November 3, 2000
The race for the 79th Assembly District for all intents and purposes is over. The real race for this district took place back in June during the primaries, between the Democratic contenders. The foregone conclusion is that Juan Vargas will win the seat, in this, a Democratic safe district.
The Democratic Party and the powers that be cleared the path for Vargas, when the only viable contender, Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla, who had already announced his intention to run, was convinced to withdraw from this race. This left a relatively unknown, with scant financial backing, left to face Vargas in the primary, and predictably lost. But the real losers in this race will be the residents of the 79th Assembly District.
Vargas is a consummate politician whose one goal is self-aggrandization, which makes him the perfect candidate for the power structure - a politician that they can control.
What this means is that on issues where leadership is called for, Vargas has shown the unique ability of fading into the background. Perfect examples of this, of course, are with the Charges debacle with the ticket guarantee. Or we can point to the Padre Stadium deal and the compound problems that have and will continue arise out of this mess. On issues of particular concern to the Hispanic community and minority community in general, Vargas has repeatedly demonstrated the distinct lack of ability to step forward and fill the leadership void. Again, a perfect example can be found in the embarrassing numbers by the City of San Diego in the areas of minority contracting. While the city shows that Hispanics are receiving less that 0.5% of the contracts, Blacks, women and Asians are doing even worse Vargas was conspicuously silent this issue.
On these and other major issues Vargas fades to the background in what is his attempt in not upsetting the power structure, the major campaign donors, the John Moores, Alex Spanos, the General Contractors, and the like...
On issues where there is no major apparent donor money at risk Vargas still fails to move forward. Case in point would be development of vacant property in Barrio Logan across the street from Chuey's restaurant. There are two competing groups for the use of the property; community members who would like to see a community facility erected; and the business community who want to develop businesses in the area. Vargas has failed to show leadership, develop a consensus among the community and move forward with a plan. To date the vacant lot still sits empty.
This ambivalence by Vargas' for the constituents of the 8th district was made abundantly clear after his first election to a full term when, before the last campaign poster was taken down, Vargas announced his intention to challenge a fellow democrat for a congressional seat. Not only is it unheard of, to challenge a sitting incumbent of the same Party, but if by the off-chance he had won, the residents of the district would have been left without representation and probably would have had to settle for a appointed representative, which by the way, will happen with two years left on Vargas' term as a city councilman. And if this point needed to be driven home, Vargas did this quit nicely with his recent condescending comments over the Latino endorsements of Dick Murphy for mayor (Vargas is a Roberts supporter), equating them with the Taco Bell Chihuahua!
We could continue with further examples of the stripe by which Vargas is painted, but we are limited by space. The point we are trying to make is that the residents of the 79th Assembly District were really left with little choice in their representation. The power structure selected their man and he was ushered in. The losers in this whole deal are not only the constituents of the district, but the Hispanic community as whole, for it will be by the character of Juan Vargas that the rest of the Hispanic community will be judged.