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— Former state senator Dede Alpert decided not to run for San Diego mayor maybe due to scrutiny from critics who contend she is too closely linked to big labor. The Democrat -- formerly from Coronado, currently living just inside San Diego's northern city limits in the tony subdivision known as Fairbanks Country Club -- also has cozy ties to big business. She is on the board of the Padres. Husband Mike, a semiretired corporate securities lawyer from the influential L.A. law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has been on the board of San Diego's Jack in the Box for about a dozen years. His board colleagues at Jack include retired USD president Alice Hayes and L. Robert Payne, said to be a close friend and mentor of Alpert's.

Payne was a principal in the company back in the 1960s when it was run by R.O. Peterson, late husband of former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor. A self-described sports nut, Payne owned a share of the San Diego Padres during the controversial reign of Roseanne producer Tom Werner and is buddies with current owner John Moores.

Mike Alpert has traveled widely with his wife during legislative recesses. According to state records, since 2003 he has collected some $26,000 in personal expenses from his wife's campaign.

Divided mind While termed-out assemblyman Juan Vargas toys with a run for mayor, fund-raising for his putative congressional race against Democratic incumbent Bob Filner is proceeding apace. On May 5, the ex-San Diego city councilmember is set to have a "Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Fundraiser" at the La Jolla manse of developer Ruben Islas and wife Sandra. "Gold Level" is $1000, Silver $250, and Bronze $125.

Islas, who specializes in state-subsidized low-income housing, found himself enmeshed in controversy last summer after his Islas Development purchased the Hannon Assembled Apartments in Seaside, near Monterey. According to a June account in the Monterey County Herald, tenants in some of the 133 units scattered around the town were forced to move out because their income was too high to qualify for new state subsidies arranged by Islas. "I know for a fact that there are people who make well over 60 percent of the median income living there," he told the paper.

Besides Islas, top hosts of the event include ex-Democratic congressman Jim Bates and Lynne Schenk, former chief of staff to ousted governor Gray Davis. Others on the pro-Vargas list are also big players in the emerging San Diego mayoral derby, including lobbyist Mitch Berner; airport-relocation advocate John Chalker; car dealer Stephen Cushman; temporary-employment magnate Mel Katz; Laurie Black and her husband Bob Lawrence (son of the late Del Coronado owner Larry Lawrence); ex-city manager Jack McGrory; lobbyist Louis Wolfsheimer; and ex-Qualcomm exec Harvey White.

Big Ben Barrio Logan planner Ben Hueso -- close political ally of Juan Vargas and Vargas's political lieutenant, indicted city councilman Ralph Inzunza -- is no longer working at the city's redevelopment department. Labor-backed Hueso ran for San Diego Unified school board last fall but was soundly beaten by conservative Republican Luis Acle. Calls placed to Hueso's city hall phone number last week were answered by a woman's recorded voice, saying, "You have reached a vacant phone number. If you were trying to get in touch with Ben Hueso, please call Luis Ojeda." Ojeda wasn't in, but another city staffer, Tom Romstad, confirmed Hueso's departure, though he could offer no details ... the California Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission is seeking information about former district attorney Paul Pfingst ... David Allsbrook, property-acquisition manager for the Centre City Development Corporation, has been fined $1500 by the city's Ethics Commission for failing to disclose that his wife, an agent for Prudential Realty, made in excess of $10,000 in 2003 on real estate deals in the redevelopment area he oversees.

Famous last words L.A. Times San Diego bureau chief Tony Perry, a sometimes regular on KPBS radio's Editors Roundtable, was asked two weeks ago Friday about Time magazine's dissing of Mayor Dick Murphy. Perry dismissed "the tizzy that this set San Diego in." He then went on to say, "the idea that getting mentioned in Time magazine -- two paragraphs, I might point out -- is a front-page story then in the Union-Tribune, top of the newscasts, for a week! We're still a small town, thank goodness, and being, my goodness, mentioned by a national magazine means a big deal to us." Asked whether Murphy deserved being named by Time as one of the three worst mayors in America, Perry replied, "The mass magazines, as you know, love lists. The five best schools. The ten best doctors. Five things your wife wishes you knew about the bedroom and won't tell you.... It's not really serious journalism." Chimed in National Public Radio's Western bureau chief Alisa Joyce Barba: "San Diego is so desperate for approval that this is front-page news here and nobody else really pays attention to it. It's embarrassing. It makes us look bad only among ourselves. Nobody else is really paying attention." Perry followed up: "I don't think it's a crisis.... And as to your question with Murphy, I don't see a chance in the world that there's even been an allegation that touches him." The Monday after the show aired, the mayor quit.

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