 million, 132 units, no single-family units.”
Nick has worked to expand not only his equity but also his political base. He worked for political consultant Tom Shepard and then became an aide for County Supervisor Greg Cox. He was first elected to the city council of National City in 1990, when his father decided to step down. A Democrat, he is able to talk with business interests and takes an entrepreneurial approach to getting things done. Tom Shepard says he is “pragmatic enough to know that you don’t succeed in politics without building broad-based coalitions, and his ability to do that was instrumental to his success in the mayor’s race.”
So also was his fund-raising. Nick spent four times that of his nearest competitor. Drawing on his family’s considerable connections in South Bay, he raised $109,000 for the campaign. One of his major supporters was his big brother’s former employer, Assemblyman Juan Vargas, whose campaign committee donated more than $10,000 to Nick’s drive for the mayor’s office.
This money, along with plenty of knocking on doors, helped Nick get elected last November. He defeated George Waters, who first won a seat on the National City council the year Nick was born and who served as mayor for 16 years. Nick stressed the need for fresh and effective leadership, which is what he will need to accomplish his list of goals to revitalize his city.
He says he wants to increase the percentage of owner-occupied housing units, create an arts center, connect the Filipino restaurants along Plaza Boulevard into a “Filipino Village,” redevelop Highland Avenue and support its many Mexican eateries, continue work on the University Education Village and increase the number of participating students from 3000 to 15,000, begin construction on a $20 million library at Kimball Park, and build a new fire station — to name a few of his projects.
Nick and Ralph Jr. have a younger brother, Michael, who once worked for Supervisor Greg Cox and helped get Nick elected but who doesn’t seem to share their political ambitions. Other members of their extended family, though, have been involved in public life: Aunt Delores founded the Chicano Democratic Association many years ago; Uncle Richard cofounded the Chicano Federation; Uncle Rick was appointed by the first President Bush as the number-two man at the Department of Justice, after a 30-year career in the Navy. If the Inzunzas can boast of many high achievers, they also can draw upon more than a few members of their clan; there are about 500 in San Diego and Tijuana. One can only imagine their family gatherings.
Nick’s ambition is no more a secret than Ralph Jr.’s, but when Gary Shaw, publisher of San Diego Metropolitan, asked Nick who would be the first to run for governor, Nick quickly answered, “Ralph, because I want to be his campaign manager.” Depending on the outcome of the U.S. Attorney’s case against Ralph, that could be a difficult job. n
Editor: Mr. McCullough’s story was based on newspaper clips and other research material; there was only minor use of recent interviews.